Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 - Judie Gade
Acceptance of “DIFFERENCE” is important for any culture to function fairly in a socially inclusive, equitable and non-discriminatory manner. Accepting homosexuality as an integral part of our culture supports the values of Australia as a country.

These values are taught daily in our schools – accepting people regardless of colour, race, religion and sexual orientation, especially in secondary schools. However these are often ineffective due to parental or familial influences which ‘condition’ children negatively, usually due to ignorance of facts, inherited attitudes or fear of the ‘unknown’. This further spills over into the playground, by more dominant personalities, further creating a vicious, generational cycle.

Children are most easily influenced by parents. Taking positive action and having the courage to show leadership, such as Jason Ball has done, is integral to achieving change. Jason has ‘tackled’ the AFL culture head on, becoming the gay ‘voice of reason’ in a world that previously omitted homosexuality from being recognised by the AFL.

This young man stood up, intelligently made his plea and structured his campaign – and the AFL bosses took notice. He obviously has parents who instilled a sense of fairness in him, the integrity to stand up without fear and the confidence to speak up to right this cultural wrong. His football team mates, rightfully, support his stance and campaign.

The AFL as an organisation is growing up. Under the leadership of Andrew Demetriou, it supported the No to Homophobia campaign by playing advertisements on the scoreboards at last Saturday’s preliminary final game between Sydney and Collingwood. They were produced by unified gay rights and social justice groups. It was a team effort in the truest sense of the description.

Before the game started, the announcer made certain the public was attentive by saying:
“As part of its commitment to making football a game for everyone, the AFL is proud to support a new campaign to tackle homophobia. This campaign aims to remind people that discrimination in any form is never acceptable – whether it’s on the footy field or in everyday life.”

ONE VOICE can make a change. Jason’s voice has already impacted on the AFL. Gay Rights and Social Justice groups have been an influence on this action. Andrew Demetriou’s voice, and influence, plus our collective voices as communities, will support these efforts and keep the momentum going.

It is still not DEFINITE that there will be a Pride Round but with your help, by signing Jason Ball’s petition for the Pride Round, maybe the AFL hierarchy will see this is the right, equitable and socially just stance to take?

If the Pride Round is supported by the AFL, it should be a permanent fixture in the AFL calendar, just as the support that is given to Indigenous players. However, the AFL will need to carry their influence further, into the corporate sector, communities and schools, both city and regional, state by state.

The support by the AFL of the “No to Homophobia” campaign is a beginning. However attitude and culture change needs to filter from the “top-down” and infiltrate all levels of the football club culture, not only within the clubs’ hierarchy but also within the ranks of membership.

NO EXCUSESan “Intolerance Policy” towards homophobia at every level of the AFL, beginning with the clubs and filtering through to supporters is a start. Discriminatory behaviour should not be acceptable, regardless of social OR club standing.

The AFL should make it mandatory that clubs’ corporate sponsorship contracts must have a clause stating they will NOT contravene this policy. There needs to be a stance on values across all sectors of the AFL.

Jason Ball’s suggestion of a “PRIDE ROUND”, with an AFL mandate, could be a vital step towards showing the Australian public, that regardless of sexuality, race, religion or gender, this is a national game which is an integral part of our culture and upbringing. Sport, in any form, is for ALL Australians and should be without prejudice or discrimination.

Andrew Demetriou told 3AW that they were considering a PRIDE ROUND. Supporting this as a regular occurrence will have far reaching, health promotion effects, not only within the game’s culture but in societal and community attitudes.

I wonder if Demetriou realises that this has a MASSIVE potential to affect Australian society on multiple levels? I envisage bullying at schools decreasing in some instances, an increase in gay youths’ positive mental health & well-being, which in turn will affect learning outcomes and attendances at school.

Commercially, there will be increases in productivity in businesses due to happier, more socially inclusive & accepting workplaces, increased attendance and lower insurance premiums. Happier people take less sick leave, work more productively, show more loyalty & have less work insurance claims for stress.

These outcomes are just the TIP of possible, positive, community effects Australia could envisage – if Andrew Demetriou and the AFL hierarchy have the leadership to SANCTION the Pride Round .

Giving support to the Pride Round will also help gay AFL players to feel confident in being open & comfortable in their sexuality and will decrease rates of depression in these athletes. These players will in turn give young, gay athletes mentors and positive role models to emulate.

I see this as a step forward in acceptance of what others may see as a ‘difference’, issues that remain “hidden” due to feelings of inadequacy, possible shame for their difference, fear of discrimination due to misinformation or inadequate education. This simple act of inclusion could filter through to benefit other social groups that are discriminated against.

In an ideal world, DIFFERENCE of any kind may be seen in a positive light, given the public is educated to correct inadequate & misleading information. I hold on to that with HOPE.

Yes, we have a young Hero in our midst, a courageous young man who put his own fears aside and decided enough was enough. Jason Ball, if you were my son I would be so incredibly proud of you – because you stand for what is good in society & the values we try to instil in our children.

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Judie Gade


Judie Gade has a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Psychology from Deakin University. She also has Health Promotion, Journalism & Children's Literature qualifications.
Judie Gade
P: 0410402404
W: judiegade.com.au

Keywords

AFL, gay, gay pride, sport, football, equity, social inclusion, health, health promotion, no to homophobia, campaign, Jason Ball

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