The Melbourne University Sport is a program that represents the health, fitness, exercise and sports communities for students, faculty, and members of the Melbourne University community. Part of their initiative is ‘Pride in Sport’ that “recognises that all people have the right to freely participate in sport, fitness and recreation to achieve optimal health and wellness.” The program is working to create safe and empowering areas for LGBTQI members of the campus to be able to engage in exercise, fitness and sports.

This goal is being pursued in multiple ways. Through the development of more inclusive policies and protocols to support inclusion and safety of LGBTQI people on campus. Creating a series of workshops and exhibition events that are designed to bring awareness and education to the program. Most importantly, the ‘Pride in Sport’ program is partnering with the various sports teams and clubs at Melbourne University to offer LGBTQI specific programs and promote opportunities to participate in sports.

The newest initiative includes ‘Pride in Sport’ partnering with the Melbourne University Taekwondo Club to offer free self-defense courses for the LGBTQI campus community. Learning self-defense and tactical skills are important for helping to build fitness, conditioning, confidence and strength. All skills that are important for LGBTQI people to have in facing a polarized world often hostile toward LGBTQI people.

The introduction of the program comes just a week after a Melbourne Surge water polo player was a victim of a series of brutal anti-gay assaults that were targeted at attendees of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Self-defense and combat training courses for the LGBTQI community, such as the ones offered by Melbourne University Sport are important for helping to build confidence and empower LGBTQI people to stand up against hate, discrimination and to protect ourselves and each other from violence. Currently the course is only offered to Melbourne University students and faculty, but we hope it will inspire similar programs at other universities.

By Dirk Smith