Bridging the gap
Monica ‘NuNu’ Majok has a deep appreciation and understanding of how sport can become part of the fabric of a community.
The Australian African Sports Association, of which Majok is founding director, was built on the purpose of bridging gaps young people face in their different communities, creating a diverse and inclusive platform that empowers all races, genders, tribes and communities.
Youth-led programs focus on healthy lifestyles, women empowerment, social sport participation and opportunities to pursue professional training and development pathways.
“We looked at AASA being a platform. A platform for a sense of belonging and a platform of unity and for us it’s about helping the wider Australian community understand who we are and also the cultural integration,” Monica explains.
Her and brother Majok Majok, who plays for the Perth Wildcats in the NBL, experienced an upbringing that was positively impacted by sport. But it was at times bittersweet.
“I grew up around sport, I’m 6’2 and I played basketball,” Monica explains.
“Growing up, my brother and I had the discipline of sport that kept us going through the difficulties that young people face. He went to college in America on a scholarship to play basketball and now plays for the Wildcats.
“The culture was what decided my future in sports. My mum said no because women didn’t have a future in sports so for me it was a bittersweet relationship between my community, sports and women empowerment. “
For Monica, she drew on her own lived experiences while determining two key factors in establishing the association.
“One, for me as a woman to be an executive particularly in the administration space. Not just being an athlete but being seen as an executive was really big,” she explains.
“Especially around representation and also making sure young people can see there’s a lot more than being an athlete and that’s also something I had to learn as all I wanted to do was play in the WNBA when I was growing up.
“From a community side, it’s the disadvantages communities face. Young people have so much talent but don’t have anywhere to go. They might not be accepted into venues because a manager might be scared of accepting an African-Australian because they think they will be violent or cause trouble so they might get 30 minutes to an hour access then be kicked out.”
Collaborating with athletes from a variety of sports, who would become ambassadors, was also important.
“There’s a sense of belonging we brought to the table through AASA and then more importantly it was really about the ambassadors who are all professional athletes,” Monica says.
“The discussions I had with them were because we don’t really have a structured family-orientated base where the young people sit with their parents around the dinner table talking about how school is etc, so the athletes have a mentorship role that they made accessible to our community.
“People like Thon Maker, Majak Daw, Aliir Aliir and Majok they made their Instagram accounts a little bit more accessible so young people could reach out and they were replying which was really important during lockdowns especially with mental health.”
Encouraging women to play, coach, volunteer, officiate and administrate is a growth area and priority.
“It’s about how do we get more women in sports and mothers to understand the element of supporting their kids and also contributing to the sports,” Monica explains.
“We are seeing in the last five years it’s picked up where we’ve got females in sport but it’s not at the grassroots level because there’s issues with things like transport and registration fees.
“They are the areas we want to focus on more.”