Page 991 - Week 03 - Thursday, 10 April 2014

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the AFL, rugby union, NRL, Football Federation and Cricket Australia joined forces to sign a commitment to ensuring that gay, lesbian and bisexual players, coaches, administrators and fans all feel welcome in their sporting codes.

This is apparently the first time in the world that all major professional sporting codes in a country have come together to publicly commit to tackling discrimination based on sexual orientation. To see the leaders and stars of the major sporting codes come together and publicly say, “Whether a person is gay or straight shouldn’t matter in sport. Ability, attitude and efforts is what counts,” is really inspiring, and it certainly gives me hope. I think it is perhaps a long way from some of the history. Mr Barr touched on this and others have in their comments. Various derogatory terms have been standard fare in sporting codes. Many people have been left feeling unwelcome.

I certainly hope this campaign will give hope to many young gay, lesbian and transgender people, whether they are sports people themselves or just sports fans, to know that there is a place for them in Australian sporting life. I think we should be honest that many of these organisations have been slow to change. They have clung to the old ways and, in some cases, have been forced kicking and screaming into the modern world through the scandals and bad behaviour of their players both on and off the field.

But they have had to take a good, hard look at themselves, understand their own internal cultures and work out how to shift those cultures to one that is more open and in line with contemporary community values. It is good to see the sporting codes on the front foot this time making an effort to show that they understand that the world is changing and that the rest of society simply do not accept bigoted behaviour from people who, in other ways, are regarded as role models.

That is something I think is really important to reflect on here. Sporting players, whilst they are very good at the sports they play on the field, also need to understand the role model effect they have. I know that many players do. We have some outstanding role models in sport. Through the course of our work we get to meet some of the ones around town. I really welcome the fact that some of them take that responsibility very seriously. Hopefully, that type of sporting player is the one we will see in the future and not some of the less desirable traits we have seen in the past.

Today in modern Australia we cannot and will not tolerate discrimination and vilification in our society. Of course, we discussed this yesterday in this place when debating how we in the ACT might respond to the proposed changes to the federal Racial Discrimination Act. At the territory level, I think we have a responsibility to step in and fill the gap that might open up if the federal laws are watered down, as has been proposed by the Abbott government.

In looking into the campaign for today’s MPI, I came across a sobering story of how misunderstanding on this issue is still prevalent in the sporting world. Apparently, the English Football League attempted a similar campaign, which it called football versus homophobia. The campaign sought to commit all the clubs to combating homophobia, but unfortunately only 12 of the Premier League’s 20 clubs supported the campaign, and only 17 of the Football League’s 72 clubs came on board. Clearly, there is some

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