“Without Reclink, I probably wouldn’t have stayed in treatment and quite possibly might not be around today,” states Rhan Harris. He’s the Sports Coordinator for the Geelong office of Reclink Australia, and has first-hand experience of the life-changing impact the organisation’s activities can have on disadvantaged members of the community.
“Reclink run activities every weekday for clients of welfare groups such as drug and alcohol rehab services, police groups and crisis accommodation centres. The organisation started on the streets of St Kilda as an outreach recreation program for Sacred Heart clients. A very small football kick-to-kick grew into a team which grew into a league which spread around Australia. As it grew it started to encompass other programs such as cricket, passive activities like tai chi and the arts, and now has around 100,000 diverse participation opportunities each year.
“You can see the direct benefit for participants at the time of the event but following the event there’s the unseen benefit which ripples out to the whole community, whether it be through less involvement with police, less substance abuse, less problem gambling and so on,” Rhan explained.
“This is my 20th year of being involved with Reclink in one form or another. I originally got in touch with Reclink when I was doing drug rehab in Melbourne. I was a resident at Odyssey House and they were playing in the football league. It was a big highlight for what I was going through at the time.”
Rhan, who grew up in Geelong, is aware of the central role footy plays in the community.
“Reclink has had a presence in Geelong for about 12 years. www.facebook.com/ReclinkGeelong/ Our Kardinia Cats Reclink football Group Geelong has the most reach and impact. www.facebook.com/KardiniaCatsFootballGroupGeelong/ We see a community-mindedness come about. Participants who are otherwise very unmotivated, disengaged and unsocial put others needs ahead of their own. These people might not otherwise get the chance to do that because of their financial situation or mental health issues.
“It’s an all abilities team which means there is a tremendous level of care from teammate to teammate. It’s also the only mixed gender football league in Australia. It’s really important for people’s sense of engagement to look out for others. Through the footy this is quite striking.”
Story: April Austen. Photo: Supplied