Penrith Panthers has joined forces with police to steer young people into programs that develop confidence, life skills and positive influences.
Sporting personalities and ambassadors from the National Rugby League, NSW Rugby League and Netball NSW combined to launch the Sporting Partnership Industry program at Accor Stadium on Tuesday.
The program involves state sporting clubs partnering with PCYC clubs across the state to engage young people who are at risk of anti-social behaviour or criminal offending.
Specifically, ambassadors and pathway players from the Penrith Panthers, Canberra Raiders, Manly Sea Eagles, Parramatta Eels, Sydney Swans, A-Leagues – Macarthur Bulls and Sydney FC, GWS Giants, Netball NSW and Cricket NSW will attend existing ‘Fit for Life’ programs that are delivered across the state year-round.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Police Paul Toole said the initiative would form part of a number of strategies to tackle the causes of youth crime.
“We know how important sport can be to engage with at-risk young people, instil a sense of responsibility and accountability and guide them towards making good decisions,” Mr Toole said.
“Getting to spar with Sonny Bill, or shoot some hoops with the state’s top netballers, can be a life changing opportunity for our young people and no matter what else is going on in their lives, they can’t help but walk away feeling inspired.”
Thousands of young people regularly attend Fit for Life sessions across NSW with numbers expected to grow through the rollout of the program.
Commissioner of Police Karen Webb said the partnership is an intervention strategy that allows police the opportunity to engage with youth in a neutral, relaxed and friendly environment.
“Diversion and early intervention have proven to be extremely effective in keeping young people out of the justice system,” Commissioner Webb said.
“Once a young person is identified as being at risk – either through committing a criminal offence or being disengaged from school – police can refer them into a PCYC program. It gives that young person an opportunity to be involved in something more meaningful and constructive, as well as be surrounded by positive influences from outside of their direct networks.”
PCYC Chief Executive Officer Dominic Teakle said the new partnership with sporting codes would strengthen Fit for Life programs and help put a stop to young people from making poor choices.
“Through physical fitness, nutrition and social engagement, Fit For Life aims to improve overall wellbeing as well as prevent and divert youth from offending behaviours,” Mr Teakle said.
“Having a role model to look up to is one of the most important things that can shape a young person’s future. These sporting ambassadors will help to illustrate that hard work and commitment to a positive cause is worthwhile.”
The Sporting Partnership Industry program will commence on 30 May 2022 at four locations across the state including Queanbeyan PCYC, Northern Beaches PCYC, Penrith PCYC and Auburn PCYC.
The program is intended to be broadened to include other sporting codes and has gained commitment from the AFL, Cricket NSW, A-Leagues (Soccer Australia) at metropolitan, regional and remote PCYC locations in NSW.