By Peter Dewar
You’d think the 2016 AFL premiers had enough to do backing up a grand final win. But for ‘community club of the AFL’, the Bulldogs, keeping an eye on the ball means developing leaders off the field. “It’s our mission to be a club where our community is at its best,” says manager of the Doggies’ youth leadership initiative, Adam Moedt. “It’s ingrained in what we do”.
The 2017 Bulldogs’ Youth Leadership Project kicked-off in March with Camp Bulldog for 10 to 14 year-olds. Now, a 40-strong cohort, students from year nine and ten, embark on an education program for six months.
Young participants apply directly themselves or are nominated by supporting schools and councils throughout the west and beyond. They don’t need to barrack for the red, white and blue. In fact, only one in five are die-hard Bulldogs’ fans.
Over six months at fortnightly workshops, they’ll develop their self-awareness (Who am I?), and social awareness (What issues are facing my community?). The end goal is to have a social impact, so each participant takes on a personal project to benefit their community. “Last year’s Melton kids organised a walk to raise money and awareness for youth mental health,” says Adam. In another project, funds were raised so a Syrian refugee could talk to schools in a regional town where a middle-eastern family had been forced to move because of racial abuse.
A second camp will be held in Ballarat, coinciding with the Bulldogs versus Port Adelaide game later in the year. After graduation, young leaders return the following year to mentor the next group.
“Our philosophy is that leadership is action, not a role,” says Adam. “We look at what young people are good at and develop from there”.
Starting off, participants may not realise what they’re capable of. “He never saw himself as a leader,” says Adam of one particular 2014 graduate from Altona. “But every activity was an opportunity; everything that was difficult was a chance to shine”. At the end of the program he was voted by his peers as winner of the Teddy Whitten-based, ‘You inspire me’ award. From there he went into Hobsons Bay Future Leaders Unite program, participated in Youth Parliament and became a mentor. The leadership development opportunity came along at the right time, gave him confidence and made him aware of his potential.
Adam has ten years of experience in youth work. He joined the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation, an offshoot of the footy club, after spending five years in the Northern Territory managing the Michael Long Learning and Leadership Centre. Before that, he worked for the AFL and YMCA in Youth Justice. Adam revels in a club environment, especially one that understands its community the way the Bulldogs do.
It didn’t matter if you were a Doggies’ supporter or not. Throughout last year’s AFL finals, the west was electric with a heightened sense of community. Neighbours chatted; passers- by smiled at one another. Anything felt possible. And that’s what the Western Bulldogs are after.
Young leaders straight from the kennel are determined to keep the spirit alive.
For more information contact Community Leadership Manager via email at firstname.lastname@example.org