TIC TALK Podcasts

Exploring personal experiences of inclusion

TIC TALK 2: Carolyn Watts

A podcast with Carolyn Watts
May 2013
Carolyn Watts

Carolyn Watts

Former eilte Basketballer

Carolyn, a former elite Basketballer, has an interesting and diverse story to tell of her time at the elite end of sport and of her considerable passion for human rights and inclusion through a variety of roles in the non-profit and government sectors.

 

 

Transcript TIC TALK with Carolyn Watts

Peter:

Okay. Welcome to today’s Tic Talk, and it’s a great pleasure to introduce Carolyn Watts. Carolyn Watts, a former elite basketball player, which we shall talk about, and Carolyn would have to be, in terms of a radar for human rights, she’s right up there in terms of the radar for human rights. Welcome, Carolyn!

Carolyn:

Thank you, Peter. I’m happy to be here.

Peter:

Tell me about those basketball days, not too much, but about the basketball days.

Carolyn:

Yeah, sure. It was a long time ago, really, but I just came up through grass roots sport and got opportunities, I guess, to play at the local club and went up into the state and had the opportunity to play in a couple of national teams. It was a wonderful experience. I feel very lucky. I got to travel around the world. I went to the AIS and made some of the most spectacular friends, and I think, at the end of the day, when I look back, what I got out of it was a couple of really bad knees and some amazing friends that will last a lifetime.

Peter:

What do you think you learned from those–you know, your career from then on went on a very interesting path from there, and what do you think sort of led you down that path? Is there something about experiencing basketball that led you down that path, or is it just you as a person?

Carolyn:

I think it was me as a person. I’ve always been aware of people less fortunate, I think, than myself and just, I guess, having a consciousness around that. I don’t know, I think there’s a part of me that wants to–an inbuilt need to protect, and often past partners have given me a hard time about bringing in strays and those sorts of things. But I think all my life, as I said, I had these amazing opportunities, and I don’t know whether those opportunities would’ve been made available to everybody. Not that we had a lot of money, but I had two parents, a middle class family, and I often thought about those other friends and children that may not have had opportunities to be able to do what I have done. So I guess I’ve always been aware of that, and when I went to play overseas in England and I played for Brixton, and I taught in Brixton, and again just really surrounded myself in working with the young people in that community. And I used sport to, I guess, gain a level of trust and friendship and to be able to help develop kids. That was a great opportunity, and from that point I decided I wanted to come back to Australia and work with disadvantaged youth. So I think that’s where it all kicked off.

Peter:

Brixton, what year was that?

Carolyn:

Yeah, what year was that? That was in 92, so it was after the riots. When was that? But yeah, I worked in a school which was mainly Afro-Caribbean kids, English kids, and it was an amazing experience, amazing potential in terms of their athleticism, too. They were great kids to coach.

Peter:

And quite a difficult area. I know Brixton reasonably well from the early 80s. They had all sorts of problems there. Do you think, again, that was a kind of a number of things that influenced you?

Carolyn:

Oh, definitely.

Peter:

That had to be a major influence.

Carolyn:

Yeah, look, I never took the easy path. The easy path never really excited me or interested me. I saw that as a challenge and a wonderful experience to get an experience of different cultures, and playing for Brixton was just incredible. Like, our games more than any other games, because we used to travel to other areas of England, our games were absolutely packed, and it was packed full of the Afro-Caribbean community, and the heavy reggae used to pump out, and the kids were dancing. It was so vibrant. I went to a few of their parties afterwards, and yeah, it was a memorable time, wonderful time. See, these are the wonderful things that you can benefit from by having those experiences.

Peter:

And from Brixton, what did it lead to then?

Carolyn:

Yeah, after Brixton, I went back to Adelaide, actually, and became a youth liaison officer for the Commonwealth Government, believe it or not. That was my stint there, and it was really just working with disadvantaged youth and the not for profit sector in the government sector and trying to do some sort of coordination of programs and projects, community awareness and those sorts of things.

Peter:

Yeah. Was it working for disadvantaged youth around that time?

Carolyn:

Yeah.

Peter:

Did you get an idea around the inclusion of disadvantaged youth the sort of things that excluded them the social things that it’s doing for participation and regular from society things including sports?

Carolyn:

Yeah look definitely I mean we had some recreational programs and that we I’ve been doubt for disadvantage young people and one of the big issues there is travel and cost of equipment, and cost of uniform, and cost of membership, so we sort of tried certainly to provide recreational opportunities, but it was always a challenge trying to connect those young people back to community clubs in those environments

Peter:

Mm,

Carolyn:

because as soon as you do that there’s a cost and expense and time commitment and all sorts of things, so that was one of the biggest challenges in terms of providing opportunities, but providing opportunities to bring back to their everyday life.

Peter:

It’s like a reality check

Carolyn:

Yeah there is

Peter:

you know. You want to provide the best opportunity, but the reality is sometimes there’s not the capacity to do that

Carolyn:

That’s right it’s an opportunity for a moment of a lifetime so

Peter:

Yes.

Carolyn:

but hopefully within we’ve inspire them and you build up a level of interest and maybe a little to be able to pursue and do with some of those barriers and work through those barriers.

