Wodonga Heart FC offers shelter to refugees

There are many challenges that immigrant families face when they arrive in Australia, however the Miniroo Multicultural Settlement Program is helping to connect people through football.

The program is designed to reduce barriers faced by immigrant families by bringing organized soccer closer to new immigrant boys and girls between the ages of four and eleven.

Following the eight-week program, participants and their families will be encouraged to join local soccer clubs to further integrate them into the soccer community.

The Miniroo Settlement Program has engaged with over 500 children aged 4-12 in Victoria so far and is working with new arrivals and CALD communities to connect them with the wider Australian community through football.

Wodonga Heart FC has achieved fantastic results with the programme, giving many young children the opportunity to make new friends and play football.

Football Victoria (FV) connected with 54 children in Wodonga and offered 27 pathways to the club through financial support.

“Our Wodonga Heart club is about family, culture, welcoming and supporting others to play the world’s game,” said WHFC President Anton Maas.

“From this program, we linked up with FV again and started a Girls United program.

“Many great friendships were made and the CALD communities bonded over the Saturday Soccer Miniroo program.”

Wodonga Heart F.C.
Eight-year-old Deborah Achiza hones her skills at Willow Park. Image: MARK JESSER

Wodonga Heart’s Girls United program helped 30 children between the ages of 5-15 with the club targeting 1-2 girls’ teams in 2023.

Maas said that with the links made through FV, the club had a “wonderful” season.

“The kids had a great time and will continue the club and fun! They provided us with balls, nets, bibs, salaries for Multicultural Community coaches,” she said.

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“The Multicultural Miniroos program allowed us to bring kids from several different communities together to have fun, make new friends, and be coached by wonderful multicultural coaches.

“We have always supported children from different cultural backgrounds, but now we have families from India, Bhutan, Nepal thanks to Multicultural Miniroos and now the Girls United Program.”

WHFC enjoyed its highest number of Miniroos with over 100 registered in 2022, with 27 from the Multicultural Settlement Program.

FV program manager Abraham Abraham said he “loved” going to Wodonga to witness the transition of children to club football who might not have had the opportunity without the programme.

“It has a huge financial impact on the club as you wouldn’t incur the burden of accommodating children out of pocket or raising funds,” he said.

“The children and families connected with the wider Wodonga community and felt Australian.

“I also enjoyed driving to Wodonga to meet the families and club members who volunteer countless hours to the club.

The program employs youth in these communities to run the program to create self-employment and allocates equipment resources to make the program sustainable.

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