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NRL proudly involved with NSW Premier's Multicultural Awards

An organisation that prides itself on driving harmony and inclusion, the NRL was again involved with the NSW Premier's Multicultural Community awards last weekend.

Angelica Ojinnaka received the prestigious National Rugby League Youth Medal - which recognises a person under 25 who has helped foster inter-cultural connections and understanding- for her work including mental health and gender equality advocacy.

The NRL has been naming rights partner of the Youth Medal for the past two years.

Luke Ellis, the NRL's head of participation and community, presented the award to 23-year-old Ojinnaka – the vice-president of Next Generation Nigeria, founding member of the African Australian Youth Suicide Prevention Committee and a MYAN NSW ambassador.

"Angelica was rewarded for … helping young people from diverse backgrounds – particularly the African background – connect with services that support their mental health wellbeing," said the NRL's general manager of community programs Steve Meredith.

"Angelica is an example of that you don’t need to be a direct participant in our programs to benefit from the support of the NRL in this area."

It was a timely ceremony with the NRL currently celebrating Inclusion Month and Harmony Week in the lead-up to Harmony Day on Sunday.

Meredith added that Multicultural NSW are great supporters of In League In Harmony, a high school program addressing issues such as racism, social disengagement and gender inequality in its aim to empower the next generation to be agents of change.

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Using a non-formal education approach, In League In Harmony includes six weeks of social cohesion-based activities in addition to a non-contact rugby league training session capped off with a Harmony Gala Day bringing together participating schools.

"The program is conducted to thousands of kids each year across NSW and Victoria, helping promote cohesion with our young people but also helping newly-arrived migrants understand our game and connect in," Meredith said.

Hawa Mohammad, a Youth Advisory Board Member for Multicultural NSW, can attest to In League In Harmony's transformative lessons.

Mohammad, a 2017 Wiley Park Girls High School graduate who is now in the fourth year of a law degree at the University of Technology, told how the program aided her development from "a very quiet kid" to a powerful young leader.

Gaining confidence and a range of skills from In League In Harmony, Mohammad was appointed school captain and "that has just segued into so many roles in life," she said.

"It exposed me to scholarships for universities, it exposed me to interacting with a bunch of really influential and wonderful people," the part-time paralegal at MinterEllison said.

"I got to meet ministers, I got to meet Neil deGrasse Tyson – leading scientist – through becoming school captain. It set me up for university, as well, because I applied for the UNICEF Young Ambassador program.

Hawa Mohammad is a Youth Advisory Board Member for Multicultural NSW.
Hawa Mohammad is a Youth Advisory Board Member for Multicultural NSW.

"There were hundreds of applicants and 10 of us were very lucky around Australia to get picked for that program. What we do now is we go around Australia consulting with young people.

"We've already listened to over 3000 children and young people around the country throughout COVID and before that. Then we write a report on our findings and present that to parliament, which we're doing in the next few months."

Mohammad, who enjoys watching the Rabbitohs play despite living in Bulldogs heartland, used her experiences with UNICEF to join Multicultural NSW.

She saw Meredith at the Premier's Awards dinner and enthused about In League In Harmony's impact on her journey.

Luke Ellis, the NRL's head of participation and community, with Angelica Ojinnaka.
Luke Ellis, the NRL's head of participation and community, with Angelica Ojinnaka.

"I first did the program when I was in Year 8 and then I also did the program during Year 10. My first time entering the program, I wasn't really a part of the football community," she said.

"I hadn't had experience in that field before. But I was a big fan of sport and I really did enjoy touch football, OzTag, all sort of team sports.

"The unique thing about In League In Harmony was that they weren't just teaching us on the field, they were also teaching us off the field. They were teaching us how to be good people before we were good players on the field.

"It included things like respect, integrity, our values, what our personal attributes were, how we planned to excel not physically but also academically.

"It made us look at ourselves as an overall whole person, not just the sport side of things … I also really enjoyed the mentoring that we got from Steve, from Emily [Latu], and they also brought in some players like Hazem El Masri.

"It was really great to see males championing women's sport and encouraging us. As a woman, particularly in the society I grew up in, we weren't encouraged to play sport.

"This program introduced that different concept to me; that sport wasn't just for boys, it was also for girls. Particularly a sport like football."


Check out the In League In Harmony Facebook page here.

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