Rainbow colours flooded the Traralgon Tennis Association on Saturday as it made history with the first ever Pride in Tennis event.
A star-studded panel led by former tennis champion Jelena Dokic gathered for the Pride in Tennis event to celebrate diversity and inclusion in sport and show support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) community.
Traralgon Tennis Association manager and event organiser Susie Grumley was inspired to deliver a message of inclusion to the broader tennis community after last year’s inaugural Gippsland Pride Cup.
“Just over 12 months ago I said ‘I want to have a pride day here at Traralgon Tennis’,” Grumley said.
“When we went to the footy pride day I was just so humbled by the stories from the local champions … and I went away thinking the tennis club has to do something to promote that awareness that everybody is welcome here at this club.
“All of us take for granted to play sport, go into a team and be accepted … but it’s just not that easy for everybody … and we want to get the word out that they’re very, very welcome.”
Wet weather hampered day one of qualifying for the Traralgon Challenger on Saturday but didn’t dampen the spirits of the 100-strong crowd that gathered to hear from the panel of guest speakers.
Jelena Dokic, transgender athlete Hannah Mouncey, former Glengarry footballer Dean Sutton and Pride Cup founder Jason Ball detailed their stories as members of the LGBTIQ community.
Ball said local sporting clubs such as the Traralgon Tennis Association had the capacity to create “a ripple effect of change” in communities.
“Five years since that first Pride Cup in Yarra Glen … each [of these] events is more powerful than the last, and what we’ve really tapped into is that in regional towns, especially sporting clubs, are the heart of these communities and when they show leadership it changes hearts and minds,” Ball said.
“Traralgon are again raising the bar by having the first ever pride event in tennis.”
Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing was also in attendance on Saturday and spoke about the significance of the Pride in Tennis event for the LGBTIQ community.
“As someone who is the first out woman in Victorian parliament, I can say absolutely that pride is the opposite of shame,” Shing said.
“So many of us come to where we are off the backdrop of an awful lot of shame about who we are, about a fear of not being accepted and a sense of exclusion.
“What we see with events like this is a demonstrated, physical acceptance of people like me and people who exist in every community throughout Gippsland.
“To have events like this today shows just how far we’ve come, and to be able to celebrate the things that we have in common that include our acceptance take us a long, long way away from shame.”
Traralgon Tennis Association’s Pride in Tennis event was supported by AGL Loy Yang, Latrobe Regional Hospital, GippSport and Tennis Victoria.