Andrew Purchas, founder of Australia’s first gay rugby union club, the Sydney Convicts, has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for “service to rugby union and to the promotion of social inclusion for LGBTI people”.
Purchas was instrumental in bringing the Bingham Cup to Sydney in 2014 and has been the driving force behind a number of anti-homophobia and inclusion initiatives in sport.
He was involved in the Skins ‘Homophobia? Knot me.’ rainbow laces campaign, led the creation of the Pride in Sport Index and played a central role in the formal anti-homophobia commitments signed in 2014 by the CEO’s of five major Australian sports.
While thrilled to receive the honour, Purchas said there was still much to be done.
“This represents the contribution of a large number of people in working towards equality in sport regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said.
“Despite significant social advances in the recognition of rights of gay and transgendered people, discrimination in sport continues to be both common and damaging.
“Without pro-active initiatives, at all levels of sport, this discrimination will continue to have a very negative impact on the ability for LGBT people to enjoy the many benefits that sports offer.”
Sydney Convicts President Don Rose congratulated Purchas and said he “has been a driving force behind the ever-growing landscape of anti-homophobia in sport spanning more than a decade.”
“I have personally witnessed his passion, dedication, and commitment to delivering real change to our community,” Rose said.
“On behalf of the Sydney Convicts, and as an individual who benefits from the work he pioneered, I am extremely grateful for Andrew’s substantial contribution to rugby and LGBT inclusion over many years. Congratulations Fuzz!”
Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver said Purchas had made a major difference to rugby in his time involved with the game.
“I have worked with Andrew many times over the years and have seen his passion around the need to change sporting culture to make it more inclusive of LGBT people,” he said.
“He has been instrumental in Australian rugby’s adoption of policies and programs to address homophobia and ensure everyone feels safe, welcome and included to play and enjoy our sport.
“He is completely deserving of this honour and I offer him Australian rugby’s most heartfelt congratulations.”
Purchas is also chairman of International Gay Rugby and has been on its executive for the past 12 years.
Three gay rugby clubs now operate in Australia, with the Brisbane Hustlers and the Melbourne Chargers joining the Convicts.