Senator Kate Lundy with, from left, Franck Castillo, OFC President
David Chung, Charles W Lepani and Tai Nicholas.
President David Chung and General Secretary Tai Nicholas were joined by Franck Castillo, Head of Social Responsibility and International Relations, in travelling to Canberra and Melbourne this month to meet with key government representatives and update them on the impressive progress of Just Play so far.
The OFC trio sat down firstly with Senator Kate Lundy, the minister for both sport and multicultural affairs, and then Hon Richard Marles, the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs.
Also in attendance was John Boultbee, Head of National Teams and Football Development for Football Federation Australia, while Papua New Guinea’s High Comissioner to Australia, Charles W Lepani, was present for the first meeting.
Senator Lundy and Hon Marles were given extensive reports on Just Play, an OFC social development programme jointly funded by UEFA and the Australian Government through its agencies the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the Australian Sports Commission (ASC).
President Chung says both were extremely impressed with what they heard.
“The meetings were very positive and it is clear that the Australian Government is very pleased with the impact of Just Play on the communities of the Pacific,” Chung says.
“Just Play recently reached its 100,000th child and has become one of the most successful grassroots sports programmes ever to be implemented in Oceania. The support of the Australian Government has been an essential part of this success and we hope our partnership will continue to bear fruit.”
Developed by the OFC social responsibility and technical departments, Just Play is designed for children aged six to 12 and promotes physical activity while encouraging community involvement, healthy living, the prevention of non-communicable diseases, gender equality and the inclusion in sport of those with a disability.
OFC has worked closely with UEFA, the Australian Government and Football Federation Australia to implement the programme across the Pacific over a three-year period between 2009 and 2012. It was launched in Tonga and is now also running in American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti and Vanuatu.
The confederation has also been working in New Zealand with Special Olympics on a Just Play programme for people with mental disabilities and has joined forces with Football Federation Samoa to launch the same initiative in Samoa. A similar programme has also been implemented in Fiji in partnership with the Football Fiji Association and the Australian Sports Outreach Programme.
As well as reaching 100,000 children - 43 per cent of whom are female - Just Play has trained over 2,000 teachers and volunteers and recent review findings have shown that students who participate in Just Play are more motivated to go to school, improve their academic performance and develop positive citizenship skills while many of the volunteers have demonstrated strong leadership within their communities.