A unique footy program that creates pathways to improved health and wellbeing for people who are experiencing homelessness, mental ill-health and other disadvantage will tomorrow host its annual Community Cup.
Traditional rivals cohealth Kangas and Wynbay Bulldogs will go head-to-head in the annual Community Cup at Whitten Oval on 6 July. The teams are part of the Reclink football league, and players are all clients from community health service cohealth, and youth support agency Latitude.
The Community Cup is a mainstay in the community footy calendar, and this year for the first time the game will be held during NAIDOC Week, proudly supported by cohealth, Latitude, Reclink and the Western Bulldogs.
The event will include a traditional smoking ceremony and Aboriginal dance performance with cohealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and other Indigenous community members, plus a native lunch before kick-off.
Netty, a Yorta Yorta woman who has been playing for the cohealth Kangas for 5 years, says that she is proud that the match will be held during NAIDOC Week.
“I’m extra proud to be lacing up my boots for Community Cup this year because we’ll be recognising my people’s history and culture, and celebrating us black fellas in the community” said Netty.
“I love participating in the cohealth Kangas because they are like my second family. I’m like the mum of the team. The other players and staff help me with my mental health and depression. I have a lot of days where I don’t even want to leave my house but being part of the team gives me a reason.”
cohealth says the footy program is an effective way to engage socially isolated and disadvantaged people in the community, such as those who are homeless, experiencing mental ill-health or addiction.
“People who are living on the margins are sometimes reluctant to engage with traditional supports and programs because of past trauma, or negative experiences with institutions,” says Beau Branch, Homelessness Outreach Worker at cohealth.
“We use the cohealth Kangas as a gateway to build relationships and create pathways to better health and wellbeing.”
“By holding a training session, or one of our fortnightly development days with an AFL player, we’re giving people the opportunity to come together, not only combating social isolation but we can check in with players about their housing situation, mental health and other health needs,” said Beau.
Latitude manager, Rhonda Collins, says players develop strong bonds and a genuine sense of team through the program.
“The connection and rapport that is created within the team is inspiring,” says Rhonda.
“For us it’s about connecting people who are on the fringes before they’re at the point that they need to access services, so it’s a form of early intervention,” she said.
The Wynbay Bulldogs are the reigning premiers, and Rhonda says there’s friendly competition between the teams – and the staff that support the teams.
“We’re not going to let those cohealth Kangas get their paws on our Cup!” she said.
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More on cohealth:
cohealth is a Victorian not-for-profit community health organisation that strives to improve health and wellbeing for all. It provides universal access to services as well as targeted programs and assertive models to address the health disparities experienced by disadvantaged groups. cohealth offers a broad range of high quality, integrated health and support services, including medical oral, pharmacy, mental health and drug and alcohol services.