Settlement Services International (SSI), in partnership with Cricket NSW and Cricket Australia, today launched The Welcome Project to provide Afghan evacuees access to Australia’s favourite sport, cricket.
SSI, in partnership with Cricket NSW and Cricket Australia, launch The Welcome Project.
The Welcome Project, formerly Welcome2Sydney, is an SSI community engagement program that fosters a sense of belonging and inclusion for newcomers, allowing them to create friendships, build social connections and bridge the cultural divide as they settle into their new home.
Minister for Sport and Multiculturalism Natalie Ward launched the initiative at Bankstown Oval in Western Sydney.
“Since late August, NSW has warmly opened its arms to around 1,000 evacuees from Afghanistan,” Mrs Ward said.
“It is wonderful to see some of them have the opportunity to enjoy a peaceful game of cricket in their new backyard.
“No matter where you are from, sport brings everyone together and this is a wonderful way we can make them feel welcome.”
Afghan refugee Tahir Sadeq arrived in Australia with his wife and children in September and joined the event.
“I like watching cricket and like the sport. It’s something you do with family and friends,” Mr Sadeq said.
The Welcome Project matches newcomers with everyday Australians, forming connections in their local communities.
“Welcome Ambassadors” (SSI volunteers) support families and individuals, helping them develop a sense of belonging by exploring the city and taking part in social, cultural and recreational activities.
Cricket Australia’s Executive General Manager of Community Cricket James Allsopp said the partnership with SSI would enable Australian cricket to play a leading role in the resettlement of Afghan evacuees.
“Through our shared love of cricket there is a real opportunity not only for Australian cricket clubs to help Afghan evacuees rebuild their lives, but for those clubs to be enriched by the inclusion of those they embrace,” Mr Allsopp said.
“Cricket clubs are at the heart of their local communities and can provide both a welcoming environment and the chance to build the strong relationships that help ease the resettlement process.
“We hope this will be just the beginning of a long-term partnership with SSI and the other organisations welcoming refugees to Australia and helping them to meet the challenges of life in a new country."
Cricket NSW CEO Lee Germon said the organisation was proud to be partnering with Cricket Australia and SSI on The Welcome Project.
“Australians and Afghans share a common love of cricket and it’s our hope that those new to our shores will find a supportive home within the NSW cricket community,” Mr Germon said.
“Cricket clubs are often at the heart of any local community and provide a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for anyone looking to meet people, make friends and participate in a healthy activity.
“Cricket NSW looks forward to working with Settlement Services International to help residents to transition into their new surrounds through the power of cricket and our communities, as we look to inspire everyone to play and love cricket.”
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said that SSI, Cricket Australia and Cricket NSW had close synergies, with each organisation recognising the sport as a much-loved cultural institution for Afghan and Australian communities.
“At SSI, our mission is to help create a more inclusive society in which everyone can meaningfully contribute to social, cultural, civic and economic life,” Ms Roumeliotis said.
“Cricket can be utilised as a launch pad for meaningful social connection and as a vehicle for supporting our Afghan evacuees to reach successful settlement outcomes across the whole spectrum of their lives.”