AFL kicks goals for multicultural Australia

Nick Hatzoglou talks to Neos Kosmos about the AFL's Multicultural Program and its work in extending aussie rules to culturally diverse communities.

Nick Hatzoglou who heads up the AFL Multicultural Program is keen to have his program scrutinised as he has little doubt that it will be seen as a successful model for the cultural integration of refugees and newly arrived immigrants to Australia.

“We’ve had three years of implementation, and four years of existence, in that time we’ve had no review, we were re-funded and we’ve been rolling out programs,” says Mr Hatzoglou, and adds that “good practice” necessitates a third party to review and has engaged Red Elephant Projects to talk to the program’s key stakeholders.

“I think we will stack up pretty well and we want to use that evidence to go talk to corporate Australia and Federal Government and secure more support” Mr Hatzoglou is quick to point out.

Since launching in 2006 the AFL Multicultural Program has grown to having nine people employed and a further four working in partnership Australia wide.

Mr Hatzoglou is aware of the strides made in football.

“Football is increasingly diverse and we have women in it as well.”

He points to AFL boss, Andrew Demetriou, as one of the “proudest days” for Australians of diverse background, “it is validation for all of us,” he says confidently.

At the same time Mr Hatzoglou understands the challenges involved getting mainstream organisations more aware of the benefits of multiculturalism.

“One of our biggest challenges is to get systemic change; many traditional Australian sports are still Anglocentric.”
He points to the range of non-sports organisations which are looking at the AFL Multicultural Program.
There has been interest in the program from non-sporting organisations such as the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Fire Brigade.

“People are starting to realise that we are a diverse society and, regardless of all the other reasons, economically, if they do not do engage with multicultural Australia they will really miss out” Mr Hatzoglou says emphatically.
He sees the AFL Multicultural Program’s core focus being the introduction of Australian Rules Football to all culturally diverse Australians, but particularly refugees and those who have newly arrived.

“It’s about saying ‘hey you’ve chosen to live in Australia and we want to give you an induction to the game which is very popular here’.”

When asked why Australian Rules when soccer, maybe a more natural fit as the global game, Mr Hatzoglou is clear, “Australia is a first world nation, there are many sports, there are the arts and so on, the opportunities are immense. But, what we are saying is ‘There is a lot of people that like a lot of sport and in Australia, knowing about AFL can help and assist your settlement’.”

The AFL Multicultural Program is looking at several areas such as; building new fans and increase participation at a local level from Auskick to local football and better equip football clubs to engage with multicultural Australians.

The report of the evaluation will be launched in February 2010. For anyone who is interested in the AFL Multicultural Program contact Nick Hatzoglou,