Measuring health upturns is crucial to more sporting investment.
“If people are asked three things about me, sport is first always,” says 25-year-old student Emma Milanese from Adelaide’s north-eastern suburbs.
Which, fortunately, is just as well given the potentially life changing task ahead of her.
Beginning in August 2021, Emma set out to devote the next three, and maybe four, years of her life to finding out just how sport can help improve the quality of life for children in one of South Australia’s most socially disadvantaged areas.
And in what is a countrywide first, the part time university lecturer and researcher is undertaking a PhD to discover just how first rate sporting facilities and opportunities can lift the lives of children, and adults, living in impoverished areas.
A demonstrable return on (sports) investment has to be achieved she says.
“If we look at how to keep kids off the street it reduces crime rates, keep kids in school. This is going to have an overall long lasting effect on health.
“This needs to be done with this project. It’s about how it affects the economy and rest of our society. Equal opportunity is at the forefront of what we do.”
The Morton Road project in Christie Downs – with its new oval, skate park, tennis courts and accompanying programs – will be at the forefront of Emma’s research which is funded and implemented equally by the Foundation, Flinders University and the state government’s Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing.
A PhD had been on Emma’s radar for some time when the advert calling for candidates popped up in autumn 2021. She knew it was the right fit instantly, as did her friends.
“My colleague Alison saw it, Sam from Flinders University sent it to her and I got it from another couple of colleagues.
“I need to do this I thought. I sent my details to Professor Murray Drummond (who heads up Sport, Health, Activity, Performance & Exercise – SHAPE- at Finders University) saying ‘this is me’.
“I got a reply the next morning and then met him 2/3 days later. It came though quite quickly, it’s super exciting. The overview of the program just made sense. This is my opportunity, this is what I need to do.
“I’m just really excited, I have had two or three (PhD) offers but you need an interest to do it over a period of time. Disadvantage in the south is not researched, we need to know what’s going on … this is a first.”
There is too, much practice to back up Emma’s academic outlook.
“I have loved soccer my whole life, played for Campbelltown soccer club and AFL for Athelstone Raggies. Sport has been my whole life. I have always tried new sports.”
She has too, run Adelaide’s SportUnited – providing sport programs for disadvantaged, at risk population groups – she understands the wider, and often missed, purpose sport can bring at all levels. Elite sport is great essentially, but there’s an awful lot more it can do when you have the right hook and, she is adamant, Morton Road can do just that.