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NRL calls on ex-players and current Jillaroos to drive Community programs

The NRL is hoping its call for ex-players and current Jillaroos to use their voice to amplify the NRL's Community programs will result in positive change at junior clubs across Australia.

Participants in the NRL Community Program Deliverers gathered for a two-day induction at Rugby League Central in March. They were put through a series of workshops designed to help them deliver NRL Community's two marquee programs - NRL Voice Against Violence and NRL State of Mind. 

The training included a Sex and Ethics component led by Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia, Voice against Violence training led by the NRL Community Team and State of Mind training led by headspace's Nick Duigan, Marie Coleman from Kids Helpline and Karen Willis from Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia .

NRL Community General Manager Ellen Beale says it is vital that the Community Program Deliverers are well equipped to deliver such important messages.

"It was absolutely critical that we gave them a really solid foundation in terms of the specific programs they'd be delivering, the specific social issues they would be addressing and just build their confidence and their capabilities so they could go out to the clubs and talk about it," Ellen said.

"We have a fairly thorough and rigorous method for bringing these community deliverers on and that was developed in consultation with our partners, Our Watch, White Ribbon and the Full Stop Foundation.

Ex-players and Jillaroos to help drive NRL Community Programs

"They came in and did the training that was recommended by those partners, and before they can go out and deliver our programs they have to observe someone delivering a program, they then have to co-deliver a program and after that be observed delivering the program by an experienced facilitator.

"The stats say that there is going to be people in the room that are either suffering from mental illness or victims or perpetrators of violence, so you need to be very aware of how to deliver those messages in a really sensitive and appropriate manner, but also to gauge the audience and if any issues are coming up for people to be able to identify that and address that fairly quickly."

The NRL's Voice Against Violence program looks to combat domestic violence. The program is aimed at young men at junior rugby league clubs, enabling them to gain a better understanding of what is acceptable in a relationship.

Former Australian international David Shillington says the induction presented the realities of these issues and emphasised the importance of reaching as many clubs as possible.

"They give us the facts about the issues that are present in society. They give us the strategies on how to communicate these things because they are obviously emotional topics, sometimes it's hard to talk about and hard to hear as well," Shillington said.

NRL ambassador and former player David Shillington.
NRL ambassador and former player David Shillington. ©NRL Photos

"There are so many junior rugby league clubs out there, we want to cover as many as we can."

The NRL's State of Mind Program is a four-step, mental health program aimed at junior rugby league clubs. The program looks to increase mental health literacy, reduce the stigma around mental illness, start positive conversations and enable connections across communities.

Penrith Panthers premiership winner and 2001 Dally M Player of the Year Preston Campbell is happy to be able to help spread such important messages.

"The game done more for me than I could ever do for it, so to be able to do this sort of thing and something that I'm pretty passionate about, when we talk about community and especially mental health," Campbell said.

"I think for a lot of us if we are not touched with it personally we know somebody that has been touched by it, so it hit pretty close to home for a lot of us and I guess that's the main reason I'm involved."

The following have been appointed as NRL Community Program Deliverers for 2018: Maddie Studdon, Sam Bremner, Ruan Sims, Renae Kunst, Nathan Hindmarsh, Brenton Lawrence, Preston Campbell, Dan Hunt, Matt Ballin, Nathan Friend, Clinton Toopi, Bronson Harrison, David Shillington, Alan Tongue, and Joe Galuvao.

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