Main Image: Zimra Hussein and her mother Sakina fled Taliban persecution in Afghanistan. Listen: Multicutural Australia CEO Christine Castley talks about building bridges in the community with the Connecting Through Sport program.
To say that sport is important in the Australian culture is a bit of an understatement.
Sure, sport is a fun way to stay healthy and active, but it also connects communities and provides opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds to meet, play and share experiences.
The Connecting Through Sport program is an initiative of Multicultural Australia in partnership with the Australian Government, and will be launched at this weekend’s Welcome Sports Festival, held at the QLD Sports & Athletic Centre in Mt Gravatt.
Involvement in a local sporting club provides new migrants and refugees the perfect way to connect with their new community, and the Welcome Sports Festival gives budding athletes the chance to try their hand at AFL, Netball, Football (Soccer) and Tennis.
Christine Castley is the CEO of Multicultural Australia and told 96five that the Connecting Through Sport Program was aimed at four target groups.
“It’s targeting refugees, migrants, international students and women and the way it works is that we provide a four week training program in the sport that they might be interested in. We have currently signed up 27 sporting clubs who want to build their cultural capabilities so they can provide the most welcoming environment possible for new families. The program is available to all ages – it’s not just for kids.”
Zimra Hussein is one young athlete who has seen the power of community first hand after getting involved in grassroots footy at her local AFL club. The fifteen year old came to Australia as a refugee with her mother and sister, fleeing Taliban persecution of the Hazara people in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
She’s now being touted as a future star of the AFLW and said that cultural restrictions had stopped her playing sport before arriving in Queensland.
“When I was in Pakistan I would watch the boys play; I always wanted to get out there and kick a ball on the field, but I never got that opportunity. When we came here I had that freedom to pursue what I wanted.”
Zimra is now playing mid field for the Wilston Grange Australian Football Club, and was dubbed the Afghani Axe when she first took up the sport. Her mum Sakina said that initially she was worried about her daughter competing with boys, but those fears were quickly quelled.
“It was a big deal for me to let my daughter play with boys, it’s a rough game and I thought she would be hurt. When she started tackling those big boys, and their parents would ask Zimi not to tackle their boys so hard I knew she could do it.”
“When Zimra first got into footy it really helped us, the community was very supportive and the people at the club were a blessing.”
Having harboured ambitions to become an international footballer, Sakina says she is proud to see her own daughter pursuing her passion on the footy field.
“She’s really sporty and she’s really good at it and she can make my dreams come true.”
The Welcome Sports Festival takes place this weekend in Toowoomba and Brisbane with details below.
10am – 3pm,
Saturday 6 March
Clive Berghofer Stadium,
47 Arthur St, Toowoomba QLD 4350
10am – 3pm,
Sunday 7 March
Queensland Sports and Athletic Centre, Kessels Rd, Mt Gravatt QLD 4111