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AFL Embracing Diversity – ABC News

  • Friday, March 25 2016 @ 09:51 pm ACDT
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The following article by Ben Lisson at the ABC News website explores the TAC Cup team the Western Jets and their desire to recognise the cultural diversity of the players coming through their ranks. The role of the AFL Multicultural Program is to promote the game of Australian Rules football within diverse communities across the nation, and to promote the opportunities for diverse cultural and ethnic groups to embrace the game. This story clearly shows one of the success stories, of many.


The cultural make-up of Australia's youth is changing, and the AFL wants to make the most of it.

Weeks out from the start of the AFL season, the league carved up the country for an academy zone system.


Its aim was simple: to provide an elite pathway for the best Indigenous and multi-cultural talent.


The Western Jets, in Altona North in Melbourne's west, already boasts a multi-cultural squad and are not surprised the AFL is zeroing in on the growing talent pool.

"We've been running a multicultural program now for probably the last eight years," Jets talent manager Shane Sexton said.

"We had Majak Daw, he was the first person to come through that program.

"I think everybody is going to get a surprise and I'm surprised how rapidly it's moving at the moment."

North Melbourne's Daw was the pioneer for the Sudanese community in the sport, but he has since been joined at the elite level by others from the African region.

"The ability that they've got, the athleticism that they have, they sort of take to our game really well, even though it's not a round ball," Sexton said.

Known as a distinctly Australian game, the growing participation rates among African and Asian youngsters has given clubs cause for optimism

"We're just touching the tip of the iceberg really with the diversity program, and with multicultural kids," Sexton said.

"What these academies mean ... is that we've got the AFL brand over this."

Young player credits football for change in attitude

Buku Khamis, 15, moved to Australia 10 years ago with his family from South Sudan.

He believes AFL paved the way for his successful integration into Australian society.

"Ever since [I started playing] I've enjoyed footy, making new friends and getting different experiences," he said.

"I was a bit of a smart kid and was causing trouble. But ever since I found football I stopped doing that and just became a better kid, a better person."

While the AFL's academy program is in its infancy, the Kangaroos will have some access to the Western Jets region in the years to come.

Stories like that of Khamis have been encouraging for North Melbourne chief executive, Carl Dilena.

"I think if we can harness some of that with football talent programs, it's a great opportunity for these young kids to get engaged in Australian society," Dilena said.

"Beyond pure football, just the social inclusion element is really important for these young men that come into Australian society to be able to blend in and to feel a part of society. Football is a perfect platform for that."

The code looks set for a distinctly different cultural make-up in years to come.


Original story at: http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-22/afl-embraces-diversity-with-new-academy-system/7267194



Photo: Western Jets footballer Buku Khamis from South Sudan. Credit: ABC News