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Kicking goals by including refugees and the disabled in the beautiful game

Globally, association football – or soccer, as it’s commonly known in Australia – is played by over 250 million players of all ages, races and genders in over 200 nations. If there’s one sport designed to bring a variety of people together, football is it.

Recognising overlooked segments of football players who deserved to be included was Ann-Marie Balliana, CEO of Football South Coast. “As soon as I came into the role as CEO, I saw that we did not have a program to cater for members of the community with a special need,” she says. “With the support of the Disability Trust we developed a program which was the first of its kind in our region and allowed participants to play in the mainstream competition, to ensure it was a completely inclusive program.”

Not content to stop there, Ann-Marie also went about developing a program for refugees. “Football is the international language of sport, and with the increased number of humanitarian entrants within the Illawarra it’s important that these members of our community have something to connect to through an activity that they enjoy,” she says. “I saw this program as a way to promote inclusiveness and provide something to participants that allowed them to make new friends and play football.”

A shocking tragedy also led to the development of the third of FSC’s programs to receive IMB Bank Community Foundation funding. “After the tragic death of one of our players, I met with his parents who were seeking support to ensure increased awareness on the importance of having defibrillators deployed across all sporting grounds,” says Ann-Marie. “Through the association I committed to this important cause and commenced a funding program to encourage all of our clubs to purchase defibrillators.”

The Foundation has helped Ann-Marie and FSC achieve some important goals. “ICF funding covered all gear, ground and registration costs for the refugee and disability programs, ensuring they were completely free to all those that participated,” she says. “Funding also went towards assisting all clubs to purchase a defibrillator. 80 per cent of our facilities now have a defibrillator compared to 20 per cent when we first started the project.”

Ann-Marie is clear about the important role sport plays in a community. “It provides a wonderful opportunity to connect with others,” she says. “It promotes fitness, confidence and the making of new friends. Football in particular is a game for all ages and all abilities and it was important for FSC as an association to provide for members of the community that require that extra bit of assistance to feel included and enjoy the beautiful game of football.”

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Helping build and strengthen our local communities since 1999

As a mutual bank, supporting our local communities is important to us. We believe in supporting projects that foster inclusion, encourage volunteering and create sustainable outcomes, enabling the communities around us to thrive.

Over the last 20 years, The IMB Bank Community Foundation has invested over $10 million to support over 700 community projects. We’re very proud of the projects we’ve supported and each year we marvel at the wonderful achievements of our funding recipients.

These diverse and meaningful grassroots programs are found wherever IMB Bank operates — Sydney, The Hunter, The Illawarra, Southern Highlands and Far South Coast NSW.

Previous funding recipients

Farmborough Heights Rural Fire Brigade

A thermal imaging camera will enable The Farmborough Heights Rural Fire Brigade’s volunteer members to fully interpret a fire scene providing accurate situational awareness both day and night. It will also assist in search and rescue operations at any time and in any light conditions.

Giralang/Kaleen Men's Shed

The Giralang/Kaleen Men's Shed offers all men access to a range of activities including a woodworking workshop, garden, physical activity such as walking, and social interaction. Members will be trained in first aid to support shed members if needed.

Girl Guides Association of NSW

Building on a century of adventure, fun and friendship, Girl Guides empowers girls and young women to grow into confident, self-respecting, responsible community members. The project will allow Girl Guides to offer abseiling, high ropes and rock-climbing experiences in the local region providing opportunities for the girls to grow, learn and have fun in the outdoors.

See all recipients


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Established in 1880, IMB Bank is one of the most enduring financial institutions in the country, helping people achieve their financial goals for over 140 years. Our members can access a fully featured range of services: home and personal lending, savings and transaction accounts, term deposits, business banking, and more.

Our renowned personal service is backed by innovation, providing convenient, secure digital banking options where and when you want it. IMB also has a growing retail branch network throughout NSW and Victoria, for when you need to speak to someone in person, and a team of professionals at our locally based contact centre. We have a lending specialist in every branch and a team of mobile lending specialists who will come to you.

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