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Jason Ball (born 16 January 1988) is an Australian LGBTI and mental health advocate and political candidate. He is standing as the Australian Greens candidate for the next Australian federal election in the division of Higgins. In 2012 he was the first male Australian rules football player to come out as gay.[1][2][3][4]

Background and early lifeEdit

Ball attended high school at Yarra Valley Grammar and completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne in 2010. He played for the Yarra Glen Football Club in the Yarra Valley Mountain District Football League until taking time off in 2015 due to injury.

Ball credits his rural upbringing for fostering an interest in protecting the environment, and a high school exchange to Kansas for awakening an interest in critical thinking, philosophy and secularism.[5][6]

ActivismEdit

AFL anti-homophobia campaign Edit

Ball started a petition on change.org on 9 September 2012 that called on the Australian Football League (AFL) to play No To Homophobia ads on the big screen of the 2012 AFL Grand Final and also commit to a Pride Round in 2013. The petition received almost 30,000 signatures and gained national and international media coverage.[7][8][9][10] The AFL aired No to Homophobia ads during the preliminary finals that year.[11]

Ball led the 18th Pride March Victoria with his teammates from the Yarra Glen Football Club. He was joined by AFL footballers Brock McLean and Daniel Jackson, marking the first time AFL players had been involved in the event.[12][13]

In January 2013, he addressed AFL draftees at the AFL Players Association's induction camp in to speak about homophobia in sport.[14] In May 2013 the AFL Players Association launched a campaign for International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) called 'Footy4IDAHO' inspired by Jason's story.[15][16] The campaign featured well-known football players such as Jobe Watson, Scott Pendlebury and Andrew Swallow who made a public pledge to never use homophobic language.[17]

Pride Cup Edit

On 3 May 2014, Ball's team Yarra Glen and opposition Yarra Junction united for an inaugural Pride Cup to promote inclusion and diversity, which saw the 50 metre lines at each end of the oval painted in rainbow colours. The AFL supported the event by hosting a pre-match function, and General Manager of Football Operations Mark Evans announced that the AFL would support a national Pride Cup, and that it was up to clubs to show interest.[18]

As part of the 2015 Pride Cup, Ball helped foster partnerships between local government and the AFL, Netball Australia, the Victorian Equal Opportunities and Human Rights Commission, Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria and VicHealth.[19][20] As part of the event, anti-homophobia training was provided to players, coaches and officials.[21] The organisers behind the 2015 Cup were awarded a VicHealth Award for building health through sport on 1 December 2015.[22]

Ball spoke to players from the St Kilda Football Club 2014 about his experiences of homophobia in sport, and his involvement was the catalyst for the club to lobby for a future Pride Game as part of their 2016 fixture. A pre-season Pride Game between Sydney and Fremantle in 2015 was seen as a test for future special games.[23] It was confirmed in October 2015 that a pride match will be contested between St Kilda and Sydney in round 21 of the 2016 season.[24]

Mental health and LGBTI inclusion Edit

In 2013, Ball became an ambassador for beyondblue, the Australian national mental health initiative. In this role he has spoken in schools, sporting clubs and conferences, as well as delivered keynote addresses on LGBTI inclusion to companies including ANZ, Goldman Sachs, SEEK and Westpac.[25]

From 2014 to 2015, Ball was an ambassador for Safe Schools Coalition Australia, an organisation which aims to make schools safer and more inclusive for LGBTI students. He spoke at the first National Safe Schools Symposium in Melbourne.[26]

Ball manages industry relationships at the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, a non-profit organisation that explores the role of technology in improving the mental health of young people.[27]

SecularismEdit

Ball was an organiser and spokesperson for the 2010 and 2012 Global Atheist Conventions held in Melbourne, Victoria.[28][29] He presented at the 2012 convention with a talk titled A Fresh Generation of Freethinkers is Among Us.[30] He was also the co-founder and President of the Freethought Student Alliance, a coalition of Australian atheist, secular, humanist and skeptic campus groups.[31]

Awards Edit

Ball was included in The Age's Top 100 most influential Melburnians of 2012 and was among The Advocate's Top 25 Most Notable Comings Out of 2012.[32]

He was named LGBTI Sports Person of the Year at the second annual GLOBE Community Awards in 2015. The awards recognise outstanding contributions and achievements in the LGBTI community in Victoria. He was also a finalist for LGBTI Person of the Year at the same event.[33]

Pop culture and news website Junkee included Ball in The Disruptors, their list of thirty people "changing the game for young Australia". Other disruptors included Waleed Aly, Adam Goodes and Marita Cheng.[34] Ball was also featured in Executive Style magazine's list of The 10 men who mattered in Australia in 2015.[35]

Political candidacyEdit

On 10 August 2015, Ball announced that he was standing as the Greens candidate for the division of Higgins at the upcoming Australian federal election, against current incumbent Kelly O'Dwyer. He stated he wanted his campaign to focus on climate change, asylum seeker policy, science and mental health.[36]

Ball was first drawn to the Greens in 2004, when Australian marriage law was amended by the Labor and Liberal parties to ban same-sex marriage. He later volunteered for Adam Bandt's successful election campaign in the division of Melbourne in 2010.[5]

ReferencesEdit

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  12. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/afl/more-news/afl-players-join-gay-pride-march-for-first-time/story-e6frf9jf-1226567761373
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  18. http://www.theage.com.au/sport/football/the-day-football-burst-with-pride-20140503-zr3w6.html
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  31. http://www.theage.com.au/national/atheist-conventions-first-secular-success-20100312-q499.html
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External linksEdit