Radio presenter and writer Jacqueline Shields has reached out to inclusive sporting clubs across the country to find clubs that are ready to welcome you in 2024!
Embarking on new challenges and focussing on wellbeing are more often than not front of mind as we enter a new year. But sometimes, thinking about trying a new sport can be really daunting. If your goals for 2024 include getting fit and healthy, expanding your social circle and making new friends, there are some wonderful inclusive sporting clubs around the country that are ready to welcome you in.
Inclusive sports are a safe space for the Rainbow community where everyone is welcome, included and encouraged to give sport a go. They are designed so that you can turn up on your own, not needing all the sporting equipment, not knowing the rules, and you don’t even need to be particularly sporty! The focus is not on whether you win or lose, but on whether you are having fun, making friends and feeling connected on and off the field.
The queer sporting scene across Australia is thriving at the grassroots level with a rapidly growing network of inclusive clubs, teams and leagues keen to have you join them. With the explosion of passionate volunteers devoting their time, energy and enthusiasm to championing sport comes an exciting change of narrative. Sport is increasingly becoming an environment which provides a go-to-place for support, a sense of pride and where the LGBTIQA+ community can be their authentic selves.
So if you’re thinking about giving sport a go in 2024, here are some clubs and organisations across the country that are definitely worth a google!
Brisbane Frontrunners and Walkers Group – a fabulously social club for runners, joggers and walkers promoting a healthy and active lifestyle for the LGBTIQA+ community of South East Queensland. Image supplied.
The Team Brisbane Sports website boasts twenty-two all-inclusive recreational and team sporting clubs across Brisbane and southeast Queensland. This has jumped from only four when Robert De Roos, President of Team Brisbane Sports arrived in Brisbane in 2003. The aim of the site is to help people find LGBTIQA+ friendly sports and to support new and existing clubs steadily grow their membership.
“You can’t attend everything at once there is just so much going on. There are three or four LGBTIQA+ inclusive sporting events on every night here in Brisbane,” De Roos boasts of the sports on offer.
“On Monday I have a choice between running with the Brisbane Frontrunners and Walkers Group or basketball with the Brisbane Spectres. On Tuesday it’s soccer training with Brisbane Inferno or running with the Zoomies.
“On Wednesday it’s rugby with the Brisbane Hustlers. Thursday I have choices between running with the Brisbane Frontrunners and Walkers Group, swimming with Aqualicious, or water polo with the Brisbane Tritons. On Friday it’s volleyball with the Brisbane Spikers and on the weekend, I can go hiking with the Outtrekkers.
“I’ve basically got every day of the week organised for myself months in advance”.
In the 1980’s before the days of the internet, Facebook and apps, Team Brisbane Sports was one of the few ways the local LGBTIQA+ community was able to communicate. Now there is a thriving sporting network connecting the community with Team Brisbane Sports still playing a central role in helping people find LGBTIQA+ friendly sports and promoting inclusiveness, acceptance and healthy lifestyles.
Brisbane Tritons – Queensland’s first and only LGBTIQA+ inclusive water polo club founded in 2015 with over 80 active members. Image supplied.
In Western Australia, the LGBTIQA+ sport scene is equally extensive as it is exciting. Team Perth started in the early 2000’s in preparation for the 2002 Sydney Gay Games. Headed up by President Justin Barnes, the group supports twenty-six local LGBTIQA+ sporting clubs from artistic swimming with the Perth Sea Dragons, Australian rules football with the Perth Hornets, netball with the Shooting Stars, and basketball with the Perth Spectres.
You name it, they’ve got a club making a positive difference to the lives of LGBTIQA+ people through sport! And if they don’t, they are super keen to get one up and running!
Each November is where sport reaches fever pitch in Perth. It’s a month full of fun sporting activities and parties as part of Pride WA PrideFEST, the annual LGBTIQA+ arts, cultural and community festival.
“There is an explosion of inclusive sport happening in WA with clubs that are all LGBTIQA+ safe places for people in Perth to play a range of different sports,” Barnes explains.
“One of the reasons I’m part of Team Perth is because there is a great opportunity for people like me who are not team sport people who have potentially not had great experiences in our younger days and steered clear of sport because of that.
“I think LGBTIQA+ sporting communities have really created a safe place for all different people at all different levels. I have built such an amazing friendship group because of this community that I just feel the need to give back now because of my experience”.
One event which takes the cake during PrideFEST is the Faction Carnival an open event for people of all different skill levels to take part in an old school carnival as an adult.
“Each person is allocated one of the six colours from the Pride Rainbow Flag to wear on the day which is their faction also known as ‘house’,” Barnes details. “Coloured tutus and wigs are encouraged. No-one is picked last. What better way to re-write the narrative and reclaim sport as a safe space where you can participate and be celebrated?
“Everyone has a great time making new friends with some classic running and relay races, leader ball, tunnel ball and a handbag toss thrown in for good measure!”
