Access & Inclusion at the heart of everything we do

The Belgravia Foundation has set itself the challenge to transform the leisure and sport sector to improve accessibility and inclusion, and support those in need who have been marginalised from leisure, sport, and fitness to get involved. 

 This was the theme of the Belgravia Foundation Inspiration Breakfast held in Melbourne of February 14.  Attracting 180 guests, the event was a gathering of key organisations and leaders in leisure, sport, health, corporate and government in Australia.  With a focus on building relationships and collaboration to work collectively to reduce marginalisation of those in need from leisure, sport, aquatics and fitness, the event acted as an incubator for several groups who have pledged support.

Consistently, research has confirmed that staff –either paid or volunteer - working in the leisure and sport sector are the main factor related to inclusion and access of people marginalised from participation in leisure, sport, aquatics and fitness. 

To be clear, staff make the difference and can either be an enormous help, or a critical hindrance.

To help transform the leisure and sport sector to be more accessible and inclusive, three national projects are underway which will lead to improved training for the leisure and sport sector through an evidence-based online training system for staff related to inclusion, improved training for teachers of swimming to enable them to better include people with a disability, and an innovative exercise program for people experiencing mental illness called Take Charge!

Everybody’s Welcome is a project being undertaken by the Belgravia Foundation, Belgravia Leisure and Monash University.  Growing out of the successful YouMeUs online training program, Everybody’s Welcome will greatly expand the training so staff acquire better understanding, knowledge and confidence to welcome and support other groups that experience marginalisation form leisure, sport, aquatics and fitness.

These  groups have been determined through the first stage of the project conducted in Belgravia Leisure operated venues, and among those identified by staff are those living with mental illness, the LGBTIQ+ community, CALD community, people who are obese as well as people with a disability.

 All In is a project designed to create a training package leading to improved capacity for swim school teachers to include people with a disability. Evidence gathered by Monash University from Belgravia Leisure staff has revealed a need to increase the number of swim school teachers who feel capable of including people with a disability in classes they teach. 

Research undertaken by Belgravia Leisure gathered startling evidence for over 450 swim school staff showing in comparison to teaching people who do not have a disability, these teachers felt only about half as confident and capable in their ability to teach people with a disability.

 Take Charge! and Youth Take Charge! provide people living with mental illness a free 60-day membership to participating venues to engage in exercise, with support and supervision by fitness professionals.  Research confirms that when engaged in regularly, exercise has a positive impact on the health and happiness of people at risk of, or living with, mental illness.   

Successfully trialled in the City of Sydney sites operated by Belgravia Leisure, and with a youth targeted adaption commencing in Melton and Yarra Ranges sites in Victoria, staff are urged to keep watch for this initiative coming to the place they work.

Roy Fleming