Local sport

I would like to speak today about my local VFL club, the Werribee Tigers and, in particular, a very important community program they run—the Wyndham Sporting Opportunities Project. The Werribee Tigers are a growing footy club. Having survived threats of closure in the past, they continue to seek to expand and upgrade. The club has in fact taken on significant leadership roles in recent years. They are the elite football club in our area but they support all our football clubs, both junior and senior. Those playing in the WRFL, the GDFL, Victorian Amateurs and Super Rules make contributions and give support to all of our local football clubs.

They are looking to the future. The Tigers grew the Wyndham Sporting Opportunities Project with that vision to the future. This project is about boosting sports and recreational participation for young migrants living in Wyndham and Lalor. It is about providing opportunities for them to learn new skills, make new friends and create a greater, more connected society.

Sport is a great unifier and the Wyndham Sporting Opportunities Project is about inclusion and about community. It is a very important project, one which is, pardon the pun, already kicking goals. It is greatly appreciated by these young people and the wider community. This project is not just about football; it is about participation in all sports. The program links to other sports and sees young people participating in soccer, netball, basketball and lawn bowls, amongst other things.

Despite this, the future of the Wyndham Sporting Opportunities Project is currently at risk. It is at risk because the Abbott government is unwilling to confirm funding for the program. Announced in June, the Wyndham Sporting Opportunities Project was to receive $50,000 under the Diversity and Social Cohesion Program. In partnership with the Centre for Multicultural Youth, the local council and AFL Victoria, this funding was to be used to employ a dedicated officer, a contact point for the community, an advocate for the program, a leader in the program. Although I was not in the position I am in now, as a Tiger supporter and having been a parent, teacher and principal in the electorate, I was thrilled to hear that they would be a recipient of federal government funding for this purpose in particular. I was thrilled because I know how important sport can be, how important the Werribee Football Club is, how much this kind of program matters and how it could make a difference in our community. I was even more pleased when I heard the individual planned for this employment was Majok BOL Ngong—far more commonly known within our community as 'Shaggy'.

Shaggy and his family came to Australia in 2005 from South Sudan. I first had the pleasure of getting to know Shaggy, as we all call him, in 2008, when he became a student at a school at which I was assistant principal, Galvin Park Secondary College. Since that time I have had the privilege to watch Shaggy grow as a leader. He is a respectful, committed young man who came to our area after a few years in Australia, absolutely committed to creating a home and having his people connected to the broader community. He worked through issues in our schoolyard as a mediator. He is a first-class young man, a genuine leader. He is not just a leader amongst the Sudanese students; he is not just a leader at the footy club; he is a community leader. Through his involvement with local churches, council programs, as a welfare officer with the Manor Lakes Football Club and now through the Wyndham Sporting Opportunities Project, he has had multiple opportunities to lead. When Shaggy talks about what it means to be a leader, he talks about responsibility, awareness and trust. He and the Werribee Tigers recognise the challenges that our community faces.

In a growing and diversifying community like ours we need to be vigilant to prevent intolerance, exclusion and a lack of opportunity. They also insist that they have a role in addressing these issues. So, if they are willing to do their bit, why then is the government refusing to do its bit? Funding for this project was already launched, included in the budget and was announced back in June. Let me repeat myself: because of the coalition's refusal to confirm an integral, budgeted, promised funding, this young man could lose his employment and this program may have to close its doors.

 

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