North Melbourne’s sporting and educational home now better than ever

North Melbourne Football Club is helping launch an educational revolution, utilising elite facilities at their traditional Arden Street home.

Driving down Arden Street past the historic home of the North Melbourne Football Club you’ll no doubt spot the amazing new training facilities; however, you probably don’t know all that’s inside.

2022 saw the completion of the Stage 2 redevelopment at Arden Street. Backed by $7 million in funding from the Victorian Government, the updates have transformed Arden Street Oval into an elite training facility.

For North Melbourne’s 4 teams across the AFL, AFLW, VFL and VFLW, that meant new changerooms, umpires’ rooms, an away-team medical room, and a multi-purpose meeting space.

Interior of new buildingHowever, the greater impact of the redevelopment may just be felt by the wider community as The Huddle program helps change learning in the area.

The Huddle is North Melbourne’s community arm first established in 2010 to engage, support and empower young people to build on their strengths, increase their ability to participate in society and contribute to more socially inclusive communities.

Em O’Halloran is the Manager, Education and Careers at The Huddle, and is one of the creators of the Game Day program. She’s worked at The Huddle for 5 years, helping grow the organisation into what it is today.

‘Our purpose is to increase education and employment outcomes for young people.'

‘All of our programs harness sport to bring about social inclusion, education or employment outcomes. That’s how it all connects together.’

One of the highlights of The Huddle, Game Day is an immersive education experience for primary school students who help power up the ‘Shinboners’, made up of current Kangaroos from the AFL and AFLW teams, to defeat an opponent across a game of football through various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)-based challenges.

Em pitched an idea for Game Day in her initial interview and saw STEM education as a cornerstone of learning for all children, helping drive general capabilities.

’We see STEM and General Capabilities as core skills that young people and children need to develop.

’Game Day is a high-tech, state-of-the-art, immersive learning experience that cannot be replicated in a school environment.’

In 12 months around 80 classes have participated in the Game Day program, making up just some of the 35,000 participants who have accessed all Huddle programs throughout 2023.

Em believes the upgraded facilities have been instrumental in helping grow Game Day and The Huddle, providing the team with a modern environment to teach, with interactive audio-visual equipment and new amenities to connect people across different ages, genders and cultures.

New interactive space at the Huddle‘By having the investment from the state government, we could bring in high-end technology and integrate that into our learning and teaching.

‘What the redevelopment has done is given us capacity and an opportunity to invest in this high-end technology and make it immersive and completely unique.’

With The Huddle based deep in the heart of Arden Street, there is a strong community vibe throughout.

‘It’s quite a close relationship and mutually beneficial, we support the club to be embedded in the community and the club provides content for us to better engage and have impact.‘

With the new facilities and a strong link to the football club, Em believes the future is bright for The Huddle, with an aim to increase its reach beyond Arden Street and directly into school curriculums.

‘How can we bundle up Game Day into a digital system or e-learning system that we can then push out into classrooms across Victoria?’

The Stage 2 works complement Stage 1 of the project completed in 2019, which delivered match day and training facilities, enabling the club to introduce its AFLW and VFLW programs.

The project builds on the Victorian Government’s Women and Girls in Sport funding initiatives, which have helped fund projects that level the playing field for women in sport.

Since 2018, the government has invested more than $150 million in elite women’s Australian football infrastructure projects to grow the women’s game, benefiting all 10 Victorian clubs.

For more information on the many programs, visit: The Huddle.