| Key takeouts
- Sport is a powerful engagement tool for young refugee migrant people.
- Community service sector organisations have an important role to play in the sport sector.
- Organisations like CMI play a role as communicator, translator, resourcer, broker, facilitator, documenter and knowledge sharer in sport.
- Many migrant groups want informal multi-sport opportunities to participate.
Having been someone who’s worked in the sport sector now for over 10 15 years but come from the welfare sector one of the things I love about this sector but one that I also find quite confronting is the competitive edge but since I’m in the competitive edge moment I want you all to start trending because this year’s conference we are trending at No. 4. This time last year we were trending at No. 1 so obviously you’re not tweeting so I want all of you to tweet something, a message from the conference now. If you don’t know it’s #inclusive sports17 and we thought something like ‘inclusion for sport’. Whatever you like. If we do it all at once or over the next three minutes we may be No. 1 so then this group can say it was No. 1 and I know you’re very competitive. We don’t want 2016 conference to be the one that got trended No 1. Apparently we’ve got Nick Xenophon and anyone else that we’re trying to compete with so we should be more interesting by say 3:30pm.
What I’d like to do in the few minutes I’ve got because then I want us to engage in a conversation with Paul and the others is to maybe talk a little bit about the issues that are very passionate for the organisation I work for. We’re a not-for-profit Victorian based that works with refugee migrant young people and have worked in sports inclusion as a mandate of our work from when we first started in this work 25 years ago but more historically over the last 15 years because we know the power of sport. We know for the young people we work with it’s an engagement tool. Lots of young people play because they want to have fun. What we’ve also seen the power it has to help new arrivals settle in a new country. Whether it is the World Games, AFL, netball, rugby, whatever it is it’s a tool for young people to meet friends who like the same sport as them or what we found with things like AFL it’s a way of meeting young people that wouldn’t normally meet through a sport that they’re unfamiliar with so it’s a really powerful way of getting young people and their families to make friends, find a pathway into the community and build intercultural understanding.
Sport is one way where we’ve found a lot of the young people we work with come together quite different but find a common element through the sport they’re playing and through that also bring their families so it’s very powerful that way. We also know that young people have gained skills through those projects enormously, individual self-development skills. All of you know all this. I suppose I’m trying to summarise what we’ve kind of picked up during the day as well. The other really important bit is jobs. One of the best programs I think we ever ran was when the State Government came to us and said “we’ve got some money to do a project that was left over from the Commonwealth Games and we said “yep, we think we want to get some young people paid jobs in the sporting industry and some of the sports said they couldn’t find enough young people to be basketball coaches, referees, soccer coaches, whatever, and we said “oh, that’s not a problem because we’ve got 100s of young people we work with who would like to get those jobs and they kind of said “really?”
So what we did was over 18 months we found a pathway to get those sports to train and skill these young people up and then found a pathway into the Associations to get them jobs. It was a great initiative and through that those young people got paid jobs that they wouldn’t have got any other way through doing things that they love and more importantly, what they found was mentors and other people in the Australian community who they learnt about the Australian way of Life so it’s a really powerful way of building social cohesion, understanding of difference and realising the commonality that sport can bring.
I wanted to talk a little bit about the role that organisations like ours play in the sporting sector because those of who believe in the power of sport but are not a sporting association I found it quite confronting to come into a sector with its own language and culture, like many of you must find when you confront people like me who come from the Community Services sector. We have our own worlds. What CMI has done I think very successfully in Victoria is be that communicator, translator, resourcer, broker, facilitator, documenter, knowledge sharer and I think one of the powerful things we’ve done that the feedback has come to us about is we have been unafraid and unashamedly I think documented what all of us had done.
So where have we made mistakes and shared those mistakes because we don’t want others to make mistakes. Rather than be competitive we said “if we want to be inclusive, we should be learning from those mistakes and helping others because from our premise this is about making communities feel inclusive and part of the society. It’s not all about the agenda of winning. So that’s been really important and that we’ve found that we are one of those few organisations but there are many of us now in the community doing those things and one of the other kind of profound things I only found out yesterday from some of my staff when we ‘re doing this consultation was we were going through a discussion about what does it look like for a new arrival to come into Australia to feel welcomed into some kind of club so my staff had already done some work on this and we’ve actually documented and its taken our staff I think 100 young people over two years.
It takes 12 hours to bring a young person who’s a new arrival in Australia from meeting them to saying “would you like to go and hang out at a sporting club somewhere that you like the sport to that them from introducing them to the concept to getting them to the club one day to a training session and then to be able to go back again. So for me that was actually and to our researchers that sit in the room we found that quite profound because it starts to tell us that message of how many of you as sporting clubs have got 12 hours to spend with one young person so we need to get better at working out how we do that together because I think it’s a real powerful message about ‘that’s what it takes young people who want to learn sport to get connected when they don’t have the pathway and to have the confidence to say someone there will be up the other end when one of our staff leaves them there next time because we want them to go on their own. We don’t want to be there for the whole time.
So that’s the kind of work we try and do and that’s why we get involved in the sporting field. So apart from that message, the other key message I want to talk about today and again I have to rely on my fantastic research partners that we have like Ramon and Ruth that we’ve worked with for over four years about what we didn’t quite understand had a whole lot of research about which was this concept of informal sport. I think it’s the tsunami. It’s the issue that has confronted our organisation and now we’re just starting to understand it. The young people we work with, that is their norm. They’re norm is they grab a soccer ball, a basketball, whatever they do and go and play in the field, in the school yard whatever and then wonder why they get kicked off. They wonder why they just can’t go and turn up and play their own game so they set up their own competitions completely alongside whatever else is going on in the local community. They think it’s pretty cool and then when we try and take them to a training session they’ll go “training? I don’t want to do training. I don’t want to volunteer. I don’t want to do all these kind of things” but yet “I want to play sport” so I think it is a challenge for all of us whether it’s those who are community groups working with these young people or it’s yourselves as sporting organisations. We have a growing number of communities.
We’ve heard already, you know, the census is telling us one in two Australians now come from a non-English speaking background country. This is going to be the norm; therefore many of the groups coming to Australia are not necessarily coming with a predisposition to play in an organised formal sporting structure. It doesn’t mean some of them don’t and we have lots of young people who do but I would say predominantly 70-80% of them are not engaged in and don’t want to engage in formalised sporting structures; informal community-based sport, one.
Secondly, they also don’t want to align themselves to one sport. They want to do what you might call the big sports but what they’re saying to us is “we want to play a diversity of sport on our own terms in spaces that are open to the community”; challenge number 2. I’m not sure how this paradigm is going to play out for all of you where there isn’t that obligation or that sense of connection to the Club. It’s “I like lots of sports and I’ll play them all at the same time” as well as saying “I’ll do it in the hours I want to” and in places that are often owned by councils and a whole lot of other sporting clubs who then get very protective over who owns that space and who can use it.
I think it raises a whole lot of issues for you as an industry and me as part of that industry about how we take this up and so I wanted to finish on the notion that rather than seeing this as a challenge that we need to see it as an opportunity and a new paradigm at which sport is played out in a multicultural diverse, diaspronation that is open to new communities and groups and see it as an opportunity because it’s not that these groups don’t want to play sport; it’s they want to do it differently to the way that sport is structured at the moment so I think it is an exciting opportunity. There are lots of organisations like ours who are connected with these communities who can be your bridge and pathway and I think we need to find a collaborative way to start thinking about these kinds of issues together.