Levelling the playing field for multicultural communities

Victoria University's Change Makers Melbourne's West (CMMW) project aims to widen community participation of under-represented groups in sport clubs.
Wednesday 29 May 2024

Victoria University’s (VU) Change Makers Melbourne’s West (CMMW) project has partnered with Volunteer West, Welcoming Australia, Brimbank City Council, and Wyndham Basketball to co-design and deliver a range of transformative initiatives to positively affect the lives of hundreds of migrants and refugees. 

Melbourne’s west has a high proportion of migrants and refugees who are under-represented in sport and physical activity. Community sporting clubs often express a desire to be more inclusive, however, change can be difficult to achieve. Racism, sexism, cost and unwelcoming environments continually present as barriers. 

The research team, led by VU’s Professor Ramon SpaaijProfessor Brent McDonaldAssociate Professor Fiona McLachlan, and Dr Carla Luguetti collaborated with 66 leaders from 38 clubs, across 12 sports, who engaged directly with their communities to rethink problems, develop positive practices, and transform their environments.  

Outcomes & achievements

The outcomes include: 

  • Creation of much-needed supportive spaces for club leaders across different sports to share their experiences, learn from each other and from research, and improve their knowledge, skills, and confidence in driving social inclusion initiatives within their clubs.
  • Implementation of strategies and institutional changes towards greater inclusivity, such as hosting ‘come and try’ days in collaboration with community groups and producing club information in a range of languages.
  • The CMMW project assisted Footscray Hockey Club to start building sustainable inclusion projects that were a major part of the club being named the 2021 VicSport Community Sporting Club of the Year. The club set up a youth advisory committee and instituted a gender equity policy which led to 50% of members being women and girls and 40% of their board and coaches being female.
  • Broadmeadows Basketball Association developed a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, which now includes a commitment to and implementation of several evidence-informed practices around multicultural inclusion, such as developing a strategy to increase the cultural and ethnic diversity of staff, coaches, players and volunteers and zero tolerance to racism. 

These ground-breaking results build on years of research and education on inclusive sport led by VU. Ongoing engagement and support, listening to what community members experienced, and direct action informed by evidence were integral to the study's success. 

The study began in 2020 when researchers received funding to support sports to improve the social inclusion of migrants and refugees, one of only 57 projects accepted from more than 800 applications for the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care’s $19 million 'Driving Social Inclusion Through Sport and Physical Activity'. 

With the support of our partners, Volunteer West, Welcoming Australia, Brimbank City Council, Wyndham Basketball, local clubs, VU students, and community sport members, we have created tangible strategies that are already affecting positive change, Professor Spaaij said. 

Former Volunteer West Chief Executive Officer, Thu-Trang Tran said her team benefited enormously from the collaboration.  

We were able to learn and incorporate inclusive practices and share knowledge between the partners. The partnerships we formed have endured and have positively impacted other ventures, she said. 

Watch two short videos about the impacts created by the Change Makers Melbourne’s West initiative.

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Frances Atkinson

Media Adviser

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