Team Perth Faction Carnival fun at PrideFEST 2023 going great guns with a game of tunnel ball in full force. Image credit: Josh Wells.
Darwin is also staking its claim as a contender for the biggest array of inclusive sporting clubs in Australia. Top End Pride started in 1995 and is run by nine passionate volunteers.
“We are really focusing on a sports portfolio that is inclusive of every single person in the community with all the diverse personalities, cultures, ages and every aspect that we have here,” shares Jarrod Chakos from Top End Pride. “We want sport to bring people together, for it to bond them, for people to participate and be happy. The feedback is that people are finding it refreshing meeting people outside of the typical club or bar scene.”
The annual Darwin Pride event held in late June is largely a community and small business owner supported initiative running across four days. It’s the leading Pride Festival in the Darwin region with the sport program an increasingly important component. The successful rollout of an ambitious sporting line up of events is indicative of the overwhelming support from the local community for members of the Rainbow community to be involved in sport and exercise.
“There was an amazing Park Run activity with a catered breakfast, the iconic NT Santos City2Surf run/walk event, and the F45 Training Darwin team were equally passionate supporters,” Jarrod says.
“They held a Pride class for all their members including allies with Rainbow flags everywhere. We’re absolutely blown away by the positivity shown towards us through holding these sporting events and are excited to be bigger and better next year!”
The winning team for the Top End Pride netball competition last year. Image supplied.
New South Wales
There are over forty inclusive sporting clubs and groups in Sydney, a city known as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. Home to the annual three week long Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade and Festival, a celebration of diversity and inclusion for the world’s LGBTIQA+ community, there is no shortage of LGBTIQA+ inclusive sports teams, clubs, and organisations for you to join.
Team Sydney Sports is a great resource connecting clubs and community through sport. Formed in 1982 it was responsible for bringing the Gay Games to Sydney in 2002.
Secretary Norman Mitchell has been volunteering with the team for over ten years. He says, “in the last few years the growth in new clubs has been phenomenal”.
There is a common theme in the inclusive sporting scene of encouraging newbies to simply turn up, give any sport a go and have fun which Mitchell advocates for having experienced personally the variety of inclusive sports on offer.
“I’ve done dragon boat racing with the Different Strokes Dragon Boat Club, ten-pin bowling with the Sydney Rams, touch football with the Sydney Convicts, and squash with Rainbow Racquets Squash Sydney. There are so many choices out there now.
“I say to everyone keep trying sports until you find one you like, join one and become part of the club, the social scene, and make some good friends”.
Sydney Women’s Baseball League (SWBL) offering a social, friendly and LGBTIQA+ inclusive baseball competition in Marrickville. And the proud winners of Team Sydney Sports’ annual AJB Insurance Tug of War at Fair Day. Image supplied.
Melbourne Rainbow Golfers – an inclusive golf group for the LGBTIQA+ community and friends creating a safe space so that everyone can enjoy the great game
In Melbourne, the sporting capital of Australia, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to a vibrant LGBTIQA+ sport offering. Twenty-seven sports clubs took part in the annual Midsumma Pride March in February 2023 as part of the Midsumma Carnival proudly marching the length of Fitzroy Street to the cheers of the 45,000 strong crowd. We can look forward to even greater participation at the event this year where parade, pride and party come together once again on Sunday 4 February.
Each year in late January the Proud2Play Midsumma Carnival Sports Precinct is the ideal place to learn more about LGBTIQA+ inclusive sport across Victoria. This year over thirty diverse sports groups and organisations participated from Combat Sports and Martial Arts, Roller Derby, Quadball, Kickball, basketball and volleyball. If you missed it, be sure to head to the Proud2Play website or google some of the above sports to connect with a club and find out more information.
Shuttlecats’ members proudly marching at Midsumma Pride March 2023. Shuttlecats is an LGBTIQA+ social badminton club for queer women, transgender women, non-binary individuals and their allies. Image supplied.
Find your sport and your space
LGBTIQA+ sport clubs offer more than a chance to give sport a go. The Sydney Silverbacks Wrestling Club run trivia nights, the Brisbane Hustlers rugby club have a Fluro Disco. The Perth Spectres put on a gala ball where Andrew Steers, Vice-President of the inclusive swimming club the Perth Rainbow Swans says was “quite honestly the best night of my life”. There is something for everyone.
“It’s not just a sporting team. You are making these amazing friendships and being part of a family like community,” Chris Marr, former President of the Perth Rams Rugby Union Football Club says.
“I just want to stress the importance sporting clubs in general are to the Rainbow community in so many ways. It’s not just about fitness, there are so many factors – you build up this strong community, it’s great for your mental health, it’s great for getting a support network around you.”
The Perth Spectres, Perth’s LGBTIQA+-friendly basketball club having a ball at their circus-themed Basket-Ball fund raising event. Image supplied.