Slam dunk for troubled youth

Shayne Hope
Brad Robbins, right, with Terrence and Tyson Kelly.

Former Perth Wildcats captain Brad Robbins is making his mark off the court, working with disadvantaged youth in his new role as a Fremantle Police and Community Youth Centre project officer.

For the past two months, Robbins has been combining university studies and taking care of his young son, Charlie, with a part-time role giving hope to at-risk children and teenagers through the Streetball program.

Each Saturday night 40 to 70 kids from low socioeconomic backgrounds, about 95 per cent of them Aboriginal, make their way to the Fremantle PCYC in Hilton to take part in the program.

They are given healthy food and a safe environment in which to participate in basketball games and hip-hop dancing.

Robbins long held an ambition to work with disadvantaged youth. He plotted his path into community-based programs before calling time on his decorated National Basketball League career in April and has been studying psychology and counselling at Edith Cowan University.

“I’m literally hands-on facilitating the sessions and overseeing the project, which is really what I want to be doing to have an immediate impact, ” Robbins said.

He implements leadership programs through Streetball, naming captains for basketball tournaments and rating them on behaviour, participation and leadership skills.

But it is the associated life skills and educational workshops that offer most benefit to the participants, according to Robbins.

“It’s an opportunity to get all the kids in the one room to deliver important messages regarding their mental and physical health, alcohol, drugs, and leadership, ” he said.

Robbins said trying to get funding was an ever-present obstacle. The program runs on a one-off grant from the Department of Sport and Recreation, which expires next month.

Robbins is hunting for sponsorship and has taken advice from former Wildcats star Ricky Grace, who founded Role Models and Leaders Australia to help WA youth. Robbins was confident Streetball would be around next year.

“The program is needed, ” he said. “As well as 95 per cent being indigenous, 87 per cent of the kids have been in contact with the Department for Child Protection or have had something to do with them.”