ALBURY High School is “quite advanced” in its approach to gay issues, the country’s first openly homosexual footballer believes.
Jason Ball visited the school on Tuesday at the invitation of student council president Matt Armstrong.
Ball, a beyondblue advocate who stood for the Greens in last month’s federal election, spearheaded the recent AFL pride match between St Kilda and Sydney.
It was the match, and Ball’s strength after one of his campaign posters was vandalised with homophobic slur, that prompted Matt to reach out.
“There was two teams in this match taking a stand, that whoever you are or identify as, you can still pursue your dreams,” he said.
“That was a big thing for a lot of us and we had a whole bunch of kids going, ‘who’s this Jason Ball guy?’
“I know there’s people at our school who have had the courage to come out, but I do think there are others who feel they don’t have the security to do it.
“By having someone like Jason come and talk, it shows them they can.”
Matt said he was ecstatic when Ball accepted his request.
“I was laying in bed when I got the email from him,” he said.
”It was quite a bit of a shock – I dropped the iPad on my face.”
Ball was proud his message and the pride match had resonated with youth as far away as Albury.
“When I first came out in 2012, I started a petition asking the AFL to do something like this,” he said.
“When they didn’t, my local football club, Yarra Glen, started a pride cup … we painted the 50-metre line rainbow and showed them how it was done.
“Then sure enough, St Kilda and Sydney took it on.”
When Ball spotted Matt’s request, he did some research on the school and was pleased with what he found.
“I was really proud to find out Albury High has joined the safe schools coalition and held Wear it Purple Day,” he said.
“Albury is quite advanced compared to other schools, who are either not a member of the safe schools coalition or have a principal who says ‘we don’t have any gay students at our school’.
“I’m in a privileged position that I have a story that can resonate with the kind of people that need to hear this message.
“It’s a message to people around those afraid to come out – the key to equality and acceptance is in their hands.”
Student council vice president Elyse Hannan said the utter silence in the assembly hall as Ball spoke was telling.
“He closed with ‘It’s not what you say or what you do, it’s how you make people feel that they’ll remember’,” she said.
“That was really powerful.”