Young footballers from disadvantaged backgrounds are receiving digital technology training to help tell their stories, as part of a new Football United program.
The Digital Connections program equips and trains youth leaders to help Football United participants share their stories and engage with the wider community through digital media.
Backed by a $282,000 grant over three years from the Telstra Foundation, the program harnesses the skills and experience of acclaimed film maker Phillip Noyce.
Mr Noyce appeared via video at today's Digital Connections launch at Miller Technology High School in Sydney's south-west, along with soccer personality Craig Foster and former Matilda's star Gill Foster.
"I'm extremely pleased to be an ambassador for Football United's Digital Connections project," Mr Noyce said. "I spent some time with Football United participants last year and was captivated by their passion and drive.
"With cameras in hand, these remarkable youngsters will be able to tell, and share, their incredible stories. I sincerely hope that through this project we will develop some budding young film makers in Australia that will captivate audiences across the world."
Telstra Group Managing Director, Strategy and Corporate Services, Paul Fegan said the corporation was delighted to stand behind the initiative. "This is a fantastic project that will serve to empower disadvantaged young people through the use of technology."
Football United is an initiative of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at UNSW. It works in partnership with councils, migrant resource centres and football clubs, using the power of football to build opportunities for disadvantaged youth and the 7,000 refugee children who arrive in Australia every year.
Football United founding director Anne Bunde-Birouste said she was thrilled by the support.
"Phillip Noyce got excited about the power of Football United last year when he saw our film, Football United, Passport to Hope. This project not only gives the participants the highest level of mentoring, it provides respect and recognition of their potential to develop and thrive.
"By providing digital equipment and training we can showcase the magic of football to bring people together across Australia and connect people throughout the world."
Since its inception in 2006, Football United has grown to include 800 young people across nine regions in three states (Liverpool, Blacktown, Fairfield, Granville South, Parramatta, Campbelltown and Auburn in Sydney, Brisbane in Qld and Adelaide in SA). Football United also supports programs in Cameroon and southern Sudan.
One of the digital trainees is Shahin Alanezi, who arrived in Australia in 2008 and attended the Intensive English Centre at Miller Technology High School.
"I didn't have any friends when I arrived in Australia and joining the Football United project gave me an opportunity to mix with other young people and build relationships with the other students. Without Football United I would not have all the connections I have now".
Shahin has won short film awards, including TropWest and took out the Youth Award at Liverpool City Council Refugee Week. "I really like the idea of making films. It is a great way to express myself and my opinion in a peaceful and good way," he said.
For more information go to the Football United website.
Media contact: Steve Offner UNSW Media Office | 02 9385 8107