Natasha Hill challenges cultural barriers through her work in sport for development
With her strong passion for sport and diversity, Natasha Hill aims to make an impact in sport for development in Western Sydney communities.
Natasha says that she did not expect to be where she is today ten years ago, initially seeking a career in sports psychology.
In 2012, the proud Lebanese Muslim and Indigenous Australian joined the team at ‘Football United’ in a temporary volunteer role, gradually working towards her current position with both ‘Football United’ and social enterprise ‘Creating Chances’, who deal with a wider range of physical activity programs.
Natasha says that these organisations “are set out to deliver life skills through sport and give youth opportunities that they might not have had otherwise.”
Growing up, Natasha admits that her love for sport at times clashed with her cultural identity. And as a female, playing a semi-physical contact sport was considered a taboo by some community members.
She emphasises that this was a cultural barrier, not a religious one, and that sport has a greater purpose to physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.
“I recommend that people do not use [cultural identity] as a barrier,” Natasha says.
“You have to be patient with people… but be persistent on it. There is more to sport than running around a field or a court.”
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Since working with ‘Football United’, and later ‘Creating Chances’, Natasha’s proudest achievement is seeing youth develop through the programs offered by these organisations.
Last year Natasha was a part of the team running the ‘Boundless Program’, where 90 youth within Western Sydney were trained to coach at local high schools. Of this group, 11 were employed to coach in the ‘Creating Chances’ community program.
“I am proud to see these youth develop as coaches and leaders and become role models in their own sense,” Natasha reflects.
Another personal highlight for Natasha occurred during the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018.
“We took a team of four youth from ‘Football United’ programs to the ‘Football Foundation Festival’ to develop their leadership skills,” she says.
“The aim of the festival was to focus more on their capacity to be people on the field rather than just players. Every single game and activity they undertook in Russia underpinned that.”
Natasha insists that there is a great desire from the community for sport for development programs. She also argues that multicultural representation in Australian sport is essential.
“We need people from all backgrounds, cultures, religions, genders… everything,” Natasha says.
“Having representation from the top down and having these people connect with their own community is so important. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it,” she adds.
Remy Wehbe, President of the Australian Lebanese Football Association is encouraged by the program and Natasha’s work:
“We are always happy to see Lebanese youth come together and participate in sport, building a stronger community and interacting with other diverse cultures,”
“Good leadership is required to run sustainable sports programs, and it’s great to see young females like Natasha given the tools and the opportunity to bring people together through football.”