Linking community through all-inclusive footy

VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio, left, and Reclink Australia's Victorian State Manager, Jason Carter at the game on Wednesday.

By Gabriella Payne

Sport has a special way of bringing people together, and the community spirit was clear to see at the first home game Reclink footy match for the season on Wednesday 28 April.

The Cardinia Tigers Reclink football team, made up of players from all different backgrounds, abilities and genders, were raring to go at Officer’s Heatherbrae Recreation Reserve last week, as they kicked off their game against the Southern Peninsula Swans in a spot of beautiful midweek sunshine.

An organisation all about connecting communities, Reclink Australia’s many sports and arts programs aim to provide disadvantaged Australians with the chance to “create socially inclusive, life-changing opportunities” – and what better way to break down barriers than with a friendly game of footy?

The local all-inclusive football team was established in 2018 in a collaborative effort between Reclink Australia, Windana Drug and Alcohol Recovery and the Cardinia Shire Council’s safer communities partnership committee, and has been going strong ever since.

On Wednesday, Reclink and the Cardinia Shire Council welcomed VicHealth’s CEO Dr Sandro Demaio to the Heatherbrae Reserve to thank him for the generous $150,000 partnership grant they recently received, which will go towards helping many Reclink programs throughout Cardinia.

Dr Demaio said that it was fantastic to see everyone enjoying the sunshine and reaping the benefits of programs like the all-inclusive football league.

“Sports clubs like the Cardinia Tigers are a vital part of local communities, allowing people to share in a passion for their chosen sport and connect with others,” Dr Demaio said.

“After the difficulties of 2020, we know that many Victorians are keen to reconnect with their neighbours and improve their health and wellbeing through community activities such as local sport.

Our partnership grants are about supporting community organisations with the resources they need so Victorians can enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of being active and socially connected,” he said.

Jason Carter, the Victorian State Manager at Reclink Australia said that it was “fantastic” to see everyone out at the game on Wednesday and thanked VicHealth for their support.

“The funding we’ve received from VicHealth covers the whole of the Cardinia Shire and enables us to run 20 programs a week for the local community free of charge – and it also supports the Cardinia Tigers footy side,” Mr Carter said.

“Today we’ve been brought together thanks to VicHealth’s funding and it’s just fantastic to have everyone here today in the sunshine!”

Cardinia Shire Mayor Brett Owen was also in attendance at the match and said it was brilliant to see sporting events bringing the local community together once again – particularly after a difficult year.

“This is a fantastic program that’s inclusive, accessible and a sport for all genders,” Cr Owen said.

“We welcome and thank our supporters, we couldn’t do it without them, but it’s just great to see people out there having fun, particularly after the tough year that we’ve had.”

For more information about Reclink’s many programs, head to