Aussie rugby stars gear up to ‘pass it back’ as ChildFund and World Rugby announce new partnership

Australian rugby stars, including Charlotte Caslick and John Eales, are getting behind a major international partnership between World Rugby and ChildFund, launched today, to change children’s lives through the transformative power of sport, as part of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.

World Rugby Chief Executive Officer Brett Gosper said: “We awarded the tournament to Japan because we knew that it could be a powerful game-changer for sporting and social change in Asia. As a transformational rugby for good program, ChildFund Pass It Back is the perfect embodiment of that objective and we are excited about the impact rugby can have to thousands of children within the world’s most populous and youthful continent.

“Rugby is a sport of character-building values and we have witnessed the solidarity of the rugby community in rallying behind Kamaishi and I am sure that fans purchasing tickets for Asia’s first Rugby World Cup will be generous in supporting rugby programmes that will make a real and lasting difference to thousands of disadvantaged children.”

Funds raised through the partnership will enable the award-winning[1] ChildFund Pass It Back program to be expanded in Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines, and extended to other developing countries in the region. Donated funds will also assist with emergency relief efforts in disaster-affected areas in Japan.

Over 20,000 children from disadvantaged communities across Asia will benefit.

ChildFund Alliance Chair Michael Rose said: “This is an exciting opportunity. We believe every child has the right to play, which is why ChildFund’s Pass it Back program was originally established for children in rural and remote communities of Laos and Vietnam. These are children who face significant challenges around poverty and inequality.

“Well designed sport for development programs are a proven way to achieve positive social outcomes, such as building resilience, youth leadership and gender equity. ChildFund Pass It Back helps young people to develop the skills they need to keep themselves safe in what is a rapidly changing environment, and support global efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 16.2 – to end all forms of violence against children.”

The ChildFund Pass It Back program has already assisted thousands of children and youth across Asia, with its unique curriculum using tag rugby to help young people in a range of areas, including leadership, problem solving, gender equity, conflict resolution and planning for the future.

Australian rugby legend, John Eales AM, said: “I am very pleased to see that World Rugby and ChildFund are joining forces for Rugby World Cup 2019. Through this partnership, vulnerable children in Asia will get the opportunity to play rugby, and also benefit from a program which will give them important, and life-long, skills and knowledge.”

Australian Rugby Sevens player Charlotte Caslick OAM said: “I’ve just returned from Laos where I experienced firsthand the power of rugby in sharing sports, leadership and life skills with children who face challenges many of us here in Australia cannot imagine.

“It’s great to see so many girls and young women getting involved in the program, which has a strong emphasis on gender equality – over 50 per cent of all players and coaches involved in ChildFund Pass It Back are female which is amazing.”

Nigel Spence, ChildFund Australia CEO, said: “Through the partnership with World Rugby, ChildFund will reach more marginalised young people in Asia – girls, children from poor communities, young people living in rural and remote areas who have never had the opportunity to take part in organised sport before.

Raelene Castle, Rugby Australia CEO, said: “Sport has the incredible power to unite people and communities. Many of our Australian rugby players have experienced this first hand when visiting ChildFund Pass It Back training sessions in Laos and Vietnam. As we celebrate the game of rugby at the Rugby World Cup In Japan, this partnership shines an international light on the importance of children everywhere having the opportunity to play, participate in organised sport and enjoy its many life-changing benefits.”

[1] ChildFund Pass It Back won the UNICEF Safeguarding Children in Sport Award at the prestigious Beyond Sport Global Awards in 2017.

As Treasurer Scott Morrison handed down the 2018 budget, there was no reprieve for Australia’s overseas development assistance (ODA) program. Following years of consecutive cuts, the government’s aid spend is on track to decline to just 19c in every $100 of gross national income by 2021-22.

Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia said: “It is deeply disappointing to witness our aid program being reduced to its lowest level in history. It is an indictment of how little value we place on what is one of Australia’s most important strategic assets.

“Australian Aid not only improves conditions for some of the world’s poorest children and families, but it also serves our national interests by fostering inclusive economic growth, creating new trading markets, countering instability and reducing conflict in our region.”

Earlier this year, Australia’s declining aid levels were criticised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which stated that “the decline in aid flows, despite steady economic growth, has affected the scope of development and humanitarian programmes”.

Defence industry experts have also highlighted how the Australian aid program serves an important role in soft diplomacy, noting that instruments of ‘persuasion’ are just as necessary as instruments of war.

Mr Spence added: “We are the lucky country. Just last year, Australia recorded the longest run of uninterrupted economic growth in the developed world. It is clear that Australia can afford to look after those at home as well as support a generous aid program to help those in need in our region.”

“The shrinking aid budget reduces the investment available for girls’ education – which results in educated women who are healthier, earn higher incomes, and enable better healthcare and education for their children.

“The shrinking aid budget suggests we cannot afford to invest more in child health – which leads to an increase in child survival, a reduction in family size, and an increase in the proportion of the working population, thereby contributing to economic growth.

“These measures, as just two examples, result in increased prosperity for impoverished communities and contribute to a more prosperous, stable region which is clearly in Australia’s interest. These are investments which we cannot afford not to make.”

Currently, among its developed country peers, Australia has the 9th largest economy of the 30 nations, yet in terms of generosity as an aid donor it is now at 19th place, having fallen from 13th in 2011.

Mr Spence said: “The Australian aid program should mirror our values as a nation – our commitment to responsible global citizenship, cooperation, fairness, generosity and compassion.

“Hundreds of thousands of individual Australians demonstrate these values on a daily basis through their support of international aid agencies – the importance of a fair go for all. It is time for our government to reflect these values in a strong, growing Australian Aid program.”