Celebrating inclusion in sports clubs

More than just a place for sports and fitness, Boroondara sports clubs have become important spaces for people to make friends and connect with their local community, as well as promoting good mental health and wellbeing.

All residents should have the right to enjoy the benefits of sports clubs regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity and ability.

Over the coming months, we will be publishing a series of stories in the Bulletin about the unique pathways our local sporting clubs are forging to promote inclusiveness in their clubs. We hope you find their stories inspiring.

The South Hawthorn Tennis Club is encouraging and providing opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds to participate.

In particular, Sue Davey, a coach at the South Hawthorn Tennis Club, has recently played a special role as mentor for asylum seeker, Milad Jafarnejad.

A former top 10 ranking tennis player in his home country of Iran, the South Hawthorn Tennis Club has nurtured the opportunity for Milad to share his knowledge and become a coach in their program, utilising his elite background in the sport.

Since leaving his family in Iran due to safety reasons, it had been a difficult start in Melbourne for Milad. Over the past few years, Milad endured major challenges, battling loneliness and depression, while also trying to learn a new language.

During this time, there was one thing which always helped him feel at home and that was playing tennis, thanks to the opportunity provided by Sue and the South Hawthorn Tennis Club.

Sue said she first met Milad in October 2016 through a member at the club, who had previously mentored Milad at Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre and saw his potential to become a great tennis coach.

“At first, Milad was involved in observing the way we ran our sessions. We wanted him to understand the language and learn how to connect with kids,” said Sue.

“Then he started coaching young players, initially as a volunteer and now more recently in a paid position.”

Milad said being part of the South Hawthorn Tennis Club has given him a new outlook on his life in Melbourne.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be a tennis coach again. Learning from Sue and the club has been so valuable,” said Milad.

I’ve been able to keep my passion for tennis alive and meet some wonderful people along the way.

For more information, contact our Recreation and Wellbeing Department on 9278 4797.

For helpful resources about how to build diversity in your club, you can visit Access Health and Community or Centre for Multicultural Youth.