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Multicultural Round driving CALD engagement with footy

18 July 20160 comments

The Australian Football League (AFL) Multicultural Round continues to go from strength to strength, as it welcomes new communities to embrace Australian football and highlights the contributions multicultural communities make to the game.

Last weekend, match commentary was broadcast in seven languages; Mandarin, Greek, Hindi, Arabic, Vietnamese, Spanish and Italian.

Field umpires had the word ‘Umpire’ printed on the back of their shirts in one of the seven languages. The 50-metre arcs had the word ‘Fifty’, and the footballs had the word ‘Welcome’ painted on them in one of the seven languages.

Many of the clubs also ran culturally diverse pre-game activities and on-field entertainment, including food festivals, dancing and firework displays.

Held annually, the AFL’s Multicultural Round is a window into the work being done by the football community more broadly.

The Western Bulldogs Community Foundation (WBCF) works with communities that are most at risk of social isolation and disengagement in Melbourne’s west, namely culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.

Kim Kelsey, the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Western Bulldogs, says the club is constantly striving to improve the programs offered to CALD communities in the west of Melbourne.

According to a recent survey, 42 per cent of community residents in the suburbs of Wyndham, Melton, Moonee Valley, Maribyrnong, Hobsons Bay and Brimbank speak two or more languages at home while 14 per cent of residents born overseas speak English ‘not well or not at all’.

The WBCF believes that football provides a unique platform to engage with these under-represented communities.

The club’s Settlement Services, which has worked with local communities since 2007, also uses other sports such as netball and badminton as a conduit to introduce Australian culture and values.

CALDplay is a weekly sports program for newly arrived migrants and refugees where participants can learn new skills, improve their English, form friendships and get active.

CALDplay is open to a wide range of English-learning students between the ages of 16 and 65 years old, but at least 50 per cent of the 1,000 people reached annually are between 16 and 25 years old.

“We find that a lot of them want to play soccer because it’s what they know, it’s something that they’re good at, it builds self-esteem in them,” Ms Kelsey said.

“But football is interesting for them, it’s something that they’ve never played before and the ball’s an odd shape. Many of them embrace it.”

Ms Kelsey says when you introduce these kinds of sports, you find natural talents in people. These talents can then lead to leadership programs and opens up many more opportunities.

“I think more than anything we are building that self-confidence, building that self-esteem,” she said.

After the CALDplay term two program, which is predominately football, participants had the opportunity of going to a Western Bulldogs game.

MulticulturalRound“We try to make it inclusive to all games, so we offer a three game membership which gives them the opportunity to come out with their family,” Ms Kelsey said.

In the AFL’s Multicultural Round, 30 selected participants participated in the guard of honour at Etihad stadium. Ms Kelsey says half of them had never been to a football game before.

The CALDplay term three program will introduce its community groups to sports such as lawn bowls and athletics.

The six to eight week structured sports program has a 75 per cent retention rate of participants.

After the program participants have gone on to join and access local clubs and facilities, become Western Bulldogs CALD Ambassadors and student leaders.

“It’s so rewarding to put a football in someone’s hands when they’ve never done it before,” Ms Kelsey said.

“Sports bring out the competitiveness in people, sport is happiness.”

Carissa Gilham
AMES Australia Staff Writer