Celebrating Diversity – AFL Multicultural Round

With a little over a week until the AFL’s Multicultural Round gets under way, it is timely to have a look back at the genesis of our game and the part that players with strong and diverse ethnic backgrounds have played.


Whilst some might consider the “multicultural” aspect of the game a relatively new phenomenon, the fact is that the game’s past is garnered with a multicultural smorgasboard.


One of the first names that comes to mind is “Jezza” in the 60’s and 70’s. Carlton’s Alex Jesaulenko, of both Ukrainian and Austrian descent, became one of the better known surnames of his era. The commentary surrounding his famous mark in the 1970 grand final over Graeme Jenkins from Collingwood became part of folklore. Mike Williamson excitedly called “Jesaulenko, you beauty!” immortalising the mark and also a multicultural surname in one breath.


But a look through lists of past players goes even further.


A look at Greek players gives us Koutoufides, Francou, Christou, Malaxos and more.


Little wonder the footy scene is growing so much in Croatia, a country about to host the 2015 Axios Euro Cup. With a player list boasting names like Didak, Dorotich, Sumich, Jakovich, Pavlich and Starcevich among so many others it could be argued that the country breeds future AFL stars.


Germany have given us names like Ditterich, Gehrig, Weidemann, Reiwoldt, Schwass and Loewe and more. Italy boasts names like Barassi, Mercuri, Misiti, Alessio, Camporeale, Dal Santo, Deledio and of course Dipierdomenico as well as a host of others.


But the list goes on. Ramanauskas (Lithuania), Yze (Albania), Van Der Haar (Netherlands), Brereton (Ireland), Romero (Chile), Balraj Singh (India), Daicos & Malceski (Macedonia), Demetriou (Cyprus) and even Scotland (Scotland!) are names which show that our games multicultural heritage is scattered across the globe.


A full list of past and present player names with multicultural heritage can be found at the www.afl.com.au website: http://www.aflcommunityclub.com.au/index.php?id=640


With that history in mind, the AFL now celebrates that diversity and ethnic heritage with the Multicultural Round, this year being Round 19 from 7-9 August.


For a complete understanding of the round and associated directions and objectives, the AFL’s website states:


Australian football is becoming the sport of choice for diverse communities. Up to 25% of current AFL lists are from diverse backgrounds (11% Indigenous and 14% Multicultural).


The Multicultural Unit has been established to ensure Australian football is a vehicle that encourages community strengthening and inclusion within the wider Australian community.


The AFL’s Multicultural programs are enabling more young talent to be identified and giving more opportunities to aspiring young AFL players.


Australian Football has the capacity to bring people together from diverse cultural backgrounds. With this in mind, the AFL is working closely with state football bodies to build strong working relationships with many diverse communities to identify barriers and to develop strategies to encourage involvement.


A range of resources and programs have been developed to help local leagues and clubs located within diverse communities to take action to ensure their activities are welcoming and inclusive to create safe and healthy family friendly football environments for people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) communities.


The Multicultural Program has 10 Multicultural Development Officers (MDO’s) based in Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia. This enables the AFL and the AFL clubs to reach more people in the community and add value and quality to all our initiatives. The MDO’s are based at and working closely with AFL clubs to deliver programs encouraging participation in Australian Football within multicultural communities and schools across greater Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and some rural areas.


The program aims to introduce young people from targeted culturally and linguistically diverse communities to Australian Football and to influence mainstream Australian Football clubs to embrace multicultural diversity as part of their ongoing operations.


Twenty percent of Australians were born in another country, of whom more than half came to Australia from non-English speaking nations. Combined with their Australian-born children, they constitute 43 percent of the population.


By 2025 overseas born families will outnumber locally born families and by 2049 Australia’s population is expected to grow to 35 million, the majority of this increase will come from migrant sources. Two thirds will continue to come from Asian nations.


In 2009, the number of permanent and long-term migrants arriving in Australia has soared to more than 500,000 a year.


Multicultural Australians have economic clout. Their spending power has doubled since 1991 and is now over $58 billion a year.


Sydney and Melbourne more than 50% of the population is born overseas or has one or more parents born overseas.


If you have an interest in the multicultural background of Australian Rules football, or want to find out more details about the upcoming AFL Multicultural Round from 7-9 August, you can visit the AFL’s website at: http://www.afl.com.au/multiculturalround as well as following events and features through social media via the AFL Diversity on Twitter (@AFLDiversity) or through the AFL Multicultural Programs page on Facebook.


So join the many, many thousands of proud Aussies from a diverse and proud variety of multicultural backgrounds and support the AFL Multicultural Round.


About Wesley Hull

Passionate lover of Australian Rules football. Have played and coached the game and now spend my time writing about the game I love and introducing young people to the game through school coaching. Will try and give back to the game what it has given me for more that 40 years.

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