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Anti-homophobia campaign targets sport fans

Anti-homophobia campaign targets sport fans
May 28, 2010

Days after AFL player Jason Akermanis controversially urged gay players to stay in the closet, the code has renewed an anti-homophobia campaign.

Last week, Akermanis used his column in Melbourne's Herald Sun to suggest that the code was not ready for openly gay players because team-mates would be uncomfortable in the showers.

The campaign has been created by the Youth Mental Health Foundation, Headspace and the AFL Players Association.

The video features the words of North Melbourne player Drew Petrie and Hawthorn Premiership player Brad Sewell, along with previously-released images of past and present AFL players and coaches holding signs voicing their views on homophobia.

The images were originally used in an internet campaign in the lead up to the recent International Day Against Homophobia.

The campaign had been organised before Akermanis' comments.

Headspace Chief Executive Chris Tanti, explained that "AFL players standing up to homophobia will go a long way to removing the stigma some sections of our community still attach to gays and lesbians.

"We congratulate the AFLPA and the players for their stance against homophobia and hope that other members of the community will show the same integrity as these men."

The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) has also backed the tackling homophobia and has formed a partnership with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) to address homophobic attitudes and behaviour in sport.

ASC Sports Performance and Development Assistant Director Nadine Cohen said that a recent national survey of same-sex attracted young people identified that the second-most threatening environment for abuse was within sport.

Cohen explained "to address these concerns, the ASC and the VEOHRC are trialling a 12 month anti-homophobia project to reduce the experience and impact of homophobia in a national sporting code, which will form the benchmark strategy for other sporting codes and their governing bodies.

"We are working with the VEOHRC to effect cultural and behavioural change in sport across many areas including bullying and harassment, player well-being and discrimination, with a focus on addressing homophobia."

VEOHRC's Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke said the project will aim to saturate one sporting code with a range of resources and information and capacity-building materials to address the issue of homophobia in sport, stating "the pilot program sport will be announced in June 2010.

"In the general sense, we understand sport is a very powerful vehicle to reach the population, to educate and empower, to enable peopleâs voices to be heard."

The project will determine effective ways to create safe and welcoming sporting environments through the prevention of homophobic behaviour. It will also establish how these strategies can be adapted to reduce the occurrence of other discriminatory barriers to sport participation.

Cohen concluded "the ASC is committed to partnering with the sport industry to uphold the principles of fairness, respect, responsibility and safety. Being a part of promoting IDAHO and working with the VEOHRC are some of the initiatives the ASC is focusing on to maximise participation of all Australians in sport, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, sexuality or gender."


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