In a diverse community with a high number of South Sudanese basketball players, YMCA-managed RecWest Braybrook is working hard to ensure everybody in the community feels welcome and their needs catered for.
Centre Manager Gerald Dixon and the staff at RecWest are passionate about creating opportunities for community development and social inclusion, particularly through basketball.
The centre provides a space for Les Twentyman’s Redskins basketball program, where the Y supports players and families experiencing financial disadvantage to access the stadium without paying the normal entry fee.
“South Sudanese youth are currently over represented in the media for youth crime, and as a result are often vilified and excluded by the community, which further exacerbates the problem,” he said.
“Only by inviting and involving young people in programs like this, can you turn this problem around. Inclusion, not exclusion, is the right response to a community in a critical period like this.”
RecWest Braybrook has also created opportunities for the young people to meet NBA superstars! After advocating on behalf of Maribyrnong City Council, the centre received an NBA Cares Grant via Sport and Recreation Victoria to put towards court upgrades and a day of coaching for local players (mainly from CALD backgrounds) with NBA players including Patty Mills and David ‘The Admiral’ Robinson.
“There are behavioural issues that arise from time to time in the stadium, but we place greater value on its emphasis on sport participation and the leadership opportunities that arise for young people. If not for basketball, most of the young people would be disengaged and at high risk of slipping through the cracks,” said Gerald.
It’s no surprise then that SBS approached RecWest Braybrook to film part of their upcoming mini-series, Sunshine, at the centre. The show draws parallels on some of the issues the South Sudanese community in the Braybrook area face in terms of youth crime, social vilification and stigma. It also recognises and celebrates their basketball excellence, with many of the cast including lead Wally Elnour, having trained and played basketball at RecWest previously.
“A lot of our regular players were hired as extras, so it was pretty exciting,” Gerald said.
“At RecWest, it’s always about inclusion and ensuring everyone can access the centre to enjoy playing sport and receive the benefits that sport can bring.”
Sunshine airs on SBS at 8.30pm Wednesday 18 October.