Stress and anxiety are common amongst asylum seekers, particularly in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs. The inability to reconnect with families who are still in other countries, limited work rights, holding only a temporary visa and a sense that asylum seekers aren’t always welcome in Australia often create a sense of disconnection. Abdul Razzaq, an asylum seeker, does not have work rights. He volunteers with Monash Health to provide community engagement opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers who are doing it tough.
Abdul is the driving force behind an initiative that encourages refugees to participate in cricket: ‘All Nations Cricket’. The program is for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants and is run by Monash Health, with the support of Cricket Victoria and the City of Greater Dandenong. The program has a weekly open training session and monthly matches held on weekends. Importantly, the program runs through winter, when social isolation and depression are most at risk. The program has also created a pathway to club cricket, with Dandenong West Cricket Club welcoming players into their teams.
The program is about more than just cricket; it’s a cause. The All Nations Cricket Program is just one of the services available to refugees at the Refugee Health Clinic at Monash Health. It provides a suite of services aimed at combating the negative impact of anxiety and stress and finding creative ways to improve the lives of refugees. As an asylum seeker himself, Abdul knows the challenges they face. Also, in his role as a volunteer at Monash Health, he has observed the negative impact anxiety and stress can have. Since 2014, Abdul has built a strong network, helping to empower refugees and build resilience in the community.”[I want to] highlight the cause and help others build friendship, humanity, peace, hope and to give up stress, anxiety, suicide, hatred and racism,” he said. “Together we can make a difference!”
Abdul is passionate about cricket and sport, and bringing people together. He is proud of the work he is doing alongside Rob Koch from Monash Health. “Rob is the man behind me who made things happen to provide me the platform to lead this program and get the right partners together,” Abdul said. “He and I meet regularly [so he can] advise and support me.” Abdul is also appreciative of the support and connection to Dandenong West Cricket Club. “Joe Aiello was the first person who welcomed me at the club and also provide me with a white kit and bat,” he said. “He also gave equipment to others who have wanted to play. He made a way for me to be involved. Very nice man! But the president Jason Goodes welcomed us and organised the registration fee to be waived and discounts on match fees. He registered our E-grade team and appointed me as captain. The whole club has been friendly and generous. They have given us opportunity to shine!”
The All Nations Cricket Program continues to grow and attract refugees wanting to play the game they love. The program has been recognised for a number of awards for building health and showing how sport can assist in social inclusion for newly arrived communities. Abdul received the ‘Sports Athlete of the Year’ award at the Victorian F.O.R. Refugee Recognition Awards and, alongside two of his All Nations teammates, he has been inducted as a Cricket Australia ‘Sports for All’ ambassador.
Abdul believes that asylum seekers and refugees can do a lot more for communities if given the chance. “There are lots of asylum seekers doing the best they can in communities, we all have to stand up and we can make the difference,” he said. “Asylum seekers will benefit from being busy and staying away from stress and anxiety. Only then can we start giving back to our communities”.
Special thanks to Chobani Australia, Southern Migrant & Refugee Centre, Monash Health, City of Greater Dandenong and Cricket Victoria for their support of the All Nations Cricket Program and encouraging social inclusion of new and emerging communities through sport.