AFL Project

The background of this project

Deaf and hard of hearing (D/HoH) Australians love sport, including the AFL. Being a team sport where communication is critical to participation and enjoyment, it is difficult for D/HoH to embrace. This project aims to develop and implement strategies to change and improve participation levels

A project that provides real opportunities for all deaf and hard of hearing Australians to have better access to AFL sport and also provides training and inclusion solutions for the AFL to embed into their programs.

Deaf Sports Australia have partnered with the AFL for an exciting project for the Deaf and hard of hearing community who loves AFL.

3 tasks we are focused on:

  • Establishing an Auskick program for deaf and hard of hearing children in Victoria and Western Australia and supporting the existing Queensland program;
  • Providing Deaf Sport Awareness Training to AFL staff, coaches and others (Australia-wide)
  • Piloting an AFL Deaf program in Victoria

We have until the end of 2022 to complete the project.

Deaf Sport Australia and the AFL recently undertook a survey with the deaf and hard of hearing community to ask them questions in relation to participation in AFL sport. In the 2-week survey window we received 75 responses (32 female / 43 male). Responses came from Victoria (60%), WA (17%), NSW (9%) and QLD (8%).

Of the 75, 25 currently play AFL community football. 85% said they would like to have ac- cess to both an AFL Deaf program as well as access to their local club.

A key comment that summarised the feeling of most respondents and clearly endorse sup- port for the project: “AFL is one of my favourite hobbies to do every day, but barriers about my deafness which cost me – can’t see a bright future to play on a bigger stage … hope things can change.”

We have already established that deaf and hard of hearing Australians are not sharing the same % uptake in AFL in comparison to the wider community with 227 (0.21%) out of 105,700 AusKickers and 395 (0.1%) of 391,000 adults playing AFL.

There are approx. 6,600 D/HoH children and 290,569 D/HoH adults who could potentially enjoy participating in AFL sport if given better opportunities.

Developing an accessible, inclusive and sustainable pathway for deaf and hard of hearing Australians to participate in Australian football will go a long way to significantly increasing participation numbers and importantly boost health and enjoyment in being physically active.

Our part-time Project Manager, Simon O’Neill (based at Deaf Sport Australia), will facilitate the project development and implementation with Steering Committee support and will work closely with the DSA and AFL teams in Victoria, Queensland and WA.

Our AFL Deaf Advisory Group will comprise of:

  • Phil Harper, General Manager, Deaf Sports Australia
  • Tim Nield, Disability Inclusion Manager, Australian Football League
  • Simon O’Neill, Project Manager, Deaf Sports Australia
  • Mia Walsh, AFL Project Advisory Committee (QLD)
  • Bryn Davies, AFL Project Advisory Committee (VIC)

Working in partnership with AFL, it is extremely important for the sustainability of this project that an alternate Auskick and AFL Deaf programs become part of the AFL’s core participation offerings after the project is completed. The AFL have the ability to scale nationally and offerings will be funded by a user pays system, consistent with their current Auskick and Community Football offerings. Currently these modified programs don’t exist in the Auskick and Community Football system, however there is a system there to support the management once the products are developed.

The training toolkits will also be embedded into the AFL’s training systems, so there won’t be the need for us to roll out additional training post grant funding, as the resources will be integrated into how they currently educate their workforce.

AFL Management and Inclusion team will be ready to support ongoing delivery post project period with DSA and community stakeholder support.

We will work closely with these organisations, that makes up our project support group, to ensure the project objectives are achieved:

  • AFL
  • AFL Victoria
  • AFL WA
  • WA Deaf Recreation Association
  • Deaf Sport Recreation Qld
  • Deaf Kids Qld
  • Deaf Sport Recreation Victoria
  • Deaf Football Victoria

For more information, contact our AFL Project Officer Simon O’Neill at