Peter:

So what time of year? When was that?

Carolyn:

That would have been in 93, 94.

Peter:

93, 94.

Carolyn:

Yeah.

Peter:

And then where did it go from there?

Carolyn:

Yeah then look I guess I kind of moved up the ranks become a manager of the youth agency and we worked with emergency housing incase young people and people that were unemployed, that were living on the streets, they weren’t at home with parents they were disenfranchised they were working, so one of the first priorities was to find them some level of accommodation and there was certain different tears. First there were emergency housing they just needed to get out of sleeping in car parks and to get them into a some level of secure sleeping environment and we would try to look for more longer term, but once that I got to some level of security [00.07.14 Inaudible] we would work around case management and then work around employment, or education all sorts of thing.

Peter:

individualize proposition management.

Carolyn:

It was yeah and we had a number of government programs that we would access and fit into around education and employment, but it was very structured around and a very individual approach.

Peter:

Now I’m guessing you would come across people that were very, very, human rights focused

Carolyn:

Yeah

Peter:

strong advocates at the time

Carolyn:

Yes.

Peter:

Does that sometimes kind of back fire in that kind of situation when that reality check kind of kicks in? It’s very good to have a human rights focused, but sometimes it’s not that a line to reality?

Carolyn:

Yeah, absolutely I mean I think if the youth agency was really interesting because we got a lot of graduates and, so people coming fresh from university having a kind of perspective to be able to change the world and I think experience over time helps I guess the practitioners understand the environment that their working in. You can only learn that through experience, but it’s certainly that good to have that level of energy to attain that youthfulness coming in with great ideas and concepts and then you got the more experience being able to look at that and measure that and you know overtime sort of develop I guess a range of services for people. Sorry I don’t know if answered your questions.

Peter:

Yeah, yeah also how you measure? You mentioned measure, you know that’s one of the hardest things

Carolyn:

The hardest.

Peter:

In the world to kind of measure in this field, you know. Tell me examples of how sorts of things were measured overtime?

Carolyn:

No I really, in longer terms nor studies of all sorts of things Miami based measure was bumping into kids, you know five years later and it’s fortunate and unfortunate because you see where these younger people have been able to through their issues and disadvantage in almost stable, healthy life and then you also see the circle of disadvantage continue, you know when one kid always sticks to my line and such a gorgeous kid. He’s fourteen years old here in case managing. He was a young male prostitute and my job was really trying to work hard to provide other opportunities for him to financially support himself and give him stable accommodation and all sorts of things he was such a gentle soul and of course you move out of your area where I bumped into him five year later and he had a wife or a partner who was pregnant and a little kid with him and the disadvantage was still there. He was unemployed, he was looking to move into Melvin. Yeah and he just looked unhappy. I felt sad, so there’s never any you know

Peter:

You think progress in 2013, so that’s how many years twenty year ago?

Carolyn:

Yeah.

Peter:

You think things have progressed now?

Carolyn:

I think, yeah it’s a really big question. I think they really have. I mean I just wonder where it’s simply about the rich getting richer and the poor that getting children

Carolyn:

Great timing for that for the Great Gatsby, but you know as society people seem to be getting more money and the extremes are hanging around and I know there’s still a lot of people that putting a lot of work in the non for profit sectors particularly around working and helping for disadvantage. I have no doubt that the programs are better targeted and more efficient and no doubt getting better outcomes through that long term experience and learning and knowledge working in the sector, but I don’t all of these sort of work or relies on funding and if the governments slashing and burning funding and the philanthropic world is not giving then it significantly restricts the capacity for people to help.

Peter:

Mm. You only ever think for me to ask you about the double edge sword of charity lots of profits depend on giving and it’s probably not the greatest model for and it’s not a sustainable model really.

Carolyn:

No it’s not and I know a lot of non for profitable the ones I worked for you can talk back commissions because sports is known for profit essentially. Those that have an extended revenue steam are those that survive, so if you have a look at what happened with the coming off employment dispended all of that money which was a lot went to the non for profit sector. There was a couple of for profitable organizations, but they ended up disappearing, but the non for profit sector took that on. Now these are skilled organizations that use to do all sorts of different things for disadvantage and that money came in and they delivered that unemployment services as well, but there was a lot of money to be made at that time and in that beginning, so this fantastic extended revenues stream that was still in line with what they were trying to achieve that could help fund other projects and programs. Now of course that money stream is tied up you know government has really tightened up. How they fund, but there’s examples like that and you know why don’t they see I was another organization I worked for and they had. They had a lot of assets, they had a hotel , which I believe they just sold, you know it pays to have these other profit making ventures to feed the great word that you try to do and for non for profit space cause it’s hard to fund, so hard.

Peter:

Sport obviously a massive of your life we said earlier and we kind of came back to it later on in the work world.

