Post-Webinar Q&A and Resources (All Eyes on the Ball: The Role of Sport in Integration)

Post-webinar Q&A about integration and sport with:


  • Dr. Hass Dellal, Executive Director, the Australian Multicultural Foundation
  • Sash Herceg, Manager Community Programs, North Melbourne Football Club, The Huddle (AU)

Do your organisations have any experience of working with research projects and, if so, what were some of the key outcomes and recommendations for community development?

Dr. B Hass Dellal OAM: Yes we do. The Australian Multicultural Foundation has carried out several major research projects in partnership with a number of organisations and universities. The ones that I would recommend that are relevant to what we are discussing are the Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion (2007 report), and 2009 Report, which outline some key outcomes and recommendations.

Sash Herceg: We are currently in touch with a couple of local universities about the possibility of an ongoing research and evaluation for our projects. This is due to the fact that we are in our first year of operation. However, [in addition to the Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion Report, there a Report on Community Consultations related to the Arden Street Redevelopment project, which acted as a guide to The Huddle and it’s objectives.

I am interested in thoughts on the counter position: that sports teams that tend to divide on ethnic or national lines only further entrench people into self identified groups. What are ways of preventing or circumventing this?

Dr. B Hass Dellal OAM: The programs we run are designed to ensure there is a greater mix of cultures in the teams, and it is also encouraged at the community level. We encourage sporting clubs to break down barriers by bring people together to share and better understand the different cultures through teamwork.

Sash Herceg: I guess it is very hard to stop this trend sometimes purely because people feel very comfortable among “their own”. Our programs tend to provide pathways into local sports clubs (non ethnic clubs). It is important to introduce participants to that particular club during the program you’re delivering (training sessions with the club, a club representative assisting with your program, etc).

How did you reach your target participants? Have you ever had difficulty persuading parents of the value of their children participating in this?

Dr. B Hass Dellal OAM: There is always a challenge but we find that sports is an area where some parents can feel comfortable with their children participating. That’s why organisations such as The Huddle and Sports Without Borders can play an important role in encouraging parents to allow their children to participate. Parents have a number of fears and it is important to take away these fears through organised and well-supervised activities. I agree with Sash – it is difficult in getting the support of parents but sometimes if you also engage the parents in the programs (such as in a voluntary capacity) and to be with their children, it helps.

Sash Herceg: We generally try to reach already established groups (schools, English language classes, focus groups, migrant centres etc). Broadly speaking it can be reasonably difficult to attract participants via flyers or general advertising (even if it is in other language). In terms of parent engagement- that is the biggest issue in my view that we face currently. There are a number of reasons for this, such as lack of time, low priority (more important to secure a job and accommodation), family size, etc. To date we have not come upon a practical solution for more active parent engagement. Some parents also fail to recognise the value of sport for their children, putting more focus on academic achievements.

How do you think you can carry the cohesion created on the field into the class room or board room – will it just happen naturally or can we take proactive actions to accelerate it?

Dr. B Hass Dellal OAM:I think this does require time but it is also a question of having people who can be role models, mentors and champions to carry the work across other sectors ie in the classroom or in the board room. Though our experience we have found that engaging communities and giving them the capacity to build confidence and strength as well as opportunities in participating in mainstream activities tends to create a flow-on effect for greater engagement and interaction between communities. It is important that whether it is our schools, our board rooms, or our service provider, that they must reflect the diversity of the community.

Sash Herceg: It would probably happen by itself eventually, but we need to be much more proactive (and inventive) in the ways we try to accelerate this process. A good example of a strategic would be Reconciliation Action Plans (this relates to Indigenous Australians, but I would like to think we could adopt the same strategy for our migrant and refugee communities).

There is an urban planning issue to this: it presumes easy access to fields and recreation spaces needed to play the game – is this a barrier you have encountered?

Dr. B Hass Dellal OAM:At times, yes, these are problems and that’s why we actively work with local councils and community groups to develop partnerships to overcome some of these barriers.


Sash Herceg: Being an elite sporting Club this has not really presented a huge issue for us. On our premises we have the following facilities: Football Oval, multipurpose court and community change rooms.


Additional Resources: