AFL boosts inclusivity and diversity


AFL to boost disabled fans experience in stadiums Image: Maple Community Services

The Australian Football League (AFL) has forged a new partnership to champion inclusivity within the game.

The AFL has welcomed Maple Community Services as the ‘Official NDIS Support Service Partner’ of the AFL and AFLW for the next three years.

The AFL is the pre-eminent and only fully professional competition of Australian Rules football. It was originally named the Victorian Football League and was founded in 1896 as a breakaway competition from the Victorian Football Association, with its inaugural season in 1897.

The AFL said that by joining forces with Maple Community Services it has reinforced its commitment to inclusion and diversity, fostering an environment where everyone, regardless of ability, can participate and flourish in Australian Rules football.

In an Australian first, this partnership will see an elite sport and NDIS service partner provide training and education to football clubs nationwide to assist in inclusivity.

This includes physical sessions and access for clubs to host open days for people with a disability, providing expertise and equipment to facilitate.

Maple Community Services will also support the AFL’s disability and inclusion programs with 25 wheelchairs each year and support the Toyota National Inclusion Carnival.

Marvel Stadium staff will benefit from the collaboration through training and education modules provided by Maple Service’s experts, enhancing their practical skills to assist individuals with disabilities.

Executive General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy, Tanya Hosch, said the partnership is further progress in the AFL’s journey towards becoming a more inclusive game.

She said, “We are committed to increasing inclusiveness within the AFL and broader football community. We welcome Maple Community Services as we continue our efforts to become more accessible for all people living with disabilities.

“The partnership will help us dismantle barriers, address stereotypes, and forge a brighter future for people with disabilities in the football community.”

Chief Executive Officer of Maple Community Services, Irshad Mulla, expressed excitement about the partnership.

Mulla said, “We are privileged to collaborate with the AFL in championing inclusivity and accessibility in football.

“Our shared vision is to create a more inclusive sporting landscape where every individual feels valued and empowered to participate. Together, we aim to make a positive difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities through the transformative power of sport.”

Within the AFL community, the partnership has fostered a local ambassador with significant experience in the disability space.

Jasmine Garner’s story illustrates the power of inclusion. Her brother Kane, who has an intellectual disability, is a beloved figure at the club, demonstrating the importance of fostering an environment where everyone is valued.

Jasmine emphasizes, “My unwavering support for Kane and recognition of his value within the club showcase the importance of fostering an environment where everyone, regardless of ability, is embraced and valued. Through Kane’s involvement, I highlight the significance of inclusion and the potential for individuals like my brother to thrive and make meaningful contributions.”

The partnership between Maple Community Services and the AFL marks a significant milestone in the journey towards a more inclusive and diverse sporting community.

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