Carolyn:

Yeah, yeah I did. I think working in the industry that I worked in the disadvantage industry it really does take its toll after all and I was working in that industry for 15-20 years and I love it, but I was tired and I was just looking for something fresh and the opportunity came up with the sports commission and it was a AAC program which was initially it was about focusing on physical activities towards over wait and obesity children and the concept to me seemed ideal because obesity comes from generally disadvantage you know that’s a so for me I thought great well I’m going to be the state manager of this program I’m really going to be focusing on those schools in those areas that have disadvantage, so for me it was wonderful. I know the value of sports can make to people’s lives and you know connect to like this sort of program was a wonderful thing to be involved in, so yeah that’s how it happened.

Peter:

And just explain the AAC the activity after school.

Carolyn:

Yes.

Peter:

Community program will elevate you eventually and connectors which is one of my favorite topics. There was a whole range to me seems with AAC. There was a whole range of connectors. In the community right across this trailer we walked 150 employees of AAC.

Carolyn:

Look absolutely there was this huge network of people and to be honest people make all the difference and to have people working with you in the community without the program would have been a very different program.

Peter:

And it was the skill to them as connectors.

Carolyn:

Yes.

Peter:

As people would bring people together in their communities and that was the key thing rather than their skills as a practitioner or a sports coach or whatever that

Carolyn:

That’s right and essentially they built up a capacity of those people in the community so and we trained lots and lots and lots and lots of people to coach, so we taught them how to coach, so anyone can be a coach. It’s about giving them some basic skills and some resources to help them along, so really that was the first keys to build up the people within the community to be able to work with children and organize children and to enjoy sport. Enjoyment was the key if they’re not going to enjoy it they’re not going to do it, and sport traditionally has not always been that enjoyable putting kids in long lines and you know one lap in every five minutes and you know ten pushups if you miss. I mean hype fully sports changed.

Peter:

I wanted to talk about [00.16.29 Inaudible] sports a bit because to me it touched on some fundamentals of human rights. It was really clever and is a very clever program just described that and what you thought something in life about [00.16.43 Inaudible] sport.

Carolyn:

Sure I guess sport for a start I mean it was about sexual diversity and excepting that within community they didn’t title it in a negative they didn’t talk about homophobia, but it was more about acceptance for the side I thought it was a very important decision to make whether they were going to take it affirmative positive approach or whether they were going to face a deficit model side. Yeah it was about creating awareness and understanding of diversity and acceptance of diversity, so that was a good start and then they really work on the community sport label and they went out to different clubs and they talked about the program and they asked for expressions of interests. Here it was about clubs and not being paid for the programs, so in themselves they wanted to be a part of it because they could see the value in today sport community again which I think is another win for that program you know you don’t want money to be the key reason for some to engage in a culture change type program it needs to be a complete commitment and I guess the goal and opportunities was aim a lot higher for the program and that’s another win to assume and they key person was an absolute expert in being able to communicate and get his message across and to educate people in a gentle, positive way and I think he did a wonder job in working with individuals in sports who proactively put their hands up to be engaged. The next step was actually to deliver a number of interventions or activities within those sports by hopefully raising awareness and hopefully creating discussion and I think that was the end of the day. People are talking like anything when we talk about human rights you want people to talk because fear is the key tool to create that sort of difference and to break down those sort of barriers conversation is absolutely essential. They had a great idea these things called these rainbow socks and we know rainbow was really a symbol for gay pride historically and the commission incorporated that in the program they all wore these socks and may not have necessarily understood why they wanted to or what they actually meant, so on the back of those socks created a whole lot of discussion of what are these socks about and what does that mean for us and why feel comfortable wearing it?

Peter:

The simplicity of that symbol is amazing.

Carolyn:

Absolutely and I think the simple things are the most important things to get messages across, so yeah I really think the program is about people talking and through their conversations breaking down fear and to be honest I personally believe that we’re going to be absolutely blown out by the next generation that are coming out now. In terms of the concept of sexuality it’s so fluid you know they are teaching us I believe a lot about how sort of like to segregate and separate, put things in boxes, and protect ourselves from that [00.20.42 Inaudible] this is our world and it’s going to be a new world

Peter:

But particularly the area is easier to share information and viewpoints. It’s nice, it’s not [00.20.53 Inaudible] in ways it’s very easy to express.

Carolyn:

It is, which it’s just so fantastic and me, you, back to where we came from is a perfect example of unfortunately I don’t know where the people who probably watch that program, the people that had a disposition to human rights where the people who didn’t watch it knew to watch it, but the point is were in that program you know I’m talking making assumptions about people who saw that they were specifically chosen because they had some significant racist views and through their experience eventually meeting people from these different cultures that they I guess had a little of fear of that changed their mind completely. I mean again it’s all of that. The conversation it’s more meeting people it’s talking about that it’s breaking that fear because the fear is not real.

Peter:

You can’t break their fear without talking about it.

Carolyn:

You can’t, no it just reinforces and it makes it easier for people empower, in media, in things like that too really force those concepts of fear.

Peter:

Carolyn Watts thank you very much we could chat all day.

Carolyn:

Thanks.

Peter:

Certainly thank you very much had a pleasure working with you for a couple of years I know it wasn’t long enough. I’m sure we’ll catch up again. People on this podcast here I’ll say thank you very much and Carolyn for your time

Carolyn:

Thank you, thank you Peter.