The Sports Alliance (the Alliance) brings together Victorian sporting organisations to design and implement initiatives to engage and support young people to help prevent offending. The Alliance also connects young people with sport and recreation opportunities to support successful transitions out of the criminal justice system.

The Alliance includes leaders of Victorian sporting codes from the AFL, rugby, soccer, basketball and netball. The Alliance provides advice to the government and delivers projects supporting young people to help build safer Victorian communities.

$1.5 million was allocated for Sports Alliance initiatives as part of a broader $11.3 million package of support for Victoria’s multicultural and multi-faith communities to assist in recovery from coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency.

Sports Alliance Projects

Projects have supported vulnerable people and communities throughout 2020 and 2021, including through COVID-19 restrictions. Projects include:

  • The AFL Mentoring program engaged 45 young Aboriginal and multicultural people identified as displaying behavioural issues. The program was supported by the Reach Foundation and used AFL and VFL Player Ambassadors, community leaders and online mentoring platforms to deliver twelve sessions to each participant as part of a six-week program. The Swinburne University evaluation found that ‘For a pilot program run during a pandemic, this initiative was very successful in achieving its aims to provide impactful, individual support to at-risk young people through mentorship and to use sport as the driver for social change.’ 
  • Netball Victoria’s NetGOALS program commenced in March 2021 and is delivering early intervention support to up to 60 boys and girls aged 12 to 17 years in Shepparton and the Kensington area (30 participants per site). Rock Up Netball will be used as the platform to deliver the netball component of the program. Personal skills and development sessions will be delivered in partnership with local organisations working with young people.
  • Melbourne Storm’s Enhanced In League in Harmony project is supporting up to 480 young people at risk aged 13-16 years to address risk factors for offending and build protective factors with specific focus on young people from Pasifika backgrounds. A Youth Advocates stream will also be provided for up to fifty young people aged 16-18 years who have previously completed the ILIH program along with capacity building support for Junior Clubs and Rugby League staff, including respectful relationships workshops, coach training and cultural awareness sessions.
  • Football Victoria’s Empowering Lives Through Football Program is being delivered to up to 40 young people aged 12-15 years that are experiencing challenges. Individual participant plans with tailored goals will be developed for each participant and Football Victoria will deliver eight online sessions to assist participants in achieving these goals. Football Victoria’s partnership with ‘Getting Ready for Life’, a youth support service, developed individual participant plans with tailored goals and delivered eight online sessions to assist participants in achieving these goals.
  • Basketball Victoria Community Outreach program is delivering a 22-week program of basketball and life skill sessions to 45 to 60 young people who have had contact with or have demonstrated risk of being involved with the criminal justice system in Casey, Greater Dandenong and Wyndham. Both the basketball and life skill sessions commenced in April 2021. Life Skills programming will respond to the needs of participants and includes mentoring, employability skills, health and wellbeing, and leadership training.

Models of support for young people who are involved in the youth justice system are also being developed, and work has begun to establish a ‘sports academy’ in custodial settings, in line with government’s Youth Justice Strategic Plan.

African-Australian Sports Clubs Grants

Six African-Australians sports clubs shared in $110,000 funding to invest in local solutions and help build a stronger community response to the needs of young people.

The activities delivered by the clubs are designed to foster a sense of belonging and boost positive engagement, such as school attendance and connection with family and friends, which helps to create positive pathways and opportunities for young people and manage risks and challenges they may be facing.

These projects will build positive social connections, not only for participants, but for their entire families and broader community.

Projects include:

  • The Casey Titans Basketball program provides intensive support and socially interactive activities for young African-Australian people under 25 years through sport (Basketball, Netball and Soccer), music and dance training, homework club, and life skills sessions to help young people remain connected to purpose and community to reduce the risk of offending and engaging with the criminal justice system.
  • The Lor Shared Youth services provide pro-social activities to support young African-Australian people aged 12 to 24 years. Programs include traditional dance and other cultural activities, homework club, soccer and life skills workshops for young people aim to create pathways away from offending.
  • Cleeland United Soccer Club provides intensive support to young African-Australian people aged 5-18 years old and their families to create a pathway away from offending. The project provides soccer training and homework club to young people, and Zumba classes for the parents to engage in pro-social activities to develop, adapt, and maintain personal and interpersonal skills to reduce tendencies of risk taking and criminal behaviour.
  • Sunshine Longhorns Basketball Club engages young African-Australian people aged 8 to 18 years in weekly basketball skills training and provides opportunities for them to play in basketball competitions. The project delivers funding subsidies and support to young people with leadership potentials requiring financial assistance for registration and accreditation fees to access training and accreditation opportunities.
  • Sandown Lions Football Club provides opportunity for young African-Australian people aged 12 to 24 years to engage in soccer training and assist players to develop skills to participate in soccer competitions.
  • Young Leopards Sport Club program provides opportunities for young people aged 5 to 30 years old to play soccer and basketball and engage in associated pro-social activities to learn foundational life skills and support each young person develop crisis management and problem-solving skills.

Project evaluations

Evaluations of the projects will help to build an evidence base of the impact sport can have on supporting young people to prevent offending behaviour and promote community cohesion and safety.