Co-designed basketball program supports young African Australians

Co-designed basketball program supports young African Australians

A youth sports initiative designed by RMIT, Afri-Aus Care community members and the Black Rhinos Basketball Program is assisting young African Australians and their families with their physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Managed by Afri-Aus Care, supported by the City of Greater Dandenong and funded by a VicHealth Research Grant, the Junior Rhinos is up and running in the south-eastern Melbourne suburb of Dandenong.

Designed to assist young people aged 5 to 12 and their families and delivered by Afri-Aus Care, program to address mental health taboos within African and other Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities. The program helps individuals through primary mental health intervention, intensive support programs and by counselling clients’ families. 

People playing basketball outside The Black Rhinos Basketball Program is assisting young African Australians and their families with their physical and mental health.

A community-minded approach

RMIT researchers worked with the Afri-Aus Care and the Black Rhinos Basketball members to co-design the program. From this co-design process, they will continue work with community to implement and co-design impact measures for the program and its expansion using innovative, culturally informed and collaborative research methods.

“Partnerships between the community and universities are vital,” said program RMIT Chief Investigator, Associate Professor Ronnie Egan

“Co-designing a program like this, can have real impact on young people from African and other CALD backgrounds to express themselves through sports and have access to the services and pathways they need, promoting positive social change.”

Afri-Aus Care CEO Selba-Gondoza Luka echoed these sentiments.

“This program means African Australians involved in the Afri-Aus Care community can be confident that Afri-Aus Care and RMIT are working with them to find solutions to support their children, in sports and positive pathways,” she said.

The program delivery is underpinned by the UBUNTU philosophy which has proven to be a strong model of service delivery within this demographic. It has increased African Australian community members connected to Afri-Aus Care’s engagement with services that they have traditionally disengaged from.  

Ubuntu is described as an African philosophy that places emphasis on 'being self through others'.

“Sport is a great way to help African youth build meaningful social connections and address mental health concerns, especially in a post-COVID environment. The benefit of this program is that it is evidence-backed. The researchers from RMIT worked tirelessly and incorporated community feedback in the co-design process which has been a massive success,” said Luka.


Collaborating to achieve success

RMIT’s Social Work and Human Services Cluster initially began working together when Afri-Aus Care provided RMIT social work students with placement opportunities to learn about African Culture and Ubuntu.

Afri-Aus Care and RMIT then began to speak about ongoing partnerships, including research. 

Ronnie Egan and Selba-Gondoza Luka standing outside, Selba speaking into a microphone RMIT Associate Professor Ronnie Egan and Afri-Aus Care CEO Selba-Gondoza Luka launching the Young Rhinos initiative in Dandenong.

One of the key ideas was the development of a co-designed primary prevention basketball program with the community that was implemented by Black Rhinos Basketball.

After applying for funding, their concept received a share of $1.3 million alongside six other projects as part of VicHealth’s 2022-23 Impact Research Grants.  

“The hope is that this program can lead to even more positive community and research partnerships,” said Luka.

“As a result of this partnership, we hope to inspire change and encourage African Australian youth to dream big and work hard.” 


Story by: Nick Adams

22 February 2023


22 February 2023


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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.