Burundi, Congo, Brazil, Japan, Guinea, New Zealand and Samoa are not the usual countries you think of when speaking of AFL players, unless you are from Beenleigh State School’s Girls Brisbane Lions Cup team.
With only two Australian born girls in the team, Beenleigh SS is a truly a multicultural team and a perfect choice to represent AFL Multicultural Round where the girls will play at half time of the Brisbane Lions Vs Melbourne game at the Gabba this Sunday.
The team has been driven by AFL School Ambassador Pete Townsend (not of The Who fame), and teacher Sarah Harrison. Both teachers have promoted AFL to the girls as a way of integrating into Australian culture and it has been a huge success with several of the girls now playing at the Beenleigh Buffaloes Club as well as in their school team.
“The girls have had such a positive effect on all the members at the Beenleigh Buffaloes as well as the club having a positive effect on the girls,” said teacher Sarah Harrison.
“The Club is so proud and supportive of the girls playing in the Brisbane Juniors Under 12 competition they are hoping to have a team in the Under 15 Youth Girls Competition next year.”
“The diversity of cultures now at Beenleigh JAFC has really united the community and the club and It is so exciting to be part of that.”
The girls have seen huge benefits off the field as well. Their behaviour at school has improved and they now have a greater enthusiasm for sport, interact more socially and a have greater incentive to get out and have a go at more things during their lunch break.
There has also been an emotional gain, particularly for Divine and Gracia who at club level have enjoyed a massive confidence boost by training and playing with the boys and seeing their skills improve consistently throughout the season.
Five girls from the Beenleigh SS team shared their thoughts about football in an insightful interview of their eventful lives to date.
Divine Bikorimana was born in Tanzania but both of her parents are from Burundi – one of the five poorest countries in the world. The Bikorimana’s fled their homeland due to the civil war. Divine is not short of a word and has a huge personality.
Gracia & Mifi Muzima are sisters who were born in Congo and left the country after their father was imprisoned after the government was ousted with all employees considered enemies of the new President. He is still imprisoned today.
Alisha Mckee is one of only two Australian born (with Australian parents) in the team.
Monserret Shimizu was born in Japan. Her mother is from Brazil and her father is Japanese. Monserret came to Australia with her parents when both were struggling to find work in both Brazil and Japan.
All girls support the Brisbane Lions and all except Monserret have been to at least one game of AFL before.
Why do you play AFL?
Alisa: Fun, active & challenging
Divine: To interact with the other teams
Gracia: I want to be famous. New skills. Get to play with the boys
Mifi: Get to meet new people, active, teamwork, not just about yourself
Monserrat: healthy, teamwork and cooperation
Who is your favourite AFL player?
Divine: Lynette & Jackie’s husbands (for those of us that don’t watch WAG Nation that is Jude Bolton (Swans) and Jarryd Waite (Carlton)
Alisha: Jonathan Brown
Gracia: Captain of the Brisbane Lions
What is different about your teammates to other girls? (directed to Alisha)
Alisha: They are more aggressive when they play (fearless). It’s great.
One team, many cultures – A snapshot of the Beenleigh SS Brisbane Lions Cup Team
Divine Bikorimana Born in Tanzania, Parents from Burundi
Tori Groves-Little Born in Australia, Parents from New Zealand
Gracia Muzima Born in Congo, Parents from Congo
Monserret Shimizu Born in Japan, Mum from Brazil, Dad from Japan
Kiya Carlsen Born in Australia, Mum from PNG, Dad from Australia
Aaliyah Bray Born in Australia, Dad Indigenous/Vanuatu, Mum is Indigenous
Monique Stearnes Born in Australia, Mum from PNG, Dad from Australia
Alisha McKee Born in Australia, Parents from Australia
Taylor Peteh Born in Australia, Parents from Australia, Grandfather is Italian
Robyn Hunter Born in New Zealand, Mother is Maori and Dad is Samoan
Massah Gabril Born in Guinea, Mum is from Liberia, Dad is from Guinea
Clison Markav Born in Australia, Mum & Dad are both PNG/Indigenous
Lea Etimani Born in New Zealand, Mum from New Zealand, Dad from Samoa
Mifi Muzima Born in Congo, Parent from Congo