Leading the way: Robinvale bridging gaps between cultures

ROBINVALE Football Netball Club is “ahead of the game” when it comes to integrating members of the town’s multicultural community, a leading sports academic says.

In a place like Robinvale, if you don’t deal with diversity you won’t have a club - Victoria University associate professor Ramon Spaa

Anglo and Indigenous Australians regularly don the red and white jumper alongside Italian, Greek, Samoan, Fijian and Tongan teammates and the club’s multi-ethnic mix has turned heads far and wide.

Victoria University associate professor Ramon Spaaij is co-conducting a study into 10 Victorian sports clubs and how they manage differences of culture, gender and disability.

Robinvale was identified by the AFL as a standout example when it comes to multiculturalism. The Sunraysia club is one of just three regional clubs involved in the study, which is titled Participation versus performance: Managing diversity in community sports.

Spaaij said the club knew it needed to draw on players, coaches and volunteers right across Robinvale’s estimated 50 ethnic groups just to maintain its future.

With rival sports like rugby ready to poach players, particularly members of Robinvale’s sizable Pacific Island community, the club needed to welcome all groups to field enough sides.

The policy worked – the Eagles have 150 players across its three senior sides and roughly the same number of juniors.

“In a place like Robinvale, if you don’t deal with diversity you won’t have a club,” Spaaij said.

Club secretary Marion Leslie said it had been important for Robinvale to focus on their junior ranks to capture players who could otherwise choose rugby.

“That’s their traditional sport and their dads have always played rugby,” she said.

The club’s work in the multicultural sphere has drawn attention from beyond just the Sunraysia region.

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