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Human rights are Aussie Rules


Cite as: October 2009 83(10) LIJ, p15

A new education initiative developed by the Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) uses sport and fair play as a metaphor to coach children about the importance of human rights.

The ECLC believes that using fair play comparisons makes it is easier for children to relate to concepts of freedom, respect for racial and religious difference, dignity and justice in real life.

The project focus is a 40-minute theatre production - FRED's Fair Play - which uses sport, music and dance to tell the story of an Aussie Rules-loving fairy named FRED (Freedom, Respect, Equality and Dignity).

It has been performed at eight community festivals within the culturally-diverse eastern fringe of Melbourne last year and there are now plans to introduce it into schools in the same region in coming months.

Project director Tanja Kovac said FRED encouraged children to "see that the right to wear a team scarf is no different to wearing a headscarf".

"We show how rules of fair play on the sports field - rules we take for granted, like independent umpires - are also essential for fair play in life," she said.

ECLC manager Michael Smith said FRED's mix of sport, human rights, drama and humour had so far proven a winner with both children and their parents.

"So we then began thinking it could be done more broadly and taken into schools, where it will also include a workshop," Mr Smith said.

"Sport is something everyone can relate to, and we use several sports as well as Aussie Rules. Sport is everywhere and people talk sports all the time.

"They will debate for hours whether a 50m penalty should have been given or if someone should be selected, but do not spend the same amount of time debating human rights.

"Not many people even really know the fundamentals."

An advisory board of sports administrators, legal practitioners, educators and artists helped develop the enterprise, including human rights lawyers and former Fitzroy Football Club president Dyson Hore-Lacy SC, the AFL and the Sports Without Borders Foundation.

The new schools-focused initiative was launched on 11 September by Attorney-General Rob Hulls with an excerpt from the play and a performance from young new arrivals to Australia.

The National Human Rights Consultation, initiated by the federal government, was due to release its recommendations at the end of September.

For further information visit or contact project director Tanja Kovac on ph 9285 4822.


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