Players from the Alive and Kicking Goals Program

Alive and Kicking Goals

Thursday, September 23, 2010

By Tanya Dewhurst

Youth suicide among Aboriginal men in Western Australia’s Kimberley region is a massive problem, however one Australian Football club is tackling the issue head on.

Two years ago, players from The Broome Saints Football Club teamed up with the Men’s Outreach Service to create the Alive and Kicking Goals Program, a project aimed at reaching out to young people who need help, especially if they’re feeling depressed or suicidal.

Need for the project became apparent after WA’s State Coroner found that in 2008, young adult Aboriginal men in the region were seven times more likely to kill themselves than their non-Aboriginal counterparts.

Members of the Broome Saints Football Club experienced this issue firsthand, with many players having lost brothers, cousins and other extended family members and friends to suicide.

Josh Sibosado, 22, is one such player who has lost cousins, uncles and friends.

"It's happened too many times, affects everyone when it does," says Josh. "But our experiences have become a driving force to make change and do something."

Football has been an ideal vehicle for making that change. Now each week the team gather around a campfire after training and discuss mental health issues, people they know who may be at risk of suicide and ways to help them.

"Footy is a big thing up here," explains Josh. "Especially for young people. So it's a good way to bring guys together, provide support, make people feel not so isolated and alone."

Through the program, participants have learned how to recognise the signs that friends or family may be suicidal and have developed the skills and courage to help.

And now the Saints are experiencing wins on and off the field.

On-field, Josh says through sharing experiences and supporting each other, the team has become closer and is playing better footy. This culminated in winning their 2010 grand final against the Peninsula Bombers, a fitting way to honour the Saints' fiftieth year in the League.

Off-field, the Alive and Kicking Goals Program was not only a finalist at the WA Youth Awards, but also won the Suicide Prevention Australia LIFE Award, Youth Category.

Josh travelled to the Sydney Opera House in September to collect the award in front of dignitaries such as Minister for Human Services, Tanya Plibersek and Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry who was heard to be quoting Josh later.

Josh explains: "I ended my speech, 'I'll leave you with a question, it's not what can we do about suicide prevention, but when can we do it?' Patrick said that summed it all up perfectly and went around repeating it. I felt a bit big headed after that!"

Alive and Kicking Goals LogoHowever, the wins don't stop their. In late September, 18 players and 5 committee members of the Saints Football Club are travelling to Ireland for two weeks to meet with other community groups, discuss their experiences with suicide and suicide prevention and of course play some football.

"Because of their history, the affects of the IRA, the young people there also have a similar problem with high numbers of suicide," says Josh. "So we'll share our experiences and see how we can help each other."

Josh says the footy games will also be interesting.

"We'll play three to four games, first half Gaelic Football and the second half Australian Football. I think we're going to do some hurling as well!"

The team will be documenting their Ireland adventure in a DVD, so stay tuned as the Broome Saints going marching on to stay alive and kicking.


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