13 May 2022

Sporting stars and police team up to help youth kick goals

| Claire Fenwicke
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Youth meet sporting stars

Sporting stars and clubs have committed to a new partnership with police to help at-risk youth. Photo: NSW Police.

The Canberra Raiders have joined forces with NSW Police to steer Queanbeyan’s youth into programs that develop confidence, life skills and positive influences.

It’s part of the recently launched Sporting Partnership Industry program, which involves sporting clubs linking with PCYC clubs across NSW to engage young people at risk of anti-social behaviour or criminal offending.

It builds on the Fit for Life programs currently available at PCYCs across the state. Queanbeyan is one of four locations chosen to pilot the new program.

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Raiders wellbeing manager Andrew Bishop said while the club has had connections with PCYC in the past, this would be the first time they were officially part of the Fit for Life program.

“We’ve just had a hard two years with COVID and so one of the club’s main goals is to re-engage with the community again,” he said.

“We’re keen to connect with young people in the region who may have fallen on hard times and help them re-align their pathways in school, work – everything.

“Regardless of whether we’re playing rugby we want to support kids in the region.”

Police and youth playing rugby

The Sporting Partnership Industry program will build on the current Fit for Life program at Queanbeyan PCYC. Photo: NSW Police.

Mr Bishop said it was also an opportunity for the club’s younger players to be exposed to mentoring, social engagement and leadership opportunities.

“We want to support police and youth in the region to undertake better pathways and our younger players to realise their privileged position and get them to use that to help those who are more disadvantaged than them,” he said.

“This pilot program with Queanbeyan is just the start of it; we want to bring it to other parts of the region as well.”

Raiders representatives Sia Soliola, Harley Smith-Shields and Makayla Morris all went along to the program’s launch in Sydney.

While the National Rugby League, NSW Rugby League and Netball NSW have already signed up, the AFL, Cricket NSW and A-Leagues have also expressed their commitment to being part of the program.

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Commissioner of Police Karen Webb said the partnerships would give police the chance to engage with youth in a neutral, relaxed and friendly environment.

“Diversion and early intervention have proven extremely effective in keeping young people out of the justice system,” she said.

“Once a young person is identified as being at risk, either by committing a criminal offence or disengaging from school, police can refer them into a PCYC program.

“It gives that young person an opportunity to be involved in something more meaningful and constructive and be surrounded by positive influences from outside their direct networks.”

big group of people gathered at a stadium

The Raiders hope to roll out the program to other parts of the Capital region. Photo: NSW Police.

The program is aimed at 10 to 17-year-olds, teaching them about physical fitness, nutrition and social engagement.

NSW Police Minister Paul Toole said the expanded initiative would form part of a number of strategies to tackle the causes of youth crime.

“We know how important sport can be to engage with at-risk young people, instil a sense of responsibility and accountability and guide them towards making good decisions,” he said.

“Getting to spar with Sonny Bill or shoot some hoops with the state’s top netballers can be a life changing opportunity for our young people and no matter what else is going on in their lives, they can’t help but walk away feeling inspired.”

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Thousands of young people across NSW already regularly attend Fit for Life sessions, with numbers expected to grow with the program’s rollout.

The Sporting Partnership Industry Program will kick off at Queanbeyan PCYC on 30 May. Learn more on the PCYC NSW website.

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