Alex Horton (TC 2012) describes winning two premierships in a row and captaining the Trinity footy team alongside his close mates as the ‘peak of his footy career’. However, it is his leadership in introducing Aussie Rules to a small village in South Sulawesi and growing the sport in the region, which is quickly seeing him emerge as a sporting ambassador across the Asia-Pacific.
The Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program (AIYEP) and Sports Diplomacy
In December 2016, Alex embarked on a two and half month journey to Indonesia to take part in the Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program (AIYEP).
AIYEP involves 18 Indonesian participants (9 male, 9 female) coming to Australia to experience both rural and urban Australian environments. Then after two months, they meet their Australian counterparts (9 male, 9 female) - and together they travel to Indonesia. In Indonesia, the participants experience both a rural village-stay and an urban environment.
In 2016-2017, South Sulawesi was selected as the host province for the Indonesian phase of AIYEP. Alex, with limited prior exposure to Indonesia, all of a sudden found himself in unfamiliar territory, living in a small village in the Bulukumba Regency.
Through the journey, Alex was able to learn about Indonesian culture, develop team work skills and form close friendships with people from across Australia and the Indonesian archipelago.
Alex was soon teaching Aussie Rules to the children at a local high school and implementing the game within the school curriculum.
‘We taught one of the PE teachers all the rules and by the time we left, he was teaching the children how to play and it’s on the school’s extracurricular now,’ explains Alex.
Aussie Rules and the Asia-Pacific
Alex believes sport acts as a ‘social lubricant’ and is a way we can develop more positive relationships with our regional neighbours. He plans to bring Aussie Rules to other provinces in Indonesia and India before eventually spreading the game throughout the Asia-Pacific.
He has secured grants to both Indonesia and India from the Australia-Indonesia Institute and Australia-India Council respectively, and will be returning to conduct footy and netball clinics in Bali in December 2017.
He highlights the Australian government’s strategy on sports diplomacy between 2015-2018 as a key reason for the success in his grant applications being successful.
In addition, Alex has partnered with Netball Indonesia, an organisation aimed to improve people-to-people links and empower women through sport.
‘One of the big aspects of our programs is to empower women through sport. We managed to get 50 percent participation of both girls and boys with our clinics, we are really excited to be partnering with Netball Indonesia when we return in December.’
As part of his Honours research at the University of Melbourne, Alex will be visiting India in June and July to examine Indian high school students’ attitudes to Australians after being introduced to Aussie Rules.
‘Whether or not there is a shift at all, whether or not they have a great desire to learn about Australian culture, come to Australia after experiencing Australian Rules footy.’
Despite leaving Trinity a few years ago, Alex stays connected with the College, and is currently facilitating a range of workshops for Trinity students on the value of social entrepreneurship.
If you are interested in volunteering for the trip to Indonesia in December, please contact Alex (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more about how you can get involved.
AIYEP is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and run by the Australia-Indonesia Institute. Applications open to Australians in July for Australian citizens aged between 21 and 25 years. For more information, please click here.