The cohealth Kangas, a mixed football team made up of cohealth clients experiencing homelessness, mental ill-health and disabilities, will face-off against the Wynbay Bulldogs (players from youth support agency Latitude) at a home-game match on Wednesday 22 June.
The Kangas have gone from strength to strength since COVID restrictions lifted, with the number of players increasing from 8 to around 18, as people return to the field, or in many cases, join for the first time.
The cohealth Kangas formed more than 20 years ago as part of the Reclink football league, a program that provides sport and recreation to people facing disadvantage and social isolation.
cohealth says that football has been a gateway to connecting people who face barriers to health care with the services they need.
cohealth uses the training days and matches to check-in on vulnerable clients, connect people with accommodation providers, provide health referrals to GPs and allied health and deliver professional development days with guest speakers.
Each week throughout season, cohealth coaches, Beau Branch and James Rose, drive around to pick up isolated players from their homes to transport them to the oval for training and games.
“It’s a cliché, but it really is more than just a game, or a weekly exercise activity. It’s a chance for people who live on the margins to socialise and to feel part of a community,” said Beau.
“The program is a way for cohealth to stay in touch with people that might be struggling with their health – mental and physical – but be reluctant to engage with the mainstream health system.”
To improve inclusion for players with disabilities, the game applies special rules for those players who don special vests; any contact with the ball counts as a mark resulting in a free kick.
cohealth’s pop-up vaccination clinic will make an appearance at Wednesday’s game and the players will wear their Indigenous round jumpers, and wear black armbands after the death of a First Nations’ community member.
Date: Wednesday 22 June
Venue: JJ Holland Reserve, Childers St, Kensington
More information: Lanie.Harris@cohealth.org.au or 0418 552 377
About cohealth: cohealth is a not-for-profit community health organisation that provides low-cost and free local health and support services including medical, dental, allied health, mental health, aged care and counselling, and many specialist health services across Melbourne’s CBD, northern and western suburbs as well as statewide.