Sport’s ability to unite communities will be underlined in Hamilton on Saturday afternoon.
The Hamilton Kangaroos Football Netball Club is using its Hampden league fixture with South Warrnambool to change community attitudes and make people aware it is OK to be gay.
The Kangaroos will wear jumpers carrying rainbow colours symbolising the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans-gender and Intersex flag.
The message the club wants to send is that people in the south-west should be comfortable to be themselves. If sporting clubs can take that stride, then that will be a significant step forward to achieving acceptance and understanding in the broader community.
Former Hamilton twin brothers Charles and Lachlan Beaton are the Kangaroos’ inspiration.
“I almost lost my twin brother because he thought it wasn’t ‘OK’ to be gay,” Charles said.
“He hated himself. That is what I want to stop happening. I am lucky to still have him, but I want to make sure others don’t go down the same path of hiding who they are, which sadly leads to mental health issues (and) suicide.”
Charles (pictured) is the co-founder of the Gay? That’s OK! organisation, which aims to give individuals and sporting and community groups the opportunity to send a message to young people that it’s OK to be gay.
The Kangaroos’ pride initiative is more than a game. The messages go further.
They will raise the profile of women’s football with VFLW sides Darebin Falcons and Melbourne University playing for premiership points. Cavendish export Emma Kearney, a star with AFLW club Western Bulldogs, will be the headline act.
Both clubs wanted to be part of the pride game and promote the messages associated with it but their presence will also help highlight the opportunities women deserve and that they should not face any gender-based barriers to success in sport, business and careers. The number of women’s football sides in the region is growing – mirroring the successful AFL initiative earlier this year.
The Roos are also staging an all-abilities game – giving people with disabilities a chance to showcase their skills and love of the game. The initiative sends a powerful message not only to other clubs but the broader community – we need to be inclusive regardless of gender, sex, ability, status and history.