By Will Hunter
The Peanut Farm was awash with dazzling colour on Saturday afternoon as the SFNL community proudly threw its support behind the LGBTI community.
Division 1 clubs St Kilda City and St Pauls took the lead in competing for the inaugural Pride Shield, while the Saints also hosted a cocktail function to promote acceptance and inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and to send a powerful message that homophobia can no longer be accepted in both sport and society.
The afternoon’s festivities were organised to coincide with St Kilda’s AFL Pride Game against the Sydney Swans at Etihad Stadium later that evening, which is believed to be the first of its kind in profession sport.
Rainbow balloons formed an arch leading toward the Peanut Farm pavilion, where more rainbow balloon arrangements decorated the Saints’ social rooms.
On the field, the 50m arcs were painted in rainbow colours, the goal umpires waved rainbow flags for every score and all senior players on both sides wore rainbow laces in the boots as a show of solidarity for the LGBTI community.
The function itself was well attended and featured several high-profile guest speakers.
Yarra Glen centre half back and beyondblue
Ambassador Jason Ball, who was the first footballer to come out as gay at any level, spoke at length about his experiences as a gay man in a club environment.
Since coming out in 2012, Ball has become a strong advocate for equality for the LGBTI community.
Victoria’s first Gender and Sexuality Commissioner, Rowena Allen, and the State Minister for Equality, Martin Foley, also addressed attendees of the function.
Current statistics show around 60% of same-sex attracted and gender questioning young people have experienced verbal abuse because of their sexuality, while 18% have experienced physical abuse.
Because of these high levels of discrimination, LGBTI people are three times more likely to experience depression and have rates of attempted suicide up to 14 times higher than their heterosexual peers.
These are alarming figures, but although both Allen and Ball conceded there is still work to be done, they lauded the outstanding work of St Kilda City, St Pauls and the Southern Football Netball League in bringing the hardships faced by LGBTI people to the attention of grassroots sporting clubs and championing change within society to remove the stigma attached to homosexuality.
Allen was also invited to toss the coin before the senior match as part of the pre-match festivities.
St Kilda City’s Division 5 Netball coach Te Ua Houkamau, himself a gay man and a talented opera singer, performed a beautiful rendition of the national anthem as the senior players and umpires flanked the large painted #playwithPRIDE text that adorned centre wing.
The match itself was a thrilling contest as the Doggies came from behind to defeat the Saints by 23 points and claim the inaugural Pride Shield.
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The rainbow arch greeted people at the Peanut Farm.[/caption]
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From left: David Coutts (SFNL Chairman), Mike Lloyd (St Pauls FNC President), David Cannizzo (SFNL CEO), Lisa Laing (St Kilda FC General Manager - Customer & Community), Jason Ball (LGBTI advocate), Rowena Allen (Gender and Sexuality Commissioner), Nick Porter (St Kilda City FNC President), Martin Foley (Minster for Equality), Chyloe Kurdas (AFL Victoria Female Development Manager)[/caption]
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The players line up for the anthem.[/caption]
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Rowena Allen tosses the coin.[/caption]
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The rainbow 50m arcs added to the colour of the day.[/caption]
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The goal umpire waves his rainbow flags.[/caption]