By Gerry Carman
Buckley Ridges has once again laid down a marker as a community club by receiving into its fold the All Nations Cricket Club that was set up in the Dandenong area in 2014 by a prominent asylum seeker using the motto “Don’t give up, give back”.
Buckley has rolled out the welcoming mat, and in an act of solidarity aimed at full integration, invited the founder of the All Nations concept, Abdul Razzaq, and one of its key members, Muhammad Omer, to join the 91-year-old club’s management committee. The offer was promptly accepted.
“I am very happy to be involved with a club that is multicultural and look forward to contributing,” Abdul said.
Abdul and Muhammad recently attended their first meeting with the Buckley committee and were bowled over by the “wonderful welcome as well as friendship and respect”.Abdul, who can be categorized as a full-time community worker involved with several health and community organisations, principally Monash Health, said he would work towards “integration, friendship and working together . . . more than just cricket”.
Abdul and Muhammad and about 14 of the 20-odd members of the All Nations playing group have moved to Buckley; the other six boys have, for now, decided to stay with Dandenong West Cricket Club or other clubs.Originally intending to form a team (E-grade) of their own within Buckley, they have since decided that to better integrate they will be available for individual selection in any grade, which will give some of them a chance to play turf cricket rather than be restricted to a lower grade.
They won the DDCA F-grade grand final playing under the Dandy West banner last season.
Abdul said two DDCA clubs, Dandy West and North Dandenong, had approached All Nations to join them but they had decided to join Buckley Ridges because of what he had heard about the club.Zarak Aseel, a staunch Buckley Boy, and Mohsin Ayobi who was with Buckley before moving the Dandy West with Ruddro Ashrafi a few season ago, spoke highly of Buckley. This was confirmed when he met Buckley officials. (Mohsin, his brother, Shaber, and Ruddro are among the All Nations boys returning to Buckley.)
Abdul, who won the 2017 Australian Community Initiative of the Year award and was a finalist in the Vic Health award, among others, has been a guest speaker at various interstate forums on issues affecting asylum seekers, including mental health aspects ranging from isolation and depression to drugs and suicidal tendencies.
Abdul, who hails from the small town of Munshera in northern Pakistan, but lived in Karachi for some years, came to Australia with his wife, Lubna, who was studying for a Masters degree in political science. However, their lives were suddenly upended when she was diagnosed with cancer.
With no medical benefits, among other issues, and no income their circumstances deteriorated to the point of dismay. However, with acts of kindness and generosity shown to them, especially from Monash Health, they got through. This, in turn, gave birth to his new life credo of “Don’t give up, give back”, and his immersion into community welfare work.
“I used to be so shy before, but by volunteering I found the strength of social inclusion,” Abdul said.
“My message to others is don’t stay home and think you are a victim. Get involved. I’m giving back by helping others.”
He set up All Nations with backing from Cricket Australia – he has been an ambassador for CA – and Cricket Victoria, and last year organised a tournament in Tasmania.
His vision for 2020 is to stage a bigger event in Melbourne, with teams from Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia already likely to compete.
Meanwhile, crook knees permitting, Abdul hopes to play a couple of games a season for Buckley while continuing to encourage and mentor not just his All Nations lads but contribute to the wider Buckley family.