How Qld Rugby League is making the sport a game for all

Members of Queensland Rugby League wear maroon caps supporting the LGBTQIA+ community
Image: QRL

Queensland Rugby League (QRL) is working towards a brighter future for LGBTQIA+ participants in the game. 

The QRL has been working hard to make the sport a ‘game for all’. 

In the words of Chief Executive Officer, Ben Ikin, “I want to make rugby league accessible to more people in Queensland and those that do come into the sport fall in love with it and have a lifelong journey, as I have.” 

The QRL has been looking at their overall commitment to diversity and inclusion through four key pillars – all ages, all abilities, all gender identities and sexualities, and all cultures.

In 2022 the organisation embarked on a learning journey with respect to building its capacity to respond to the unique safety and wellbeing experiences of LGBTQIA+ participants with the organisation engaging in education opportunities to grow its knowledge.  

Gemma Davidson, General Manager of People, Capability and Safety, reflects on the recent addition to the merchandise range to include a pride offering.  

“Over the past 12 months, the QRL have been on an LGBTIQA+ inclusion journey of education and allyship with the guidance and support of Pride In Sport of which we are an active QLD member. The intention of our pride hat is to provide a signal of support and safety for LGBTIQA+ participants who are all welcome in our game as a player, coach, volunteer or spectator,” she said. 

This visible sign of allyship is the latest in a series of actions taken to support and promote LGBTQ inclusion, including updates to QRL Member Protection, whole-of-sport strategy and participation guidelines for trans and gender-diverse players. 

Pride in Sport partnership

The organisation has partnered with Pride in Sport to assist the organisation in developing support for the inclusion of employees, athletes, volunteers and spectators who are gender and sexually diverse. As a result, QRL employees have embraced multiple education opportunities with their 100-strong workforce recently completing LGBTQ awareness and further allyship training. 

This important work is being guided by the QRL’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) committee, as well as the People and Culture team, which in August last year appointed Liberty Jones to the role of social impact and inclusion co-ordinator.

Jones is immensely passionate about making a difference and believes the focus on education is already having a significant impact. 

“This is about working together to ensure all in the rugby league community see it is a safe space,” she said.

“We’ve started a journey and we’re excited about where it will take us. Ultimately, we want to make rugby league a sport for all, and make sure everyone feels welcome whether you are a player, coach, volunteer or spectator.”

Creating a safe place for LGBTQIA+ players

I have also been lucky enough to work as part of the CSR committee. As someone who grew up playing junior rugby league for the Middlemount Panthers in Central Queensland, I am passionate about sports inclusion. 

With this work, Queensland Rugby League is demonstrating longitudinal investment into creating a safe place for LGBTIQA+ participants in the game at every level.

We know that children and young people who identify as LGBTQIA+ experience poorer mental health outcomes and often disengage from sports due to fear, harassment and intimidation.  

The work QRL is actively demonstrating its allyship at an organisational level.  They are saying more that ‘we see you’, they are saying, ‘we want you to be here, to be safe, to be welcome’.  They are saying ‘we want to learn and walk alongside you’.

It is a very exciting time to be watching the game grow inclusion at the grassroots level with such commitment.

The launch of the cap on Maroons Shop coincided with the Brisbane Pride Festival, a month-long celebration for people of diverse genders and sexualities, and those who support them.

Proceeds from the sales of the cap will go towards developing and rolling out a bespoke education program to support rugby league communities throughout Queensland in partnership with Pride in Sport Australia.

Jason Garrick is part of QRL’s CSR committee and is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Jason Garrick

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