Community Engagement (CE) programs in the School of Exercise Science provide learning opportunities for ACU students that are intrinsically tied to the ACU mission, graduate attributes, and the development of practitioners who are empathetic and considered in their practice. Involvement in these programs develop students capacities to reflect on their own practice, the ability to collaborate with others, and to work with others from diverse backgrounds (including those who have experienced disadvantage).
The Community Engagement programs in Exercise Science have a strong focus on sport for development. These programs use sport as a vehicle for change and as a potential tool to bring people and communities together. The aim of these programs is to work together with communities to improve their level of health and wellbeing, in a sustainable way that allows the community to take the lead and be supported in their journey to better health. They are delivered by Exercise Science staff and students and developed in consultation with the community group to provide services that best suit their needs. In addition to sport for development we offer mobile health clinics, adult group exercise sessions, and health education.
On an annual basis since 2010, Exercise Science staff and students deliver a three-week After-School football program to engage local teenagers, parents and others, as well as a Coach Education program for local volunteer coaches. Under the supervision of university staff, students work with volunteer coaches to conduct an after-school sport program for youth using the sport of football (soccer) as a vehicle to promote messages of health, wellbeing and life skills. Students are involved in all facets of the program including the preparation, conduct and evaluation. Students find the experience demanding and challenging but also very rewarding from both a personal and professional perspective. The University works in partnership with the Secretariat of State for Youth and Sport to promote the opportunity for youth to participate and to develop an infrastructure for the establishment of community football. A primary legacy would be the first steps in the formation of a community network of sporting teams/ clubs.
The outcomes have been outstanding with the “Future in Youth” program recruiting between 800-1000 children and adolescents and 35-60 volunteer coaches into the three-week football program over the period of 2010-2014. In 2014, the number of youth participating was limited to 800 to ensure a high quality sporting program was conducted, with messages of health, wellbeing and life skills also built into the program.
In 2014, a commitment to coach education was reinforced by the conduct of a five-day coaching course conducted by an Instructor from Malaysia through the International Associations of Football Federations (FIFA). The FIFA course was organised through the Football Federation of Timor Leste and 35 local volunteer coaches participated.
Upon reviewing the program through focus groups of coaches and participants, the results indicate that all participants enjoyed the program and wanted more opportunities to play. Observations of coaches indicated an increase in confidence to take responsibility for the preparation of their players and teams.
FIY encourages equal opportunity for Timorese girls and young women, challenging gender conventions excluding them from sport, exercise and leadership roles, and showing that females can play as skilfully as males and can hold positions of responsibility.
Strathfield South High School (SSHS), Strathfield Council and Australian Catholic University’s (ACU) School of Exercise Science collaborated to deliver a sport for development program for current SSHS students in year 7, 8, 9 and 10. The program focuses on delivering the key principles of ‘Fun, Fair and Respect’. It is a multi-purpose program, which delivers sport and health programs for the community. The key findings from previous programs are that many of the youth from low socio economic backgrounds have fewer opportunities to engage in sport and healthy living activities in a safe and friendly environment when compared to the more privileged youth in the area. They are also less likely to travel to participate, and can often encounter barriers to participating based on cultural needs. The program at Strathfield South High School in 2016 and going forward into 2017 is implemented to break down these barriers.Nate Gray head of PDHPE at Strathfield South High School said:
The students at SSHS really enjoyed the program and got a lot more out of it than just the soccer aspect. Plenty of social interaction, positivity, physical fitness and nutritional aspects."
This program was developed in conjunction with the Atherton Gardens Network, Fitzroy Police, Football Federation Victoria and local Fitzroy Primary School principals. These key members of the community identified a need for an all-girls physical activity program to fill the after school gap. As a result an 8-week all girls soccer program was implemented for the first time in 2016 with huge success as we have 30 girls attending each session from a range of cultural backgrounds and ages from 4 up to 13 years of age. The program focused on delivering the Future in Youth principals of fun, fair and respect and to increase the participant’s perceived value within the community.
The future direction of this program is to encourage and support the girls to pursue soccer at a mainstream club level. For this to be achievable we will be addressing the issues of registration and insurance fees, transportation and commitment to a long season.
Fitzroy Thunder Boys is an after-school boys soccer program run every Wednesday during the school term at Atherton Gardens in Fitzroy Victoria. This program gives opportunities to primary school age boys to be active and involved in sport and is focused around key principles of FUN, FAIR and RESPECT. Exercise Science students are involved in the coaching and are responsible for engaging with the participants delivering fun games and drills that will develop their physical and social skills.
Run in partnership with the Victorian Police for over 10 years, FASTA is an after-school sport program for young people from primary to high school ages on Tuesday afternoons during school terms. The program aims to engage young people from refugee backgrounds and provide healthy and positive recreation opportunities whilst strengthening and establishing positive relationships between Police, young people and the local community. Our student’s volunteer to assist with the set up, delivery, and pack up of the program.
Alongside AFL Victoria, ACU has been involved with delivering the first Auskick Centre for the Richmond Estate community commencing in May 2017. This program is free to children aged 5-13 years living at the estate. The program will teach the fundamental skills of AFL and get children physically active in a fun and safe environment, whilst providing a structure and framework that teaches discipline, leadership and cooperation.To ensure the sustainability of this program, key community members will be identified and provided with free coaching education.
The Nano Nagle Camp is a camp for disadvantaged children aged 6-12 years old who live in the Campbelltown area in Sydney. It is managed by the Presentation Sisters in partnership with St Vincent de Paul Family Care and Support Service at Campbelltown. Camps are run with only 12 children and 8-10 volunteer leaders who act as positive role models and mentors, whilst helping to engage the children in camp activities including archery, low ropes, canoeing, sports, craft, swimming and team initiative courses. Exercise Science students have been participating as camp leaders since 2009, with over 15 students each year attending training and each of the ten camps. An increase in funding, and participation of volunteer camp leaders has allowed for even more camps to be offered over the past couple of years.
Edmund Rice Camps offer holiday programs for disadvantaged children of all ages, with the majority coming from the Mt Druitt area in Sydney. The camp, set up by the Christian Brothers, is staffed by young volunteers (18-35 years) who participate in all aspects of the programs. Students from the School of Exercise Science at Strathfield, together with students from other faculties, aim to provide the children with a safe, positive, fun and rewarding holiday experience. Volunteer leaders are asked to be attentive to the needs of the children and to act as positive role models. The camp challenges the young adult volunteer leaders to offer friendship and leadership. Being responsible for children allows the volunteers to enhance their own living skills, responsibility, and self-awareness of their talents. Exercise Science provides two camp leaders at each of the nine annual Edmund Rice camps.