Connected through sport

Cardinia Shire Council is working to engage at-risk youths through sport.

By Bonny Burrows

Sport is at the core of Cardinia Shire Council’s initiatives aimed at engaging African youth.
Recognising the challenges faced by migrant young people, the shire says it is actively working to guide young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds “to prosper within the Cardinia Shire community through participation in a range of sport and recreation activities”.
The council believes sport is one way community members can come together regardless of their backgrounds, and has used a world-wide love of sport to engage those facing social isolation.
“Sport and recreation is not only the bedrock of Australian culture and mateship, but it is also an important tool for imparting values and helping participants to make friends and personal connections, grow skills and confidence, and gain a sense of purpose,” Cardinia Shire Council general manager of community wellbeing Jenny Scicluna said.
Recent initiatives implement by the council include the opening of a South Sudanese Dinka community language school for the 2018 school year, the welcoming of a council sports development officer whose role it is to engage young people in sporting opportunities and foster community participation, and the collaboration with Aligned Leisure, the Centre of Multicultural Youth and local secondary schools to launch new sporting and recreational programs tailored to migrant and refugee students.
The council said results were already becoming visible.
However, it admits the changes are thanks to a collaborative, community-wide approach.
“This work is complemented by the Cardinia Shire Crime Action Group,” Ms Scicluna said.
“The multi-agency group, chaired by Victoria Police, is currently working to address youth offending in Cardinia Shire by increasing recreational opportunity for young people in Cardinia Shire, advocating for an increase in alternative education options and establishing the Cardinia Tigers, a football team for people who are experiencing disadvantage.”
Not one to signal out a single culture, the council said it was working to engage all young people within the local community, regardless of their background.