World-first researcher recognised at Vic Sport Awards

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Leading the way: Erik Denison (right) and his husband Kevin Perry are stoked to see Erik get nominated for a Victorian Sports Award. Picture: Fleur Darren

AFTER spending more than a decade making sport more inclusive, Frankston resident and Monash University lead researcher Erik Denison is being acknowledged for his hard work with a nomination at the Victorian Sport Awards.

Denison has been nominated for the inaugural Peter Norman Inclusion Award for his world-first research which looks into the prevalence of homophobic and sexist language within sporting clubs and how best to find a solution to the issues.

The winner of the inaugural Peter Norman Inclusion Award will be announced at the Marvel Stadium, Docklands on Wednesday 20 February along with several other Victorian Sport Awards.

Denison, who only moved to Victoria in 2017, said it’s a huge honour to be nominated.

“I’m relatively new to Victoria in terms of living here but it’s been great with everyone being super supportive and welcoming when looking at these issues,” Denison said.

“I’ve been trying to understand why kids use this homophobic and sexist language in sport as banter as well as trying to find a way to keep girls involved and playing sport in these hyper-masculine sporting clubs.

“It makes me sad to see any decline in participation.”

Denison has been working alongside sporting clubs such as the professional rugby union team, Melbourne Rebels, and the semi-professional ice hockey team, Melbourne Mustangs, in trying to find a solution.

“We’ve been trying to see what works and what doesn’t in trying to prevent this language within sporting clubs,” he said.

“Rugby has been a real leader and has been super brave in looking into these issues as not many clubs would want to dissect and possibly admit to having an issue like this.

“It’s great that they want to be leaders and by doing this it opens them up as being an inclusive sport and I’m sure it’ll increase participation for them.”

The world-first research which Denison has been doing with the faculties of arts and education, at Monash University has been different to most as it focusses on finding a solution to the problem rather than identifying it.

“Everyone is focussed on finding the problem but we know there’s a problem and now we need to look into finding a solution as to why there is this homophobic language and why girl’s continue to leave sport,” he said.

“No one was doing this research when I started but once you get the ball rolling people want to follow and then there’s a bit of competition where everyone tries to outdo each other which is great as that only helps improve the cause.

“It’s a cool feeling that Frankston and Monash is the first ever to do this sort of research and now places like Canada and the US are becoming interested so just by doing this people are starting to follow on.”

Also being nominated for an award at the Victorian Sports Awards is the Mornington Peninsula Shire and the Frankston and District Netball Association.

The Mornington Peninsula Shire has been nominated for the Local Government Initiative Award for their All Abilities Day and Fit and Fun initiatives. While the Frankston and District Netball Association has been nominated for the Sport Development Initiative Award thanks to their Walking Netball initiative.

First published in the Frankston Times – 15 January 2019

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