“The landlord is still sending invoices for full rent during COVID-19 even though my business can’t even open!”

Since the reintroduction of Stage 4 Lockdowns Ella Mason, owner and founder of The Pony Club Gym, has found herself reluctantly having to reach out asking if people are able to take out some little memberships she has made up to help raise money for the gym, as it is closed and business is not going ahead under the level 4 lockdown in Victoria. 

The landlord is still charging the full rent during this time. 

Ella has attempted to reach out to the government for support through the small business scheme they have, however, is not eligible as she is a sole trader and has no staff working under her.

Both her and her partner are unable to work due to COVID-19, so they do not have the funds after paying for their own accommodation for them and their children without government benefits

She added, “As much as I love my gym, the accommodation and food for my family is more important than the rent at the gym – if it comes to it I will take the landlord to VCAT.”

 As a queer person you can face difficulty in find spaces where there is no discrimination or judgement, especially in a place of fitness – working out can put people in a vulnerable state, being all sweaty and clothes sticking to you. 

A member of the LGBTQI community Ella Mason, has set the tone for gyms, by opening an inclusive strength training gym. 

On the search for a change, Ella started Olympic weightlifting training with one coach and then moved on to be coached by Chris Ciancio, the son of Australian Olympian Nick Ciancio.

Through this training she built such a love for the sport that she commenced her education to become a personal trainer – through all of this she was delighted to find herself becoming physically strong but mentally strong also. 

 Star Observer spoke with Ella who said, “After working as a social worker with youth in homelessness for 20 years, in 2018 I decided to give that up and thought it might be nice to set up a gym in my garage to train just a couple of people, in a space where they can feel comfortable to be who they are, in their authentic selves. The clients just grew from there and this would become The Pony Club Gym.

“Something that went from just being a small scale idea to having a lot of people wanting to come and train with me, either weightlifting or strength training. People who are both clients and members of the gym, ranging from members of the LGBTQI community to cis gendered heterosexual people and this encouraged me to seek a larger space, which was set to open in March, but did not happen due to COVID-19.”

Through training I have been nominated for the Australian Pride in Sports Awards by clients of the gym for the Inclusive Coach Award. 

The Australian Pride in Sports Awards is Australia’s national bench marking instrument for the inclusion of people with diverse sexuality and genders within Australian sport, endorsed by Sport Australia and the Australian Human Rights Commission. In addition, coaches, role models, allies and community groups will be recognised for their contribution to LGBTQI inclusion in Sport, based on nominations submitted by the wider community.

Winner is will be nominated on September 30.

 Ella is quite active on the gym’s Instagram and through a very trying time, which is COVID-19, she has used her platform of the gym’s page to raise money for others who are suffering during a time which seems to be not-so-forgiving such as the Sex Workers Emergency Fund and Pay The Rent.

For the LGBTQI community there has been a fight for us to be seen as equal physically and mentally – exercising frequently can reduce your stress and symptoms of mental health and inclusive environments and people like this can make the community feel safer and stronger in many ways than one.

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