The Victorian Government has announced a zero-tolerance approach to sexuality discrimination as part of a strict new code of conduct for grassroots sporting groups.
The Victorian Code of Conduct for Community Sport will force local sporting groups to adhere to anti-homophobia policies or risk losing crucial Government funding.
Sports Minister James Merlino said last week any of Victoria’s 16,000 sporting clubs who overstep the mark will face the consequences.
“The Victorian Code of Conduct for Community Sport sends a loud and clear message — that bad behaviour, violence and intimidation has no place in community sport in our state.
“This behaviour will not be tolerated and we will come down hard on those who fail to enforce the Code by stopping their funding.”
Victoria’s 84 sporting associations must now sign up to the code by July 1, or they will not receive funding from Sports and Recreation Victoria.
The Government will also run a series of advertisements in April to send a message that violence, intimidation and harassment are not acceptable in the sporting arena.
Anti-homophobia in sports campaigner Rob Mitchell hailed the new code as a historic step forward.
“From a community level the message is going out in the broadest possible terms that it’s not okay to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation — that has never been done before,” he said.
“We’re about one minute to midnight about to blow everyone else out of the water with homophobia and sport.”
Posters with contact details of the appropriate peak sports association will be available in sports clubs, along with other educational resources. Sports clubs engaging in homophobic behaviour can be reported to sports associations which are then obliged to report to the Government.
“The critical part of this is, in the past, people have been very reluctant to complain to the president or coach of a sporting club because it may well be the people who are doing the discriminating are friends of those people,” Mitchell said.
“What the Minister has done is ensured that the people are complaining to the actual associations themselves so that there’s a degree of removal. That then takes people’s reticence out of the equation.”
Challenging Homophobia in Sports Initiative (CHISI) founder and Victoria University academic Dr Caroline Symons welcomed the incentive-driven code. She said her research indicates an anecdotal perception that sexual orientation is often a neglected area in sports member protection policies.
“With a carrot and stick approach, you need sticks,” she told Southern Star. “I’m very positive about this development.”
The Code was developed in consultation with AFL Victoria, the Football Federation Victoria and Basketball Victoria and pushed strongly by Mitchell and the Government’s GLBTI Ministerial Advisory Committee.
info: Visit www.sport.vic.gov.au