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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Diti bhattacharya, Senior research fellow, Griffith University

As preparations for Paris’ Olympic and Paralympic Games gather momentum, South East Queensland is preparing its legacy strategy in anticipation for the 2032 Brisbane games.

The Queensland government’s Olympic committee recently published its legacy strategy, Elevate 2042.

At the centre of this strategy is a goal to deliver a more active, healthier, connected and inclusive community through the power of sports and mega sporting events in Queensland.

While inclusivity and diversity are identified as a foundation in this legacy plan, there is little clarity on how the organising committees will work with state and local sporting clubs to support recently arrived and settled refugees in Queensland.

How sports can help refugees

Refugees form an integral and growing part of Australia’s multicultural population and beyond.

Local community sporting initiatives and individual city councils have outlined how vital sport has been to the betterment of refugees’ lives here in Australia.

Our research, due to be published later this year, examines how inequities such as gender, disability, sexuality and ethnicity affect sport participation among marginalised communities in Queensland. It also shows how we can work with these communities ahead of the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Our research focuses on how Olympic legacy planning can better support those on the margins of sport, including refugee girls and women.

For the past 12 months, we have been travelling across south-east Queensland talking with community groups, sports clubs and recently settled refugees.

Initial findings from this project show localised community groups operating from Brisbane city, Logan city, Toowoomba and the Gold Coast among others have consistently used sport as a strong catalyst in aiding refugees with settlement and belonging processes.

Group sports such as hockey, soccer and rugby have been particularly successful among women and children from refugee backgrounds.

In this context, it is worth noting community sports have consistently kick-started the belonging and settlement process of recently arrived refugees across Australia.

One way refugees can thrive in their new country is through sports.

The Olympics and refugees

The relationship between the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Olympic and Paralympic Games, asylum seekers and refugees has been longstanding and complicated.

Some critics argue the IOC has been overly concerned about how political gestures of protest will overshadow stories of sports success and triumph, while questions have also been raised about why the IOC and the Olympics have not done more to raise awareness around human rights issues

However, an important factor missing from these conversations is how host cities can design effective legacy strategies to boost refugee settlement and belonging.

Legacy planning initiatives are a great opportunity for Brisbane to genuinely engage with local community sporting groups ahead of the 2032 Olympics.

So far, the legacy strategy – called a “living document” – has identified 15 focus areas as pathways that will deliver the three primary desired outcomes of the mega event.

These primary desired outcomes are:

  1. higher levels of physical activities leading to healthier general population
  2. increased sport participation with specific focus on culturally, linguistically marginalised communities
  3. enhanced sporting achievement at the elite competition level.

However, within these wide segments, there is little detail around how engagement will take place at a grassroots level for these legacy promises to be realised.

How Brisbane can do better

Here are three ways the Brisbane legacy and organising committees can engage with sport clubs to help refugees find their footing in their local communities.

  1. Targeted financial and infrastructural support to small, innovative sporting programs that facilitate physical activities and informal sports among recently settled refugees. One focus area of the Elevate 2042 strategy promises “creation of more great places and precincts” that will benefit the diverse and multicultural community of Queensland. Yet, there is no clarity around how this support local community-based clubs and initiatives to foster strong relationships with refugee communities.

  2. Targeted focus on women and children from culturally and linguistically diverse refugee backgrounds. This can aid them in negotiating challenges that are unique within their own communities. The Elevate strategy lacks an explicit focus on issues facing women and girls through its 15 identified focus areas. Notably, non-binary and gender diverse people are completely omitted from the plan.

  3. A culturally informed and sustainable consultation between local councils, sporting clubs, state level sporting bodies and settlement agencies to identify the unique ways in which legacies of mega sport events can benefit communities on the margins of the society.

Refugees need a voice in the strategy

Focus area 15 of the Elevate 2042 plan aims to deliver a dynamic and inspiring cultural program, representing the nation’s strong diversity and inclusivity, beyond 2042.

The Olympic Agenda 2020+5 recommends strengthening support for refugees and populations affected by displacement. However, Focus area 15 makes no mention of the refugee community.

The burgeoning refugee community certainly cannot be left out of these conversations, as their stories and voices are becoming ever more relevant and integral to Australia’s social fabric and sporting culture.

The Conversation

Adele Pavlidis receives funding from the Australian Research Council

Simone Fullagar receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

Diti bhattacharya does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

ref. Grassroots sport can help refugees find their feet in Australia – Brisbane’s Olympic planners need to lead the way too –