Aaron Sweeney and David Tangata-Toa from the Windsor Wolves, Willie Hammond from Northern United and Ryan Walker from the Wolves. Minister Burney in front.
Aaron Sweeney and David Tangata-Toa from the Windsor Wolves, Willie Hammond from Northern United and Ryan Walker from the Wolves. Minister Burney in front.

Crash tackling domestic violence

Northern United went so close to winning the grand final of the Group One rugby league competition last year that this season they’re tackling a serious problem: domestic violence.

Northern United, an Aboriginal team that joined Group One last year, is one of 14 regional rugby league teams in NSW that signed up for the Tackling Violence program.

Club secretary Grantley Creighton said the club is aiming to help with social issues from a grassroots level.

“This is something we want to reinforce in the club, we’re trying to lead the way. We don’t have any alcohol sales at our home games,” Grantley said. “The Tackling Violence program predominantly targets Koori footy teams around the state.

“Everyone knows that violence is a problem in a lot of Aboriginal communities and any step to minimise that is a step in the right direction.”

The team will have to fulfil certain criteria, including players signing up for a code of conduct, participating in workshops throughout the year, participating in advertising campaigns about domestic violence and displaying promotional material on their uniforms.

Grantley said the idea to join the program came from coach Chris Binge, who works at DoCS.

“We’re trying to do some grassroots crime prevention,” Grantley said. “It’s probably an easy avenue because rugby league is like a religion in the Koori community. We get everyone at our games from the Elders down to the little ones. We’re trying to address whatever issues we can.

“At our home games this year we’re going to have community information stalls for organisations like Juvenile Justice or any other community organisation that wants to take part.”

This year Northern United is running junior teams from under 7s to under 14s, training at Clifford Park in Goonellabah.

“We’re getting lots of kids and we wanted to train in Goonellabah because it’s central to the housing commission area,” Grantley said. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays we’re getting 50 to 100 boys hanging around watching the seniors so we’re trying to develop something for the kids.”

Northern United first formed in 2004 specifically to compete in knock-out competitions. Grantley said it had been a three-year battle to be accepted into Group One and in their first year last year they lost the first grade grand final by just one point.

Despite the fantastic start, Northern United is still having difficulty finding enough sponsors.

Tackling Violence ambassador and former league star David Peachey said at the launch that the program has a particular focus on communities with a high Aboriginal population.

“We know Aboriginal women are nearly six times more likely to be victims of domestic violence than non-Aboriginal women, and Aboriginal children and young people are three times more likely to be victims of domestic violence. So as Aboriginal footy players, we want to do something about it,” Peachey said. “League is in the blood of Koori people. Kids look up to us as role models, the whole community looks up to us. We must use our popularity to get the message across that domestic violence is a serious crime.”

NSW Minister for Community Services Linda Burney said it was wonderful to be able to welcome the new teams to the program.

“Tackling Violence is about rugby league players taking the lead... saying domestic violence is unacceptable,” Ms Burney said. “We’ll also be raising awareness about how alcohol can fuel violence, including domestic violence.”

Kids interested in the Northern United junior program should phone Kylie Binge on 0423 225 240.


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