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Creating harmony through football

Migrating to a new country poses some significant issues around belonging but one program has tackled this issue with a novel approach: football.

The Multicultural Futsal Series (‘M-Series’) project (www.facebook.com/M.Series.Futsal.KGV) which commenced last year, is the brainchild of Jarrod Galbraith-Marten from STARTTS, who realised there was a need to develop a  program which could provide newly-arrived migrants, their families and communities with a way of building social capital. Social capital refers to the connections and relationships people have which allows them to gain access to resources and social support, ultimately adding value to their lives.

Realising the importance of sport, Jarrod consulted with community leaders, organisations, supporter agencies and individuals from diverse ethnic, religious and cultural groups to develop the futsal and football-oriented activities and competitions that comprise the M-Series.

STARTT’s Community Development Evaluation Officer, Ansuya Naguran, who evaluated the 2019 program, explains that the focus of many of STARTT’s Community programs is on building social capital.

“This is particularly important within the refugee context because their experience of trauma, as well as the process of resettlement itself, can have a damaging effect on social capital,” Ansuya explains.

“Resettlement is often be characterised by social isolation. People haven’t yet had the opportunity to build social networks and a social support system within the host country and their experiences of trauma and subsequent distrust can make that process quite difficult.”

Evaluation of last year’s program has been overwhelmingly positive and has provided STARTTS with valuable insight into the role of sport in developing social cohesion and harmony.

“Our results show that the M-series provided participants with the opportunity to meet, interact, form bonds and friendships with people from outside their immediate community. It also provided an opportunity for people who live in Western Sydney to travel to the city where they felt comfortable to engage in a space they weren’t familiar with.”

The evaluation also found that participants had an increased sense of trust and belonging as a result of the program.

“This is not limited to the M-Series. This newfound sense of belonging is translated into their everyday lives. Soccer is a well-loved sport by Australians and by providing refugees with the opportunity to participate in a mainstream sport, has made them more likely to participate in mainstream society as people feel they have shared commonalities,” she explains.

The 2020 M-Series kicks off on Saturday 21 March* with the ‘Harmony Round’ once again giving migrants the opportunity to experience harmony and belonging in their new home.

*(NB: as of 9am 17th March, this event has NOT been cancelled. However, as the coronavirus situation changes daily, there is a possibility that it will be cancelled. Keep an eye on their Facebook page www.facebook.com/M.Series.Futsal.KGV for details closer to the date)