IN what is believed to be an Australian government first, the Victorian Government has kicked off an initiative to wipe out homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in sport at all levels across the state.

VicSport and the state government have teamed up to run the Pride in Victorian Sport initiative, which aims to begin a dialogue with sporting associations about how best to make their sports more inclusive.

At the launch in Melbourne today, attendees heard from sportspeople and experts about how homophobia prevented many people from becoming involved in sport, including Angie Greene who runs Stand Up events – a not-for-profit organisation which tackles homophobia in sport.

Greene comes from an impressive sporting pedigree; her grandfather Frank Sedgman won five grand slam tennis tournaments, her father and brother played AFL for the Hawthorn Football Club, with her dad being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.

She has seen firsthand the impact homophobia in sport has had on her family.

“I have two brothers, one who played AFL and the other one who is gay,” she said.

“My gay brother only felt comfortable playing individual sports rather than team sports. I witnessed firsthand the two different experiences of my two brothers.”

The Pride in Sport team was represented by Ross Wetherbee who said he had never seen such terrible results from an inclusivity survey as in the 2015 Out on the Fields study which showed all sports in Australia had a grave problem with LGBTI-phobia and less than one per cent of LGBTI spectators said they felt safe being themselves at sports games.

“We have worked closely with SKINS (athletic wear company) and Jamie (Fuller, SKINS executive chairman), told me he has spoken to top tier Olympians who when they’re on the dias accepting their medal are told to ‘suck it up’ because it is the best moment of their lives,” he said.

“But they said in that moment, they felt like the wanted to flee the world stage, because there they couldn’t be themselves.”

A man who helped spearhead the Pride in Victorian Sport initiative was Steve Blunt, president of the Victorian Seals National League Water Polo Club, who said the initiative was the first step in sporting associations beginning a conversation amongst themselves about how to become more inclusive.

“We’re not aware of anybody else that’s done something like this, to bring in all of the sporting codes, to bring in the government together. We hope that other states will follow he said,” he said.

“I think the work that Ro (Rowena Allen, Gender and Equality Commissioner) does and the fact that she was appointed is a credit to the government.

“Sport can be a great environment for the community, we all want to be able to participate in some form of physical activity, but as we heard today there can be barriers to that and if we can through our dialogues, remove some of those barriers, that would be great.”

AFL Victoria was one of the sports at today’s launch and its spokesperson said it attended because it was “AFL Victoria’s vision is to be the most accessible sport for all Victorians”.

“We are continually looking at ways to strive towards the achievement of this vision and our support of today’s Pride in Victoria event is one of many ways  in which we are creating an inclusive sporting environment,” he said.

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