The Huddle is a department of the North Melbourne Football Club (NMFC), supported by the Scanlon Foundation and the Australian Multicultural Foundation.
Established in 2010 to improve social cohesion by systematically addressing the causes of disengagement among young people, The Huddle’s programs target youths from migrant and refugee backgrounds, in North Melbourne, Flemington, Kensington, West Melbourne and the City of Wyndham.
The Huddle runs a satellite program in the City of Ballarat as well as a number of community programs – targeting primary and secondary schools – which explore and celebrate Melbourne’s multiculturalism.
The Huddle programs have the capacity to reach more than 25,000 people in any given year and programs are developed and delivered by teaching staff, in conjunction with the North Melbourne playing group and young people from the local community. Technology, sport, positive education, team building, mentoring and role models are used to challenge and engage, to create active community participants and to develop young people into leaders.
Huddle funding partners include the Scanlon Foundation, the Bennelong Foundation, the Federal Attorney General’s Department, DIAC, Federal Office for Sport (PMC), the TAC, and the City of Melbourne. Huddle program partners have included the University of Melbourne, the University of Ballarat, the Catholic Education Office, Victoria Police, Big Brothers Big Sisters Australia, the Australian Federal Police, the African Thinktank, the Somali Women’s Development Association, Eritrean Community in Australia, Kayyo Oromo and the Puntland Diaspora Forum.
The Huddle’s multi-faceted approach to addressing social cohesion has been underpinned by ongoing formal and informal consultation with community and education leaders and young people within the community.
An independent evaluation of the Huddle, conducted by Moira Schulze and Dr Sue Foster, recently said:
“The Huddle concept is a very powerful idea. (...) What is unique is that all Huddle programs are innovatively designed to foster the participants’ sense of individual identity and self-esteem, a sense of place and belonging, improved health and wellbeing and the positive benefits of participation; whether it be on the sporting field or the classroom or even as spectators. The young person benefits, as do their parents and the broader community.”
• The Huddle Schools’ Program helps children explore themes of community, self and sustainability in a unique learning environment. This program has been developed – and continues to evolve – in consultation with local schools and the community, in a truly ground-breaking partnership model. All local primary and secondary schools participate
• The Sport and Recreation program runs in North Melbourne and Ballarat and increases participation of migrants in sporting teams and clubs, through individual and group coaching and support of sporting organisations
• Study support for young people for whom English is a second or additional language, aged 15 and over. The program offers subject specific tutors, mentors, internet access, or just a quiet study space, overseen by a leading teacher. It is the only program of its type in the local area. There are 80 young people registered, with 20-25 students studying at The Huddle each night
• The Huddle Schools Football Program uses the AFL to engage children from diverse backgrounds in physical activity, reinforcing the importance of healthy lifestyles, teamwork, and tolerance
• A program specifically for English Language schools, focusing on helping new arrivals develops language skills through the medium of football. This has been hugely popular, with Braybrook, Kensington and Brunswick English Language Centre attending regularly.
The Huddle’s approach is characterised by flexibility, innovation, and partnership. The Huddle is an example of best-practice in the area of social cohesion. It is also an excellent example of what can be achieved when different organisations and individuals come together to address a single goal.
The Huddle won the 2013 winner of the Sports Leadership Award (National Migration and Settlement Awards), and the 2012 Victorian Premier's Award for Community Harmony.
“The Huddle is a perfect example of sport and the community working together, with some corporate support for the same outcome. You can see the significant benefit the Huddle is having on the community, by educating lots of young people from very varied backgrounds, and giving them new opportunities.” - AFL Chief Executive Officer Andrew Demetriou.