Monash University researcher Erik Denison has received the Vicsport 2019 Peter Norman inclusion award for his work on a world-first study testing the effect of a program designed to end homophobic language in sport. The program was delivered during the 2018 season to teenage rugby teams by current and recently retired players from the Melbourne Rebels.
The research by Mr Denison, from Monash University’s School of Social Sciences, also examined why homophobic and sexist language remains so common in male team sports and how this language drives girls from sport.
The research was supported financially by the Federal Government, Rugby Australia, Rugby Victoria, the Woollahra Colleagues Rugby Club and by Australia’s first gay and inclusive rugby team, the Sydney Convicts.
Selected by a panel of industry representatives, Mr Denison was awarded the inaugural honour for pushing the boundaries to prove that real, genuine change can be made to ensure that sport is safe, welcoming, fair and inclusive for all, reflecting Rugby Victoria’s purpose to create a Game for All.
“It was brave of the Victorian rugby community to support this research so strongly,” Mr Denison said. “I know Rugby Victoria says rugby is a ‘game for all’, although sometimes these slogans don’t translate to the grassroots. Everyone involved in rugby, from national, state and club leaders as well as coaches and players supported our research and efforts to end discrimination in all sports.”
In 2018, Mr Denison commenced the undertaking of the world-first studies in Victoria, testing programs to end discrimination, alongside Rugby Victoria and current and former Melbourne Rebels; Tom English, Sam Jeffries, Jordy Reid, Dom Shipperley, Lachlan Mitchell, and James King. “This level of engagement is unheard of when conducting this type of research.”
Mr Denison acknowledges that he could not have implemented the research without an intrust mental group of people who supported the research including Melbourne Chargers Coaching Assistant Mitch Canning, retired Foundation Melbourne Rebel Lachlan Mitchell, and Rebels and Rugby Victoria board member Neil Hay.
Rugby Victoria General Manager Chris Evans congratulated Mr Denison on his achievement and thanked him for initiating and leading this extremely important research project. “Rugby Victoria has taken a step in the right direction by implementing Erik’s research but we need to continue conversations in order to change attitudes and to ensure our Rugby Clubs are welcoming environments for all Victorians.” Mr Evans said.