Slater and Gordon Ringwood Lawyer, Lauren Bull is the head netball coach at Yarra Glen Football and Netball Club and has been heavily involved in the club and particularly the Pride Round since its inauguration.
Jason Ball made history in 2012 when he became the first Australian Rules footballer to publicly come out as gay. In 2014, his club hosted the inaugural Yarra Glen and Yarra Junction Pride Cup round, which celebrates inclusion and diversity in sport.
The larger football community was inspired by Yarra Glen’s initiative and subsequently launched the AFL’s Pride round in 2016.
We had a chat with Lauren about LGBTI inclusion in sport and her involvement with the Pride Round committee.
What prompted you to get involved with the Pride Round at Yarra Glen?
I have been friends with Jason since we were toddlers so I was so proud to assist this initiative to get off the ground and have continued to support it each year – as a player, coach and committee member. I don’t think people expect a country football and netball club to be at the forefront of a social movement like this one, which was also something that made me so passionate about helping to start it at our club.
What impact has this initiative had on local sport?
I have been lucky enough to be involved in a number of education pieces which we run for our club and the league. We have had a number of players who have previously experienced homophobia or discrimination tell us about the impact of this initiative and how proud they were that it had been started. I recall one young man explaining that he felt excluded to the point where he was contemplating suicide. He saw Jason’s story, came to our event and ended up telling his own football coach and captain his story. They were supportive and he said it has literally changed his life.
We also know from the research of the “Come out to play” study that an overwhelming amount of people do not participate in sport as they feel like they will be excluded based on their sexuality. So of course, initiates like these increase participation but also a warm sense of community that everyone is included and sport has a safe and welcoming place for everyone.
So whilst it has had a large impact on local sport, the numerous personal stories we have heard have been so rewarding.
How do you think sporting clubs can become more inclusive?
I think it’s about leadership and culture. It takes guts for people to stand up for what they believe in and to step in and say something if someone is being discriminated against. At our club now, it’s normal for people to be pulled up if their behaviour or language could be offensive or hurtful.
Our education pieces have reiterated the three E’s:
- Edit your behaviour and language to be more inclusive,
- Educate people with the impacts and effects of homophobic language or behaviour;
- Echo your support when other people stand up to homophobia
We are incredibly proud to support equality and diversity throughout Australia, and equally proud to have Lauren as a colleague at Slater and Gordon.
The AFL’s Pride Game will be held again between the Sydney Swans and St Kilda in round 18, where the 50-metre arcs on the field will be painted in rainbow colours to celebrate the occasion.