A handful of prominent advocates in Australia’s LGBTI community have been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for their work in advancing diversity and inclusion in the country.

The founder of Australia’s first gay rugby club Andrew Purchas, human rights advocate Jacqueline Stricker-Phelps, and volunteer Dr Darryl Gauld were awarded the prestigious medal, highlighting their longstanding work within and for the LGBTI community.

Purchas founded the Sydney Convicts in 2004 to provide gay men with a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment to play and enjoy sport.

He also led the creation of the Pride in Sport Index, the world’s first program to measure the progress made by sports bodies in addressing homophobia and making their sports inclusive of LGBT people.

Has also played a central role in convincing the CEOs of five of Australia’s major sports – the ARU, AFL, NRL, FFA, and Cricket Australia – to sign formal commitments to ‘eliminate’ homophobia from their respective sports.

Purchas said he was honoured to receive the medal.

“I am thrilled and honoured to receive this award which reflects the contribution of many people in working towards equality in sport regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said.

“Despite significant social advances in the recognition of rights of gay and trans people, discrimination in sport continues to be both common and damaging.

“Without pro-active initiatives at all levels of sport, this discrimination will continue to have a very negative impact on the ability for LGBT people to enjoy the many benefits that sport offers.”

Sydney Convicts President Dan Rose said the team was proud of Purchas for receiving the award.

“I’ve personally witnessed his passion, dedication, and commitment to delivering the real change to our community,” he said.

“On behalf of the Sydney Convicts, and as an individual who benefits from the work he pioneered, I’m extremely grateful for Andrew’s substantial contribution to rugby and LGBT inclusion over many years.”

Community health organisation ACON, where Purchas currently works as Vice President for, also commended him on his medal.

Purchas was elected to the ACON board in 2006 and has served as Vice President since 2008, helping the team to establish a number of Pride in Sport initiatives.

ACON President Justin Koonin said he was a well-deserving recipient of the medal.

“Through his work at ACON he has helped shape how our community has responded to a broad range of issues related to HIV prevention, HIV support, and LGBTI health,” he said.

‘In particular, his contribution to our Pride in Sport initiative is helping change the face of sport in Australia by successfully addressing homophobia and transphobia both on and off the field.”

Stricker-Phelps was awarded the OAM after nearly 20 years of advocating for same-sex marriage and child protection, as well as her service in the community in the areas of human rights and social welfare.

She was pushed into activism after New York wedding with partner Kerryn made headlines in 1998.

In a report on Channel 9 news, Stricker-Phelps said she felt proud to receive the medal.

“It’s just really amazing that I’ve been honoured, and I am really, really proud to be an Australian,” she said.

Dr Darryl Gauld was awarded the OAM for “service to education, and to social justice and human rights.”

Through Gauld’s collaboration with many groups, he has achieved this respect through his volunteer work as a leader, mentor, committee member, manager, and fundraiser for key LGBTI organisations.

He has also developed a number of policies, programmes, and events, which support opportunities for students and teachers to take lead roles in their school and community on issues that concern LGBTI people.

The Order of Australia is the pre-eminent way Australians recognise outstanding members of the community at a national level and nominations are encouraged by all members of the Australian public. Find out more here.

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