Media Release by The Hon Dr David Gillespie MP

Sport a game-changer for young refugees

Joint Media Release with:

  • Minister for Sport, Senator Bridget McKenzie

The Federal Coalition Government recognises the important role that sport plays in the settlement of young humanitarian migrants.

Engagement in sport helps young refugees integrate with their new community and deal with the traumatic events that brought them to Australia.

Minister for Sport, Senator Bridget McKenzie, said that sport has a big impact in improving and maintaining the wellbeing of young Australians, including those from refugee backgrounds.

“It’s important that our settlement and support programs encourage humanitarian migrants to join a local sporting club. Being active in sport is so important for people’s physical, social and mental health,” Minister McKenzie said. 

Service providers under the Federal Coalition Government’s new Humanitarian Settlement Program connect clients to sporting opportunities, and a number of projects funded under the Strong and Resilient Communities activity focus on using sports to improve outcomes for young refugees.

Additionally, sport is one of the four pillars of Youth Transition Support (YTS) services, which helps build capability and resilience amongst young humanitarian entrants aged 15 to 25 so they stay engaged in education and make successful transitions to employment.

Assistant Minister for Children and Families, Dr David Gillespie, said it was clear that engagement in sport helped refugees connect with others, as well as build leadership skills.

“A focus on sport is proving to be very effective in smoothing the transition of young humanitarian migrants to Australian society,” Dr Gillespie said.

“Among many success stories to come out of the YTS, is a young Syrian man with limited English who has started playing basketball again with a local team. He tells us that, although it makes him think about home, playing basketball has reconnected him to an activity he is passionate about and makes him feel more optimistic about the future.”

“Sporting projects that bring youth together to interact have a positive impact on their attitudes and behaviours toward cultural groups more broadly. There are clear links between sport and community integration,” Dr Gillespie added.

For more examples of how Australia’s sporting culture is helping refugees, see Isaac and Aref’s stories on the Department of Social Services website:

Isaac’s Story

Isaac was born in a refugee camp in war-torn Uganda, surviving for 11 years in the camp on small amounts of food and water before coming to Australia. By becoming a member of his local rugby team, Isaac began to open up and found the community, friendship and sense of identity he needed to be a carefree kid again.

Aref’s Story

As a child, Aref heard the sounds of bombing and gunfire when he played outside in his hometown of Kabul, leaving in the middle of the night for refuge with only what he could carry. Through playing tennis, Aref found a mentor and a father figure in his coach who also inspired him to set up a program to encourage fellow refugees to participate in sport.