While we have seen significant change over the years, diversity in sport still has a long way to go.
Melbourne resident and passionate basketball player, Stella Lesic, is well aware of this need for further change and has been shaking up the way we look at gender diversity in sport, one lay-up at a time as the President and Founder of Melbourne’s first LGBTQI+ basketball club, The Bushrangers.
“The idea had been in my mind for a while when growing up and feeling like an outlier and seeing a lot of my heroes playing basketball who I thought, 'they looked like me, they sounded like me, they acted like me', so I thought that they might be like me too, but they weren’t out. That was really telling to me growing up.”
“There wasn’t really a queer basketball club in Melbourne so it was a really good opportunity to do some socialising and establishing some community without the pressure of drinking alcohol. That’s really where it started.”
Stella mentions that the Bushrangers are all about breaking down stereotypes, even down to the club’s name.
“We often get asked about our name. The club likes to smash gender stereotypes. Essentially, we have taken something people view as ‘male’ (bushrangers) and are using it in a gender diverse space.”
As well as breaking down stereotypes, one of the biggest things the Bushrangers try to promote is visibility.
“We play in local associations, we’re really visible when we play. We wear rainbow socks. It’s pretty clear the kind of club that we are and the community that we’re a part of. I think that, potentially, there’s a 12-year-old me walking around courts, who sees us having a great time, being a bit hopeless but still loving it and thinking 'you know what, I can be like that when I grow up'.”
Earlier this year, the Bushrangers started their ‘Come Out And Play’ campaign, motivated by the idea of wanting to be more visible for other players who may have felt excluded or marginalised because of their gender or sexuality.
“We want you to just come out and play and with that, we’ve got people just coming out to watch. We’ve got super fans that just love coming out and watching D-League basketball now and again . . . It’s really big. It’s growing beyond basketball. It’s creating safe spaces on and off the court. You don’t have to be a basketball player. You just have to be someone that wants to reach out and engage the community.”
Since its humble beginnings at its Melbourne club in 2015, to the expansion through sister clubs in both Auckland and Brisbane, Bushrangers Basketball has grown at an astronomical pace and has no plans of slowing down.
“We have the vision that we can change hearts and minds from the grass roots up and I think that what happens with people and their fears is that when sportspeople are competing in a gender diverse space, people are scared and those fears are unjustified.
“You can have players playing in a gender diverse space and showing inclusivity and that will filter from the bottom up. That’s what my vision is. I hope that in 20 years' time, we won’t be having these conversations and that people feel protected and safe to play at whatever level.”
What do you do in your day-to-day life?I am a designer and theatre maker. My work, in close collaboration with some of Australia’s most exciting artists, (including queer theatre outfit Little Ones Theatre) regularly challenges the patriarchy, works towards decolonisation, and advocates for and supports underrepresented minority identities, particularly people of colour and the queer community.Read more: