Victorian researchers have welcomed a new $25,000 grant for a study which will delve into the extent of homophobia in amateur and elite sport in Australia.

The online study will focus on the participation and experience of LGBT Victorians in mainstream sports and will be conducted in the coming months by researchers from Victoria University and the Australian Research Centre in Sex Health and Society (ARCSHS).

Government body Vic Health has kicked in $10,000 for the study -” the amount matched dollar-for-dollar by Victoria University and the remaining $5,000 coming from the Outgames Legacy Fund.

The study is thought to be the first empirical research of its kind in Australia and has been announced ahead of a key community forum, 2009: Our Sporting Lives, to be held this week tackling the issue.

The forum has been organised by the Challenging Homophobia in Sport Initiative (CHISI), a Queer Melbourne Sports Alliance (QSAM) working group, and is part of the Midsumma Festival.

Two high profile Olympians, including cycling silver medalist Michelle Ferris, will take part in the discussions .

A number of Victorian advocacy groups who have worked together for the past three years are also set to participate, including representatives from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, QSAM, Victoria University and Sport & Recreation Victoria.

Heading up the research from Victoria University and a forum participant, Dr Caroline Symons said she is -œexcited about the grant which has been difficult to secure.

-œA lot of research has been done internationally, but there’s been reluctance in Australia to fund research in this area, so we’ve started to get somewhere now, she told Southern Star.

-œA fair bit has been done on sexism and promoting women and girls in sports and there has been a fair bit done on racism and involving people with disabilities, but there hasn’t been [a focus] on addressing homophobia in sport, it’s a silent topic.

CHISI co-convenor Daniel Witthaus believes the reason for this stems from a wider, entrenched culture of homophobia which hasn’t been brave enough to tackle the masculine domain of both amateur and elite sports.

Witthaus said he wants the forum to be more than just a talkfest and help generate interest for the upcoming research.

-œOne of the things we’re hoping is this research will be a strategic stepping stone so that funding bodies and decision makers can’t look at the Australian research and say, definitely there is no issue.

The forum is open to the public and will be held Saturday January 17 at City Village, 225 Bourke Street Melbourne. Entry free.

info: www.midsumma.org.au

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