Victoria’s 2017 Young Australian of the Year Jason Ball was on the Border promoting sexual equality and mental health awareness this weekend.
Mr Ball has become a national figurehead on combating homophobia in sport and highlighting the damaging impact of homophobia on the mental health and wellbeing of the LGBTI community.
“At the end of the day the values of acceptance, equality and diversity, I think they’re values that almost everyone shares,” he said.
“While some people may resist this change I feel that at the end of the day the values of live and let live should also come through.”
In 2012 Mr Ball, who played football with his home club Yarra Glen in the Eastern Football League, became the first Australian Football player at any level to publicly come out as gay in the national media.
He was behind the AFL’s first Pride Game – between St Kilda and Sydney – last year.
On Sunday morning Mr Ball told his story to the congregation at St Matthew’s church in Albury.
“I’m not a person of faith so I don’t argue from a faith position,” Mr Ball said.
“At the end of the day people have used religion to oppose a range of things, whether it’s the rights of women, the rights of minorities, to resist the abolition of slavery so I think this is the modern-day fight for human rights.
“I think the church in the past has been part of the problem but it’s good to see now, through Father Peter and the community here at St Matthew’s, they really want to be part of the solution.”
He said support of his campaign for respect, equality and mental illness came from all corners of society – from his Yarra Glen football community to all the national political landscape.
“All I share is my story and that allows people to put themselves into someone’s else’s shoes and to feel what it’s like to be excluded or feel like you don’t belong and I think every human being can relate to those emotions,” Mr Ball said.
“… I feel that a lot of opposition comes from pretty simple misunderstandings, the idea sexuality is a choice or something like that.
“But if you understand that sexuality is part of who we are, homosexuality exists in all species in the animal kingdom and to discriminate against someone because of that would be like discriminating against them because of their eye colour.”