Student placement kicking goals
As students in the closing months of our Master of Social Work, we are currently undertaking our final placement at the Law and Advocacy Centre for Women (LACW), a community legal centre that provides legal and case management support for women with criminal matters and other legal issues such as child protection and VOCAT.
The placement is focused on LACW’s Women’s SupPORT Pathways Project, a pilot project aimed at linking women who have been criminalised (or who are at risk of criminalisation) into community football (AFL) clubs, run in partnership with the Centre for Innovative Justice (CIJ) and supported by the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA).
The Women’s SupPORT Pathways Project
Women participating in the project are able to get involved as club volunteers in a variety of ways, including as players, trainers, or even by joining the club committee. Participants and clubs are supported throughout the project’s duration and there is a particular focus on the need for a holistic approach in assisting engagement in sport for marginalised women.
The Project Manager, Jacquie Phiddian, works alongside women at all stages, to identify an appropriate club and help identify what women hope to gain from involvement in the project. We see the value of community sport participation for criminalised women and anticipate the great potential for impactful positive change in their lives as a result of their active engagement in the project.
While there has been limited research into how engagement in community sport benefits women, particularly those with criminal justice system involvement, positive outcomes from engaging in community sport has been demonstrated through previous Sports for Social Change (SFSC) participant cohorts (such as men and youth). These range from improved mental, physical and emotional wellbeing to increased self-esteem and social skills.
LACW is a community legal service with an integrated practice model. Involvement in this project is a valuable opportunity for us to work alongside the criminal law and case management teams, which has helped to contextualise each individual participant’s needs and hopes, as well as gain an understanding of the systemic barriers which prevent criminalised women from building beneficial community connections.
The benefits of co-design
One of the many great features of this project for us has been the opportunity to hear from, and implement, the ideas and knowledge of women with lived experience in the criminal justice system into service delivery. Gaining a first-hand understanding of the many complex structural barriers that face criminalised women provides us an invaluable opportunity and ultimately, enhances the participants’ project experience. The value of lived experience is upheld as a tenet of this project, with one participant telling us “it isn’t simply about sport, it really is about the community; being around people who are active and connected.”
Open Day and recruitment drive
We also recently had the privilege of being part of organising and attending the Women’s SupPORT Pathways Project Open Day, an event designed to promote the project to potential participants and celebrate current participants’ achievements. We heard from some impressive speakers, such as First Nations State MP Sheena Watt, as well as Elise Muller, AFLW’s First Disability Ambassador living with ADHD and Autism and also a First Nations woman. Elise shared her intersectional lived experience and insight of her trajectory to becoming the elite athlete she is today. The current participants of the project were also invited to share their experiences within the program and were recognised for their amazing achievements.
Despite the persistent drizzle, there was great engagement and participation in the footy drills, led by Penny Cula-Reid (Collingwood FC) and Em Collard at the Princes Park oval. The success of the day and experiencing the LACW community spirit was truly the highlight of what was already an incredible placement experience and we feel immeasurably grateful to have shared that with the wonderful team at LACW, CIJ and brilliant Project Manager Jacquie Phiddian.
The Women’s SupPORT Pathways Project is still open to new participants for the next community AFL football season, so if you know someone that may be interested in participating, please get in contact with Jacquie on 9448 8930 or email@example.com
For more information:
By Alyce McVicar (MSW) and Ella McNicol (MSW), supervised by Kat Ogilvie (CIJ)