As part of International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), Football Victoria would like to shine a light on Melbourne University SC, a leader in the inclusivity space among the Victorian football community.
Consistently working to create a welcoming environment, the Club fields the highest number of senior women's teams in the state. Building on this, Melbourne University SC (MUSC) has long embodied the #FootballforALL mentality and has committed itself to promoting the LGBTQIA+ community through programs and inclusion.
Proudly etched on the Club's website in the LGBTQIA+ inclusion resources section sits the statement "We’ve celebrated pride for many years at MUSC, and each season, we try and build on our knowledge and understanding so we can be more welcoming and inclusive of LGBTQIA+ players and coaches.”
The eight page document in itself sets a benchmark for other clubs to look towards in their own efforts to create safe and inclusive spaces for their members and contains a list of definitions that help to better understand key terms, as well as links to many more helpful resources for people to learn more about what it means to foster an inclusive environment.
Club Vice President and State League player Sasha Naidoo spoke fondly about being a part of one of the frontrunner Clubs for inclusion in Victoria.
“It means absolutely everything to me! It feels great to be with a group of people who share the same values and come together to play football even though we lead such different lives outside of MUSC,” Naidoo said.
“I think the main thing we try to do is to make sure our club is a safe space where members of the queer community are celebrated. This starts with our day-to-day actions, where we hold every single member accountable for being inclusive.”
In recent years MUSC has increased the amount of exposure it provides to pride and the LGBTQIA+ community by hosting events continuously increasing its social media presence. This includes the introduction of a Pride Round in 2016, where each season vibrant celebrations have become a major yearly highlight.
Naidoo has personally been a driving force in the way the Club supports and promotes members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
“I think the main thing we try to do is to make sure our club is a safe space where members of the queer community are celebrated. This starts with our day-to-day actions, where we hold every single member accountable for being inclusive,” she said.
“Some of the more concrete actions we’ve taken over the years have included:
- Running our annual pride round and wearing out snazzy pride kits
- Hosting an all-gender games series
- Advocating for the queer community on social media
- Promoting transgender inclusion in sport and;
- Introducing all-gender bathrooms at our pavilion
In 2020 during Pride Month, MUSC released a series of interviews with players talking about the Club’s queer culture and their own identity. Naidoo appears in the first of the series next to fellow club veteran Rachel Taylor Jones (view via the thumbnail below).
In 2021, MUSC once again innovated, hosting the first All Gender Games. Organised by the club’s Pride Ambassador Cat Hoang, the All Gender Games is a sports and community-building initiative catering to trans, gender diverse and queer players during the off season.
Held across four Mondays in April, it consisted of four 7-aside matches each round, followed by a communal dinner for all involved.
The aim of the initiative is to provide a safe space for LGBTQIA+ individuals to participate in sports and connect through similar lived experiences, while simultaneously reaping the mental and physical health benefits of community sport.
We spoke to Hoang about how the concept turned from an idea into a tangible event.
“All Gender Games was brought to me from the (former) MUSC Vice-President in 2020, Anna Leonidas. It was a Change The Game grant from the Office for Women’s Sport and Recreation that other volunteers at the club had worked hard to apply for. We worked closely with Football Victoria, Melbourne Uni, Proud2Play and JoyFM to promote the event,” Hoang said.
Haong added that the events was a massive success, far exceeding the initial expectations of its organisers.
“It was the pilot run of the event so we had no idea what to expect. When the event rolled around the turn out was amazing.”
“I felt like the bonding aspect of the game was important for our community especially coming out from the 2020 lockdowns. It was a very special event and we hope to bring it back later this year.”
Speaking from their own perspective, Hoang speaks openly about their pride in being a part of MUSC.
“Looking around at MUSC as a queer, nonbinary person of colour, I have to say I’ve felt very safe and supported by the community. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of MUSC for the beginning of our journey towards inclusion.”
The key word used by Hoang is ‘beginning’ because while there has already been so much good work, there is still much more that MUSC and all other clubs across the state can do.
In September 2019, MUSC was one of the 31 Melbourne University affiliated sports clubs to sign the MU Sport Pledge of Pride.
"The Pledge is a vow to create and maintain inclusive sporting environments for LGBTQIA+ identifying people, in direct alignment with our recently endorsed LGBTQIA+ Inclusion Policy.” – MU Sport
The policy is the first of its kind to be endorsed by MU Sport and it outlines a zero-tolerance approach to homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and interphobia in sport, and it details the university’s support of participation according to gender identity.
Naidoo commented on the responsibility of university clubs to be as supportive and inclusive as possible.
“Being a university club, many players have found their way to MUSC during the vulnerable and formative years of young adulthood. The club is often one of the first places that players can express their identities, particularly for queer members.”
The MUSC vice-president also recognises the important role the club has as the blueprint for other clubs to follow.
“We interact with so many other clubs, players, administrators, organisations and spectators that our reach is quite large and we will continue to send the same message about our values and the standards that we expect to see in community sport.”
Hoang explains that the club’s affiliation with Melbourne University has assisted its efforts in creating an inclusive space for the queer community.
“MUSC is incredibly blessed to have access to ample resources from our player base and the university to propel our work and I understand that is not the case for many clubs in Victoria.”
They continued to say that every little bit that any club can do counts in helping create safe and supporting environments.
“No matter in what scale, clubs pushing for more inclusion are all doing their bit in changing the culture in sports because sports is for everyone.”
Naidoo concluded that MUSC will continue to find ways to make the club as welcoming as possible for anyone to play.
“Ultimately, you can’t have sport without the players and if we see a barrier to entry into football for someone, we’ll accept the challenge to try to break down that barrier.”