Midnight basketball helps keeps crime off Sydney streets

0:00

Late in the evening in the western Sydney suburb of Mount Druitt and the kids aren't heading home, they're shooting hoops. Midnight basketball brings together kids from communities at risk of crime, social exclusion and unemployment.

The echo of a bouncing basketball at midnight might not be everyone's idea of fun.

But for groups of teenagers across the country, Midnight Basketball is the ideal way to start their weekend.

On a Friday night around 60 teenagers have gathered at the Emerton Leisure Centre in Mount Druitt in Sydney's far west for a game, a meal and a chance to learn something new.

Jamie Alford is workshop facilitator for Midnight Basketball, where the motto is "No workshop, no jumpshot."

"The one thing that is really important, because we call Midnight Basketball a social-inclusion program, is to get the kids to get to know each other from across the community."

He's guiding a group of 12 to 18-year-olds on the subject of team building.

"First thing we're going to do, as our workshop's all about team building, we're going to learn some stuff, we're going to do some activities together, so we work even better as a team."

It's the beginning of Term 4, for Midnight Basketball, which started in Australia in 2007, and is based on a similar program in the United States.

Backed by both government and the private sector, it was originally set up to help kids in communities at risk of crime, social exclusion and unemployment.

The idea was to help them break down the barriers that lead to disadvantage.

But the program also plays a role in promoting social cohesion in Indigenous communities and in communities with large multicultural populations.

Mount Druitt is part of the Blacktown City Council area, where almost one-third of the population is from a non-English speaking background, double the national average.

Midnight Basketball chief executive officer Tess White explains how Midnight Basketball promotes that cohesion.

"The one thing that is really important, because we call Midnight Basketball a social-inclusion program, is to get the kids to get to know each other from across the community."

She says that communities are often taken by surprised by how quickly kids bond. 

"We find communities to have big hearts and are actually very inclusionary, but a lot of this sometimes needs a bit of a shove. So, something that really takes communities by surprise is how quickly, when they're in a team"

"The weekend, this is a very challenging time for them after school. They don't have much to do at home. They might end up going out with friends who lead them in the wrong direction. That's causing a lot of trouble around here, in the young generation here at Mount Druitt."

That is done by mixing teams up.

That is, teenagers of mixed competency, mixed ages and different ethnic backgrounds are put on the same team.

The teams are also mixed up by gender.

Marika is one of the female players at tonight's game.

With boys outnumbering girls, she says she can find it challenging at times.

"It's pretty traumatising at times, but I get used to it since most of the boys are my friends, which I really appreciate. I reckon basketball is a boys sport instead of a girls sport."

Selepa Taualai, a volunteer with Midnight Basketball, says there is an issue with local teenagers having little to do after school.

"The weekend, this is a very challenging time for them after school. They don't have much to do at home. They might end up going out with friends who lead them in the wrong direction. That's causing a lot of trouble around here, in the young generation here at Mount Druitt."

Justice and Victor are two of the players on court tonight.

Justice's family is originally from Samoa, while Victor's family is from the Philippines. 

Justice says the two are always hanging out together.

"Yeah, close mates. Yeah. Like, I enjoy playing with this guy all the time. He always hogs the ball".

Victor doesn't really know what he'd be doing on a Friday night if he wasn't at Midnight Basketball.

"Oh, I don't know. God knows what. Mucking around outside schools, going to parties, bad stuff."

Since its inception in Australia in 2007, Midnight Basketball has involved over 80-thousand teenagers participating in competitions across Australia.

Participation in the program is voluntary and free.

Source SBS

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch