Police engagement with young people in the west would receive a kick along from the Melbourne Victory soccer academy should it proceed, according to one of Victoria Police’s most experienced police leaders.
Detective Superintendent Deb Robertson, a 35-year police veteran who is currently the Operations Commander for Organised Crime in Victoria and president of Blue Light Victoria, has welcomed the club’s offer of space to run Blue Light within the academy should it be given a green light.
Det Sup Robertson said Blue Light currently manages 30,000 interactions with young people each year despite having no place to call home of its own.
“It’s a not-for-profit run mostly by police volunteering their time,” she said.
“What this relationship with Melbourne Victory would give us is some stability.
“It’s also in an area we have high engagement with youth, it would be most beneficial to our programs.”
Det Sup Robertson said the partnership would help to deliver more programs for young people at risk, including a pathway through sport, as well as strengthening ties with nearby Victoria University.
“We are hoping we can actually commence a program with them before this facility is up and running.”
Angela Liberto, a West Footscray parent whose eight-year-old daughter plays soccer with women’s club the Maribyrnong Swifts, has also thrown her support behind the project.
“I am passionate about the project and giving our girls opportunities as they don’t have them at the moment,” she said.
“If they wanted to continue they can’t do it, there is no opportunity for girls in the western suburbs.”
The Swifts have partnered with Melbourne Victory, a deal that opens up training and playing opportunities at the new academy.
Ms Liberto said she was drawn into the campaign in support of the proposal over concerns about “misinformation” being spread.
“They were scaring people into thinking it was something that was going to happen that isn’t, she said.
“I knew there was a lot of support for it so I thought we have to get this out there.”
The academy plan attracted more than 1500 written submissions, 54 per cent in support and 45 per cent against. A survey of 516 residents within the vicinity of Footscray Park found 31 per cent in support, 36 opposed and 33 per cent undecided.
A petition against the proposal has attracted more than 5000 signatures.
Maribyrnong councillors will vote on the proposal on Tuesday night.