Sport as a Social Connection Tool

Sport lends itself to community building and resilient communities. Sport gives individuals a sense of worth, belonging, participation and achievement. In this session, Sam Atukorala – AFL Diversity Program Ambassador, and Community Ambassador for Cricket Australia gives an overview of how Cricket and Football build strong individuals, strong communities.


Recently, the Victorian Government pivoted the focus of multiculturalism and community integration towards the multiple capacities that sport offers to social cohesion. Sport is an integral part of our culture in Victoria. It plays a central role in ensuring that all Victorians, particularly young people, can develop skills, teamwork and leadership abilities, and gain access to volunteering and employment opportunities. Additionally, sport’s unique features ensure that communities who participate in sport and recreation develop strong social bonds and create healthier, safer places to live.

With respect to new arrivals and settlement in Victoria, the government expressed a strong committment to providing opportunities – via sporting endeavours – that strengthen social inclusion for all who come to Victoria and the Goulburn Valley.


In response to Australia’s rapidly changing society, cricket Australia focused to engage with new and emerging communities to ensure it remains Australia’s favourite sport.

Greater inclusion of multicultural communities will attract more talent into the game, increase volunteering and audience participation and will help build a socially cohesive society.

As Australia’s favourite sport – a sport for all Australians, cricket has traditionally helped unite Australians in their common pride in our sport and define what it means to be Australian.

Cricket, more than any other sport, has helped Australia feel good about itself.

Cricket Australia’s diversity and inclusion initiatives are aimed at making certain that every Australian instinctively knows that cricket is a game for them.

They will know that cricket is a sport that employs people from all backgrounds and is a game for them to play, to watch, to follow or to be involved in as a volunteer or local club supporter.

This includes on and off the field at local clubs and schools, in cricket administration and within cricket’s workplaces, in the crowd, in media coverage, publicity and promotion and broadcasting of the game and in representative female and male cricket teams.

While diversity is critical to the game’s development in Australia, a related priority is to create an inclusive work and sporting environment where our players, coaches, employees, volunteers and administrators feel valued and able to contribute to their full potential.

To achieve this Australian Cricket has developed and implemented a series of diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Through Cricket Australia’s diversity and inclusion strategies not only paved the foundation to multicultural players such as Lenny Pascoe, Simon Katich, Michael Kasprowicz, Moises Henriques, Usman Khawaja, Lisa Sthalekar, Gurinder Sandhu and Ashton Agar to play this great game but also helped a young boy from Iraq who saw is first cricket ball inside Villawood Detention 1997 to later became the head of Community Engagement at Cricket Australia.

Australian Football League – Multicultural Programs

AFL is a game for everyone, no matter who you are or where you’re from. Australian Football has the extraordinary power to bring people together regardless of background.

AFL is becoming the sport of choice for diverse communities in Victoria. Up to 25% of current AFL lists are from diverse backgrounds (11% Indigenous and 14% Multicultural).

The Multicultural Unit has been established to ensure Australian football is a vehicle that encourages community strengthening and inclusion within the wider Australian community.

The AFL’s Multicultural programs are enabling more young talent to be identified and giving more opportunities to aspiring young AFL players.



The AFL Multicultural Round gives us the opportunity to celebrate the diverse cultures that make up this amazing game.

The AFL highlights the contribution multicultural communities have made to the game’s history and welcome new communities to embrace Australia’s game in the future. Many Cultures, One Game.

Everything’s possible when we unite through the love of the sport.

AFL Victoria’s Multicultural Program

The objective of AFL Victoria’s Multicultural Program is to assist migrant and refugee communities to access football, whether it be playing, supporting or volunteering.

We want football to be a vehicle that bridges the gap between Australia’s diverse communities and promotes inclusion within the wider Australian community.

There are a number of ways to join in the fun of Australian football with AFL Victoria’s programs designed to help people of all ages and all backgrounds participate in our great game.

  • Multicultural Schools Program
  • Dedicated Multicultural Auskick Centres
  • Play Australian football – find your nearest league
  • Find Your nearest NAB Auskick Centre
  • Community Engagement
  • Community Ambassadors
  • Australia Post Multicultural Ambassadors
  • Community Ticketing
  • Community Festivals
  • Unity Cup
  • Multicultural Round
  • Talent – Developing tomorrow’s stars

Through the development work completed in schools and community football, talented athletes are identified and selected into our respective squads.




This illustrates how the work of Cricket Australia and AFL and its community engagement arm builds a strong community and enables new immigrants and settlers to quickly build social capital and social cohesion. This community engagement builds a sense of worth and belonging, it builds participation and community bonding and a stronger sense of engagement in building a rich and satisfying life.

Sports provide tools for social connection for all those who have come from refugee or asylum seeker backgrounds, and may face additional challenges settling in Australia. They may be of any age, any gender, sports offers wonderful opportunities for inclusion from bocce to bowls, from soccer to football, from cricket to netball. All may be included. Sport includes all multicultural communities, asylum seekers and people from a refugee background.

Sam Atukorala

Sam Atukorala has established himself in Shepparton with his young family and is determined to continue to work towards improvements in his local community.

The impact of Sam’s vision and leadership is far reaching – not only individuals but also by actively helping to break down barriers and providing greater opportunity for new arrivals to connect with and contribute to the community.

He has earned a reputation as a respected community leader who is making a real impact in the community in the Shepparton region as a keen volunteer, an ambassador for intercultural community harmony and an exceptional member of the Goulburn Valley community.

Sam is a an ambassador for AFL Diversity Program and a community ambassador for Cricket Australia’s A Sport For All program.

Sam been awarded the title of Regional AFL Multicultural Ambassador of the Year 2015 and AFL Diversity Community Ambassador – Play Fair Award in 2017.




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