AFTER struggling to find venues for its two annual tournaments, the South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association is fielding offers of assistance.
Bendigo Stadium was volunteered as a prospective venue for the Melbourne-based association’s events, which organisers said had been hindered by media coverage of ‘African youth issues’.
‘We have struggled to get stadiums to host the tournaments,” the association wrote on Facebook.
“When we got a stadium, unrealistic barriers were put in the way so that the event was not held.
“The actions of a few teenagers in the community are being unfairly used to stereotype the vast majority that are doing the right thing.”
News of the association’s difficulties securing venues prompted several Bendigo residents to recommend the city’s recently redeveloped stadium.
Their suggestions soon found support, with Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards among those in favour.
Bendigo Stadium’s Ben Harvey said the South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association approached the venue about three months ago seeking to book an event in December.
“We were booked out the time they wanted it,” he said.
But he said the stadium would ‘absolutely’ be open to discussions with the association about hosting the tournaments in Bendigo.
“I’m all ears. I just need someone to contact me about it,” Mr Harvey said.
“There’s no doubt we can look at it.”
Thanks for thinking of us. The events team at Bendigo Stadium have already spoken with the South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association, but unfortunately due to booking conflicts were unable to put together a deal at this time. We welcome future event discussions.— Bendigo Stadium (@Bendigostadium) November 28, 2018
South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association manager Manny Berberi said the association had received offers of support from a number of venues since Tuesday afternoon, when it made a post on social media about the cancellation of its National Classic and Summer Slam tournaments.
The tournaments have been running for 15 years.
Mr Berberi said the association was considering a ‘couple of offers’ and was grateful for the support.
Of suggestions to host the tournaments in Bendigo, he said: “That is a good gesture. That is a good thing.”
The association had yet to reach out to the Bendigo Stadium or the Bendigo Basketball Association at that stage.
Mr Berberi said the association had largely considered venues in Melbourne, based on size requirements.
He said more than 40 teams were typically involved in the tournaments, necessitating the need for a single venue with five or six basketball courts.
But regional centres were quick to offer their assistance, with Geelong and Bendigo residents among those to reach out.
Mr Berberi said there was a possibility the tournaments would be held in regional Victoria, in future.
He attributed the difficulties the association had experienced with the venues that were initially approached to two things: timing, and fear.
“Some don’t have availability,” he said.
Others had heard about incidents associated with two of the 30 tournaments the association has hosted, though Mr Berberi stressed neither incident involved tournament participants, or occurred at venues.
He said the Summer Slam made headlines for all the wrong reasons in December 2015, after a brawl in a carpark near the tournament venue. An out-of-control party at an Airbnb last December resulted in further negative publicity.
“Everyone gets put in the same box. It affects the kids doing the right thing,” Mr Berberi said.
Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services executive officer Kate McInnes believed the association’s tournaments would enjoy strong support if they were held in Bendigo, both from established residents and the city’s growing South Sudanese community.
Ms MsInnes said Bendigo’s South Sudanese community was very new and consisted of about 100 people.
She said education opportunities were attracting people to Bendigo from elsewhere in Australia.
In the experiences of LCMS, Bendigo’s South Sudanese people were very interested in sport and community activities.
Ms McInnes said the families in Bendigo were interested in engaging with the city’s schools and tertiary institutions.
She said the support established Bendigo residents had shown for the South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association was indicative of the experiences of many new arrivals.
“In general, the feedback is that Bendigo is a really welcoming place,” Ms McInnes said.
Ms Edwards said she was unsurprised community members had been keen to help the basketball association continue its tournaments.
“I think it’s a brilliant idea,” she said of bringing the events to Bendigo.
“It is really disappointing to see a group like this has been ostracised.”
Bendigo Mayor Margaret O’Rourke said it was unfortunate the Bendigo Stadium was unavailable next month.
“If our event and sports facilities are able to accommodate groups for their chosen date, we would welcome them,” she said.
The stadium is hosting the World Junior Table Tennis Championships in December.
Mr Harvey said the venue’s $23-million redevelopment had increased booking inquiries to the point where interest in hosting events in 2019 was ‘out of control’.
He said April, June and July were among the most sought after periods for events in the new year.
Bendigo is not the only regional city to be volunteered to assist the South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association, with a contact from Geelong among those to respond to the original Facebook post.
Bendigo resident David Fagg took to Twitter to suggest Bendigo Stadium as a venue for the tournament.
“I’ve worked with young people all of my working life,” he said.
“Anything that can encourage young people to do positive things, I think we should support.”
Bagshot resident Pip Byrne, who also recommended the Bendigo Stadium, said the basketball tournament would be a great event for the stadium, the city, and the young Sudanese basketball players.
“Fear politics has no place in multicultural Victoria, and if these young people are being effected by it, then we all have to stand by them,” she said.
In its original Facebook post, the South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association said the tournaments were a ‘huge part’ of addressing ‘youth problems’.
“It's counterproductive not to have them,” it wrote.
“Our team managers do a great job to engage the kids on a voluntary basis throughout the year.
“The tournaments are vital to these young people because they give them something to look forward to”.
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