Many submitters commented on the need for early intervention strategies as a means of promoting integration and social cohesion as part of the settlement process (discussed further in Chapter 7).
Early intervention programs largely focussed around extracurricular activities such as sport and the arts. This chapter focusses on these activities and considers how accessible they are to migrant youth.
Sport and the arts
The Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY) agreed that migrants needed support to get involved in sport ‘or any other activity that can help them build their future.’ The CMY further commented that sporting activities had the added benefit of building the communication skills of migrant participants.
Active Refugees and Migrant Integration in Australia commented on the link between sport and learning English:
… there are a number of boys, five or six, who I also teach, and one of the things that I discovered early on was, if you link sport into it, all of a sudden they want to learn English because they want to talk to you about their favourite footy team. I was teaching one Korean boy and the World Cup was on. He could only say hello, goodbye and thank you when I first dealt with him. He came back to me the next week with eight lots of four teams. He knew every team in English and he wanted to talk to me about it.
The Les Twentyman Foundation commented on the important role sport plays in early intervention:
Firstly, it gives you a sense of belonging; and, secondly, it is a discipline because you have got to go to training and fit into a team pattern. … Also, apart from networks and developing friendships, it also is a health thing.
Settlement Services International, the Multicultural Development Association (MDA), the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia and TAFE Queensland agreed that sport and recreation was a great way to engage migrant youth.
Several participants in the inquiry highlighted the importance of sport and recreation in early intervention and settlement processes.
The Settlement Services Advisory Council (SSAC) stated that sports and other activities played a crucial role in keeping migrant youth connected. Professor Helen Ware recognised the vital role sport played in integrating newcomers into Australia.
The Islamic Council of Victoria agreed that sporting programs were one of many important mechanisms for youth workers in particular to engage migrant youth:
Where I have seen it work very well with other communities with youth workers is that they actually get involved in the normal programs that youth undertake—community programs, sporting programs, mentoring programs and leadership programs … I do not think we should pigeonhole. I think it should be a range, and they should be equipped with the skills to be able to deal with those different types of scenarios.
The Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre (MMRC) pointed out that they had consulted with young people from refugee and humanitarian backgrounds at a mentoring camp to gain an understanding of their priorities. The MMRC noted that the young people called for continued services such as youth activities:
During the session, a lot of the young people talked about doing sport—extracurricular activities and social activities for the young people to have that space to meet other young people who come from similar backgrounds and journeys to them.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence commented on the outcomes of their Youth Transition Support pilot program which provides extracurricular activities to young refugees and vulnerable migrants:
… early indicators show… 36 per cent have achieved social participation outcomes in terms of sport and recreation—that is, they are engaged in the broader community.
Councillor Aziz provided information on the sporting opportunities provided by the City of Casey to migrant communities:
There is a lot of participation by young people. You have got rugby, athletics and criterium cycling. It is an amazing place. We actively use the Melbourne Football Club, which is located there, to go out into our migrant communities and talk to these kids about participation in football and coming onto Casey Fields and using it as a sporting facility. We certainly have those in place. As I said, we are catching about 90 per cent of young people.
The Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC) identified ‘a strong need for sport, arts and culture, for practical interventions that can help.’ The VMC added that it had partnered with key stakeholders in the sporting sector such as the AFL and Netball Australia who are now involved in the settlement journey.
The Liverpool Migrant Resource Centre (LMRC) and Welcome to Australia commented on the partnerships with AFL, Netball Australia and Tennis Australia but advised that Football Australia was not receptive to becoming involved in the settlement process. Welcome to Australia, in particular, stated:
One thing we would potentially appreciate is some kind of advocacy to Football Australia. Because they are branded as the world game, they seem to feel that they do not need to work in that space because that is their branding. We find football, broadly, of all the sports in this country, the most difficult to access on a number of levels. Whereas cricket, AFL, tennis, netball and volleyball have been very interested in the work that we are doing.
Multicultural Arts Victoria (MAV) believed that sport had engaged migrant youth very well but that art activities were underutilised:
I think sport has done it very well, but I think the arts and cultural tool has not been utilised, because it can go right across. It develops cultural pride, and I think creating a sense of belonging is absolutely critical.
