Belgravia Leisure has stood out at the 2019 Inclusion and Diversity in Sport Awards by providing two of the four finalists, including the winner.
Staff members Rosemarie Ackland and Aleksei Bondarenko were nominated for the Inclusion Specialist of the Year Award.
At the presentation night at Adelaide Oval on Monday, 20 May, Rosemarie, who is the manager at Somerville Recreation Centre on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, took out the award.
Rosemarie was “excited and thrilled” to be receive the recognition but stressed that it was a team effort.
“When I was receiving the award, I was thinking … it wasn’t just me, it’s always been a team effort,” she said.
She also applauded Belgravia Leisure for its strong focus on diversity and inclusivity.
“It’s wonderful that a company is so prepared to put the resources into us running innovative health and fitness programs.”
Rosemarie was recognised for her 15 years of work in the health and fitness space focusing on ensuring people with a disability, or those suffering from a chronic illness, have a role to play in sport and recreation.
It’s wonderful that a company is so prepared to put the resources into us running innovative health and fitness programs.
Over the years she has played an integral role in setting up health and fitness programs targeted at people with an intellectual or physical disability, or those people suffering from illness, such as stroke or MS.
One program she is involved with, the Fit and Fun health promotion program with Belgravia Leisure and Victoria Health, has seen people with disabilities engaged in physical activity and participating in educational programs in the Mornington Peninsula.
Fit and Fun includes a wide range of sports, such as dance, basketball, table tennis, cricket and tennis, with activities tailored around people’s individual abilities, needs and interests.
“Fit and Fun is about fitness, but we take a holistic approach,” she said.
“We also focus on social connection and community and have all sorts of people from the community come along to speak to the group, such as police officers informing us about cyber security, or a dentist telling us about check-ups and examinations.”
Rosemarie also helped to set up Stay on Your Feet, a program for older adults established in partnership with public healthcare provider for the Mornington Peninsula. In partnership with the Lung Foundation Australia, Rosemarie established the local Lungs in Action program for people with chronic illness.
“My aim with these groups is making sure everyone can get involved in fitness – it doesn’t matter what area or angle you’re coming from in the community,” she said.
Partnerships is the key to the success of the groups, she said.
“I go out and seek those partnerships with local disability groups, community housing, all those groups that potentially people with disabilities or some sort of health issue might tap into.”
Meanwhile, Aleksei Bondarenko, Belgravia Leisure’s Community Development Coordinator for the Yarra Ranges, was a finalist in the Inclusion Specialist of the Year Award.
Aleksei has been the driving force behind over 25 community projects in the past 12 months alone.
He has collaborated with Local Government, community and sporting groups and service providers to address rising mental health concerns, particularly among youth.
“My work involves really focusing on connecting the community to leisure and in particular connecting those in the community who experience marginalisation or discrimination and therefore have barriers to access,” he said.
Aleksei said Belgravia Leisure is ahead of its game when it comes to inclusion and diversity in sport and he has had strong mentors in the workplace.
“I’ve got great support in Dr Jeff Walkley, Belgravia Leisure’s Diversity and Inclusion manager. He is really passionate and comes from 25 plus years of experience working in the inclusion space in sport and recreation.”
One of Aleksei’s projects involved leading a TAFE student group of more than 25 to raise over $10,000 to provide free access to exercise facilities and support for those experiencing mental ill-health, creating new opportunities and better outcomes for those who experience loneliness and disadvantage.
Recently, Aleksei has focused on three specific programs: Mental Health First Aid; Move for Mind, which supports students experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety at school; and Kick Start, a program that assists young people in out of home care to develop their employable skill set through a mentoring program.
Aleksei’s also mentors three inclusion coordinators, who in turn support inclusion in the catchments of local leisure centres.
The Inclusion and Diversity in Sport Awards are an annual collection of accolades given in celebration of the contribution and commitment of individuals and organisations towards inclusion and diversity within the sport and recreation sector.