No matter what walk of life you’re from, most can agree that sport is a big part of building a community.
So when local youth programs identified a problem with young people’s perception of emergency services, they decided footy was the best way to bust through barriers.
Next Wednesday, the first Tag 4 Trust oztag gala day will see youth together coached by police, paramedics and firefighters at Peter van Hasselt Reserve to bond over a mutual love of sport.
“We heard about the belief that police only come over when it’s bad,” The Hive community engagement coordinator Ben Rose told the Star. “So we thought why not get police and other services to come down to coach our kids.”
The event was organised by a collective group including Rap 4 Change, Graceades Community Cottage, Jesuit Community Services, Blacktown Council and The Hive.
Rap 4 Change chief executive Ned Narouz said eight senior teams (under-10-14’s) and six junior teams (under-6-9’s) have registered for the event.
“We had a conversation about how to get kids to respect the police,” he said. “We thought footy could be a way to make progress.
“Everyone is super excited. It’s a small step, but it’s a great start.”
Chief Inspector Wayne McMahon from Mount Druitt police praised the initiative.
“The sooner you can get kids familiar with police the better,” he said. “We don’t get any enjoyment out of putting young people through the judicial system, we want to see them come through as fine members of the community.
“A lot of groups in our community are doing some terrific work with youth and it’s satisfying for us to be able to get involved.”
Australian oztag representative Martin Duncan will also impart his wisdom on the day.
Mr Duncan, who works as a paramedic, grew up in social housing in Bidwill and said the event would provide positive role models for the players.
“Hopefully it can give them a positive outlook on life,” he said.
“We all know about the negative connotation that Mount Druitt cops, but I can show them that badge on my uniform and say, ‘You can do this too’.”