MAV commented that the arts enables migrant youth to ‘feel part of the culture, part of Australia, and allow them to share their culture with everyone else so we can appreciate what people can do.’
The LMRC agreed that arts help develop cultural pride:
Arts is an extremely important space because it helps create an identity which is, say, an African-Australian or Afghan-Australian or Arab-Australian space. It creates an artistic space where people see themselves reflected and legitimate in the local environment.
TAFE Queensland commented on the success of art to engage students:
Additional activities, including art, drama, music and sport have also proved successful in keeping students in youth classes focused and engaged.
New Change, a South Sudanese girl hip hop group, noted the benefits of arts programs and called for additional funding:
I think that channelling funding into things like arts projects, like the videos that they have already created, allows us to simultaneously have a culturally safe space for them in which they can share, learn skills and do all the things that they do as well as creating storied products that minimise the burden and the weight of having to educate the broader community about you as a person.
Access Group International expanded on the benefits of the arts to support health and wellbeing, build social capital and strengthen friendships:
The Arts can build social capital by strengthening friendships, helping communities to understand and provide a safe way to discuss and problem- solve difficult social issues. The arts, including music, dance, theatre, visual arts and writing, are increasingly recognised as having the potential to support health and wellbeing.
The LMRC recognised the positive impact of sports and arts based programs but suggested:
… embedding them within a broader framework of community development that includes the family, schools and the broader community will be of most benefit—one that works to empower and upskill the community in the long term as well as providing access to activities in the short term. This in turn will build social capital and an enduring sense of belonging, identity and inclusion that will last well beyond a soccer season. This can be achieved through consideration for increased resources to community development initiatives that support meaningful and sustainable change that is driven by and for our communities.
The Cardinia Shire Council (CSC) concurred with the view that there were benefits of participating in sport and active recreation as a good settlement tool, adding that participation had a range of socio-cultural benefits including:
Social interaction and community strengthening;
Promotion of community involvement, pride and empowerment;
Ethical behaviour models; and
Social inclusion and cohesion.
Multicultural Youth Queensland noted the potential for sport to enhance social capital and engage migrant youth with the wider community:
Sport has the potential to make significant contributions to enhancing social cohesion and is a significant site for civic participation. Participation in a sporting club provides young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds with opportunities to form social connections with young Australians and gain cultural knowledge of the Australian community. Importantly, sport has the potential to link social capital.
The NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture & Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) and the CSC both recommended further investment in sport and recreation programs. The CSC, in particular, called for an ongoing program for financial assistance:
… that engaging children in sport and recreational activities becomes an ongoing program and not a one-off grant application for one year; and that it is seen as consistent, good practice for good settlement.
The Uniting Church in Australia (the Uniting Church) agreed that good settlement services should involve financial support to enrol or pay for registration or support for sport.
Challenges in accessing sporting events
A few submitters, while supportive of sport being used as a mechanism for good settlement, pointed out that there were some challenges for migrant families in accessing sporting activities.
The Principal of Minaret College’s Officer Campus, Mr Dediwalage, agreed on the need for as much extracurricular activities as possible but commented that resources and support were limited. Mr Dediwalage highlighted the difficulties in transporting children to events:
No. 2 is about families because the parents working hours are a little bit different because they do lots of after hours. Some people do work two or three jobs as well so it has become a difficult for them to transport the kids and get the kids around. Therefore they require some assistance in transport. … The distance is an issue for some students.
Harris Wake Pty Ltd noted that there were limited extra-curricular activities designed to engage the youth migrants, including sport at schools, particularly in rural areas.
The CSC noted that access to services and facilities due to family commitments and transport was an issue for migrant families:
The council's priority is around information access and services because they travel 37 kilometres into Dandenong and out again. It is just not accessible for people with family commitments and transport, which is normally a huge issue here because there are very limited transport options.
The CSC added that sporting clubs were not actively engaging communities effectively:
But what we see is that the sporting club has not engaged the communities as well as they might have, so when they are asked, ‘How did that go, and what were the results?’, they have gone, 'No-one came, so we didn't worry and we just moved on.' There needs to be an understanding around limited transport, ensuring that they provide the opportunities for some culturally appropriate services as well, because these children come from a different place. To bring them to sport every week requires a little bit more effort than it normally would.
