Sports Without Borders is expanding its program to 20 councils that are experiencing high numbers of new migrant or refugee arrivals, in a bid to break down cultural barriers and enhance social cohesion through organised sport.
Through a foundation set up by the not for profit organisation, Sports Without Borders fosters accessible, multilingual resources and services in addition to funding pathways, direct financial support, training and mentorship programs, and sponsorship contacts to refugee and migrant communities.
Funding from Sports Without Borders can be usedfor transport and travel, international scholarships, community sporting events, equipment and uniforms, and registration fees.
In 2009, three years into the organisation’s operation, Mooney Valley and Hume became the first Victorian councils to officially participate in the program.
The two flagship councils committed $30,000 for a three year engagement with Sports Without Borders, which is matched by the organisation. The funding allows participating councils to contribute to spending decisions by identifying priority projects.
Executive Manager Citizen Services and Information Management Stuart Gillespie said Moonee Valley’s participation had a dual purpose - remove barriers facing its large multicultural community and provide opportunities for young people to experience social inclusion through sport.
“This program was clearly aligned with council’s commitment to youth engagement,” he said.
“One of the fundamental elements of all councils, regardless of where they are located, is social inclusion.
“Sports Without Borders removes barriers to participate in sport and it is council’s role to support the community by ensuring everyone has access to sport, which may sound simple but it is something other people take for granted.”
With a rich sporting culture embedded in its community, Moonee Valley is home to Essendon Football Club, Moonee Valley Race Course, premier league’s Essendon Cricket Club, and Women’s Premier League Cricket team and is also known for its basketball and rowing prowess.
Outside the walls of these well known and highly regarded sporting facilities, the municipality is also home to the second highest public housing population, with a high number of young people mostly from Horn of Africa countries.
“Flemington public housing estate was recently afforded Neighbourhood Renewal status as a mark of the significant disadvantage the area endures,” Mr Gillespie said.
“The young Somali, Ethiopian, Eritrean and Sudanese youth living in these housing estates face barriers to sport, just as much as they do to employment education and training.
“Our partnership with Sports Without Borders allows a number of opportunities for young people including their participation in sport.”
Mooney Valley was in a position recently to assist a junior soccer team to stay in their competition through Sports without Borders funds and has identified three further projects, including a Youth Action Day, the fit-out of a new gymnasium, and building a relationship with new national soccer team Melbourne Heart.
“Sport is not free and all participants need to be competing on equal footing,” Mr Gillespie said.
“If we can provide money for kitting out the kids with boots and uniforms, provide equipment to clubs and pay a few registration fees to help clubs stay alive and individuals participating then that is a great outcome for all.
“When individual projects come up, individuals and clubs just need to apply for Sports Without Borders funding and the need will be assessed accordingly.
“In addition we can help clubs sustain and plan their future capacity building by helping to train administrators and coaches, or undertake line marking and other necessary elements of running a sporting club.”
In June, Sports Without Borders launched its Youth Action pilot program at the North Melbourne Football Club.
The program drives puts participants through their paces though hi-tech activities designed to be fun and engaging while delivering health messages to newly-arrived communities in Victoria.
More than 75 young people aged 5-14 attended the inaugural Youth Action Day and Moonee Valley has commenced plans to localised this concept.
“Council will be holding a Youth Action Day in Flemington involving three schools with a large school population of new arrivals,” Mr Gillespie said.
“While being engaging, through this organised sports ability testing process, we can also gain an accurate and timely snapshot of the health of our young people and keep track of their progress.”
Council has already met with new national soccer team Melbourne Heart to commence a relationship with the club that will hopefully include participation in Sports Without Borders.
“The lead-in with Melbourne Heart creates pathways of moving into structured sport and competitions,” Mr Gillespie said.
Moonee Valley Chair of the Intercultural Committee Cr John Sipek said the title Sports Without Borders said it all.
“Multiculturalism has really evolved over the years into inter-culturalism and yet some children are restricted from playing sport because of financial, demographic, religions culture,” he said.
“This program opens the doors to everyone in community and is a big part of integration into a community.
Victoria already has a well established community of Croatian and Italian nationals with African and Vietnamese communities emerging.
Moonee Valley Mayor Shirley Cornish said, “If we can get the leaders of these communities to interact inter-culturally and provide a gateway for their communities, young people from these ethnic groups will have the opportunity to expand into any sport they like – Aussie Rules, cricket or basketball.”
Hume City Council is assisting Sports Without Borders identify and develop young leaders in its municipality who will organise a sporting event for young refugees and newly arrived migrants to create links between local sporting clubs, state sporting associations and local young people.