At the Falcons, our Inclusion and Diversity programs aim to reach out to groups across the Darebin community who are often excluded from sport, introduce them to the fun and wellbeing benefits of being active, and develop social and physical skills. The club’s first ever Inclusion and Diversity Manager, Aasta O’Connor, is supported by the club’s partnership with the Victorian State Government, with 12 month funding from the VicHealth Jump Start Initiative allowing her to work 2 days a week on the program in 2023.

It certainly is fitting that the new program’s manager is Darebin Life Member, Aasta O’Connor. After her own highly decorated playing career in the AFLW, Aasta now works in the disability sector, and continues coaching.  She brings considerable strengths to the role, with a strong interest and commitment in working in programs that promote social connectedness, empowerment, and general health. An experienced Level 3 AFL coach, Aasta has an impressive scope of work with people in many different programs.  Her coaching CV shows commitment and enthusiasm for learning environments, and for developing potential in others.  Aasta has been a leader in high performance programs, national game advancement, talent development, and joined with fellow AFLW players in developing the Falcons Academy programs, as well as taking on Head Coach roles from VFLW to under 10’s and under 12’s footy programs.

“I am passionate about helping people learn and grow; During my playing career, some of my most influential coaches, so often they were teachers, and I think this had a huge impact on me.  I love witnessing people experience the joys of game and seeing them just light up. Our Falcons Inclusion and Diversity programs are about adapting our activities, like the footy clinic, adapting to the situation, to the environment. No two clinics look the same”

The capacity of sports as a platform has been well established, with important links with healthy growth and development particularly for young people.  However, disparities in physical activity participation continue to reflect limitations and inequities.  People can be excluded, ostracised, certain life events can create vulnerabilities or barriers to prioritising health. Through the Inclusion and Diversity program focus on inequity, the club can explore how sport can be offered in safe and enabling environments, showcasing the wider range of options to play sport.

“Sport doesn’t have to be an intimidating space, with barriers related to structures or performances. The game is more that. It is a chance to connect with people”

The 2023 program will focus on that goal of creating inclusive, equitable opportunities for an active Darebin community.