The SSAC and the Uniting Church pointed out the significant financial burden on migrant families who wished to enrol their children in sport. The United Church detailed the cost for enrolling a child in soccer:
Last year I enrolled some kids with a soccer club in Pakenham, and it was $300 for under-12 and $350 for under-15, but this year it increased to $450 for under-12 and $500 for under-15, so we could not do it, because we do not have any financial support for them. I also talked to the parents, and they say, 'We can't afford to pay $900 for two children.'
The Multicultural Youth Affairs Network of NSW highlighted that some migrant families did not have the ‘financial capacity to engage in these recreational activities, because their parents are using their money to support family back home.’ The CSC, MDA and Access Community Services all commented on club membership being exceptionally expensive.
Migration and Refugee Research Network called for the ‘need to increase access to affordable sports, recreation and arts-based activities.’
TAFE Queensland noted a number of possible factors that could inhibit migrant youth from participating in sporting activities:
It needs to be noted that it is TAFE Queensland's experience that migrant and refugee youth have reduced opportunities to engage in cultural and sporting activities outside of school or programs such as the TAFE youth classes. Issues around transport, cost, family responsibilities, knowledge of what is available and a lack of cultural understanding from some organisations all inhabit participation.
MYQ highlighted a list of possible barriers that could be preventing access to sporting activities:
A range of barriers prevent full and meaningful participation of multicultural young people in Australia’s sporting clubs, these include, but are not limited to, financial constraints, transport difficulties, language barriers, knowledge of the Australian sporting club landscape and the cultural-competency of sporting clubs and associations.
When asked about how communities can apply for sporting grants, the Department of Social Services (DSS) stated:
We have multicultural and festival grants. We have Stronger Communities grants. There is a new IDC being set up between us and AGD [the Attorney-General’s Department] and a range of other departments around social cohesion. In those discussions, clearly, the conversation will go to, 'Where do we need to invest?' And that conversation is an ongoing one. In terms of parliamentarians or other citizens saying, 'This community has a particular need,' there are grants that are regular, and we have on our website how people can access those.
DSS added that they were trialling a programme with a component to provide sporting opportunities:
… the government is trialling a measure called the Youth Transition Support measures in a number of areas. One of the components of that program is very strongly around connecting people through sport, providing sporting opportunities and connecting people to local clubs so that they can have those opportunities in the community.
The Committee was encouraged to hear that a number of sporting organisations were actively playing a part in the settlement process to engage migrant youth, including the AFL, Netball Australia, Cricket Australia, Tennis Australia, Life Saving Victoria and Volleyball Australia. The Committee commends these organisations for all of their excellent work.
The Committee was however disappointed to hear that Football Federation Australia (FFA) appears to be particularly reluctant to provide affordable access for migrant families to participate. The Committee heard repeated evidence of how young people from a migrant or refugee background were very keen yet unable to participate in soccer due to the high cost of participation and lack of any consideration to this issue from the FFA
Soccer/Football is truly a global sport with over four percent of the world’s population (or over 270 million people) from over 130 countries participate in the game. Of those 270 million, around 26 million are women (ten per cent). It is therefore extremely likely that any migrants coming to Australia are not only aware of the game but are keen to play.
The Committee notes the Government announcement on 10 October 2017 that $100,000 has been allocated to support the establishment of the FFA Multicultural Settlement Program. The Committee acknowledges that this is a good first step but urges the FFA to actively support youth migrant participation across Australia by engaging and cooperating with settlement services providers.
The FFA should give consideration to ensuring that participation is not only limited to those who can pay the extremely high registration fees and that consideration is given to fee reduction in particular cases, similar to other codes.
It is clear from the evidence that sport and the arts are an extremely integral part of the settlement process. They have a number of benefits including engaging migrant youth, providing opportunities to form social connections between individuals and the wider community, foster greater understanding between migrant and Australia culture, as well as promoting physical and mental health and wellbeing.
The Committee has therefore formed the view that it would be extremely beneficial to increase active participation of migrants in both sport and recreational activities.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Health establish a Sport and Active Recreation Program to increase active participation by migrants in sport and recreation activities.