Queensland Touch Game Development Officer Glenn Hayes will be running a Come and Try day at Brisbane’s New Farm Park this Friday as part of Queensland’s Homeless week from 6 – 10 August 2007. Touch Football is one of a number of activities scheduled for the week aimed at getting homeless and at-risk people in Brisbane’s New Farm area into mainstream sport. The area around New Farm Park has long been a hangout for the disadvantaged and homeless, and has been witness to its’ share of heartbreak stories over the years.On Friday, it will be a good news day at “The Farm” when a section of the community receives welcome respite from challenging day- to-day life issues and gets an opportunity to access the fun, friendship, and fitness aspects of our sport.Queensland Touch’s involvement is part of its well-established commitment to community awareness and partnership building with wider society groups.The focus on disadvantaged and underprivileged people follows up a community conscious involvement in a Come and Try day for disabled children on June 19, 2007. Queensland Touch has also previously had links with organisations such as “Boys Town” and “Life Line” to access participation opportunities for the disadvantaged.The government-funded “Groovin’” Project is responsible for coordinating the week’s various activities, which include rock climbing, kayaking, basketball, tennis, photography, soccer, beach volleyball and even the formation of a choir, in line with Sydney’s Choir of Hard Knocks. Friday will be the biggest day of the week with a carnival at New Farm Park to culminate all the activities. As well as Touch Football, lawn bowls, and soccer, there will also be poetry in the park, an art and photography exhibition of the work completed earlier in the week, lunch, and a presentation from Brisbane City Council Deputy Mayor David Hinchcliffe. About 120 people are expected at the event with 20 – 25 to take part in Touch Football. Participants will be exposed to fun skills and drills relevant to Touch before being invited to put the skills into practice in game play situations. The idea is to provide opportunities to the homeless to get into sport and recreation activities that they would otherwise be excluded from. Industrious Queensland GDO Glenn “Haysie” Hayes is excited by the chance to share the sport he is passionate about with as many participants as possible.“I think it’s very important to take any chance to promote our sport in the community. To get to help people access participation opportunities and try sports that they might not have been able to because of a whole range of reasons beyond their control is as rewarding as it is worthwhile.I’m really looking forward to hopefully making someone’s day a bit better by them getting the chance to run around, and if it gets people thinking about being active, then there are enormous physical and psychological advantages in that. The great thing about Touch is that is not cost prohibitive and all we need is a footy to get them going, which is awesome,” Glenn said. Groovin’ was established with a Brisbane City Council Community Development Grant in March this year. Groovin’ project worker Merrilyn Bowers said there has been a good response to the activities by a range of homeless and disadvantaged people. “We don’t exclude or distinguish. Some are in boarding houses, some are in transitional properties and all ages can get involved,” Bowers said. Rohan Beehag is one of the people that has been involved in the week’s activities. “It’s awesome, it’s deadly. People can come together and play a bit of sport, not take it to heart and just have fun. I don’t know many other people that would let us come down and play tennis or go rock climbing or anything like that. It’s a pretty rare thing,” Rohan said.As well as being good fun for everyone, Merrilyn Bowers said there are also intrinsic rewards for many people that are often unable to participate in such activities. “There is a benefit to people who participate in sport. The benefit is identity, friendship, and feeling that they matter. It is all of those components and giving them something absolutely positive that they want to get involved in, rather than having to go somewhere because they are in a crisis all the time,” Bowers said. The more people that are involved the better. “This is about positive contribution and all they have to do is bring themselves. They don’t have to be something or someone else, just themselves,” Bowers said. It is hoped that some of the people that try a sport like Touch Football will stay involved after Homeless Week. RecLink Australia, the organisation responsible for the Choir of Hard Knocks, is getting involved with the week and is looking to expand into Brisbane. RecLink will be responsible for making it possible for homeless people to participate in mainstream sport and recreation activities beyond the designated week and is planning to establish a major homeless and disadvantaged Touch competition for Brisbane. The organisation has already established 14-team homeless AFL competitions every second Wednesday in Melbourne.President Adrian Panozzo said RecLink believed strongly in sport, recreation and culture for the homeless and disadvantaged. “There is skill development, coaching and training for the disadvantaged homeless so they build up a whole program of involvement and then we integrate them with traditional community teams. It’s all about recognition and maximum participation,” Panozzo said. Panozzo’s vision for a homeless Touch competition in Brisbane would rely on involvement from community agencies to manage and coordinate participants and teams. Queensland Touch would also be invited to assist RecLink in providing equipment and access to local community and club teams and a link with State and National sporting bodies for coaching and training. “We’d have our ambition that we could play our grand final day either at a major community venue or even the possibility of curtain raisers, if they have them in the NRL, before major NRL fixtures,” Panozzo said. The entire scheme will start with getting as many people involved at New Farm this Friday. The Touch Football activities will begin from 10am Friday so if you’re in the area get down to New Farm Park and help out some of those less fortunate. You might even get to have a run!