Rainbow Report on Soft Tackles


Perhaps the title’s a bit harsh: we are making some progress tackling homophobia in sport, with Jason Ball, Jeff Kennett and Andrew Demetriou still locked in negotiations about how the AFL is going to make Aussie Rules at all levels safe and welcoming for GLBTI folk, especially youngsters.

Still no definitive word from that camp: let’s hope it includes some comprehensive ongoing training in the clubs all levels, and not just grand gestures like annual special matches. Although symbolic gestures are hugely important (no denying that), if their message is not underpinned and reinforced by day-to-day work on the ground, they ultimately don’t achieve that much.

There are a number of programs around to do that groundwork: the Victorian Human Rights Commission, for example, has the Fair Go Sport initiative , which has been taken up enthusiastically by Hockey Australia. We talk to Victorian HR commissioner Karen Toohey about the take-up by other organisations.

Tonight the aristocracy of sports bureaucrats, Simon Hollingsworth of the Australian Sports Commission, the sports minister, Kate Lundy, the Victorian  Sports Minister Hugh Delahunty, are all at the ASC annual media awards gala dinner in Sydney, so they can’t be with us. Which is bad timing on my part, as I would like to have heard about their Play By The Rules program.

It’s supposed to help sports clubs get all forms of discrimination out of sport – age, cultural differences, disability, homophobia, sexuality, sex, religion, race, and so on – with only a total of $200k behind it.

Victoria University and beyondblue are conducting a survey around young people’s experience of participation in sport called Equal Play. We’ll take a look at that with leade researcher Grant O’Sullivan. If you’d like to take part, follow the link

Helping me out in the studio tonight will be two people –  both called Rob, and from the Ballarat region! Must be something in the water.

Rob Harris wrote very movingly on coming out, to his parents, and also to his local cricket team. And he had a great response. He sent me an email:

“I’ve had so much support – especially from the sporting community that I’ve worked so closely with. Country footballers and cricketers, AFL footballers and first-class cricketers and also the sports journalism community. I feel my biggest mistake was underestimating people..

“I’ve even gone back to playing sport and have been embraced by my cricket teammates in country Victoria. In fact I think they enjoy it. So many have told me they’ve never known a gay person before, which is a reality for so many people in regional Victorian sporting communities.”

He joins us in the studio. The other Rob, of course, needs no introduction: Rob Mitchell, who has been fighting since – well it feels like forever – for action on homophobia in sport, because it is such an important arena for young people and the one where LGBTI youngsters feel, and often are, the least safe.


About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)