Researcher Wins Victorian Sport Award For World-First Homophobia Study


Erik Denison
Photo: Rugby Victoria

Monash University researcher Erik Denison has received a Victorian Sport Award for his work on a world-first trial of a program designed at end homophobic language in sport.

The Victorian Sport Awards honours outstanding contributions to sport in Victoria across 19 categories, and Mr Denison (pictured, second from right) was awarded the inaugural Peter Norman Inclusion Award at the ceremony on Wednesday night for his efforts.

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The program was delivered during the 2018 season to teenage rugby teams by current and recently retired players from the Melbourne Rebels, with the support of Rugby Victoria.

Mr Denison’s research, by Monash University’s School of Social Sciences, also looked at why homophobic and sexist language is so common in male team sports and to what extent the language drives females away from sport.

Preliminary results of the research were released last August, and it found the use of homophobic slurs on the rugby field was widespread.

But the study found a disconnect between players’ positive attitudes towards gay people and their use of the homophobic language, suggesting education could change players’ attitudes towards the use of the language.

After receiving the award at the ceremony at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne’s Docklands on Wednesday, Mr Denison said the honour recognised the work of a large group of people, including leaders within Victoria’s rugby union community.

“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. This was not our experience with rugby.

“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.

“This level of engagement is unheard of when conducting this type of research.”

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 is committed to developing, administering and promoting Rugby in Victoria while ensuring it is a game for all,” Evans said.

“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.”