Docklander nominated for inclusivity award

Docklander nominated for inclusivity award

By Maeve Bannister

Docklands resident Nicole Maloney is a finalist in the Victorian Disability Sport and Recreation (VSDR) Awards.

The awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of sportspeople with a disability, their coaches, organisations and volunteers who support them as well as the inclusive sport and recreation sector across Victoria.

As community engagement coordinator at St Kilda Football Club, Nicole leads the club’s community team which created the Saints Play program.

This program has been nominated for the “Inclusive Sport, Recreation or Open Space Infrastructure” category and Nicole said the team was very excited to be selected as a finalist.

“We are really proud of what we have been able to achieve, how it has helped fans at our game days, and we are very honoured to be nominated for a great award,” Nicole said.

“We first included a sensory room as part of our Saints Play all-abilities program where guests of our sensory room are welcome to spend as long as they need in the space to calm down and then re-join the program.”

“We started thinking, ‘well if we can do it at a program then why can’t we do it at an AFL game?’ So, in partnership with Marvel Stadium, AFL and Amaze, we secured an AFL member- ship function space to convert each week into the Chill Out Zone.”

St Kilda is the first AFL club to offer a dedicated space for fans having trouble with sensory processing.

The Chill Out Zone provides ample seating, bean bags, colouring books and other quiet ac- tivities for participants to play with.

For parents wanting to keep up with the game happening outside, it’s played silently on a big screen in the Chill Out Zone.

“Inclusivity and belonging are two key beliefs at our club, and the Saints Play program and Chill Out Zone really exemplify both,” Nicole said.

“The value of having a space for people who have a sensory concern has been made abundantly clear through the success of these initiatives.”

The space is not just for Saints fans, but all fans of all ages who need to have a break from the crowd during the game.

Nicole hoped this award would spotlight the value of this important infrastructure and make sports games more accessible.

“Marvel Stadium has now introduced a permanent room, while Geelong Football Club has a similar program running at GMHBA Stadium,” Nicole said.

“It’s absolutely something that all stadiums across Australia and the world can look at implementing to help sports fans with sensory concerns.”

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