The 2024 Australian Pride in Sport Awards

Collaroy TennisEvents

by Dave Keogh

On Tuesday April 23rd, I flew to Melbourne at the invitation of Tennis Australia to represent Collaroy Tennis Club at the 2024 Australian Pride in Sport Awards. Tennis Australia had nominated me (Dave Keogh) and therefore the Club, as ‘LGBTQ+ ALLY OF THE YEAR‘ and we were later shortlisted as one of just four Finalists in the category.

The only community club among the Final Four, we were up against some heavy hitting sporting bodies including Football Australia, the National Basketball League and Lacrosse Victoria.

The event was held at Centrepiece – the world-class conference and events venue at Melbourne Park, literally just a decent lob across from Rod Laver Arena. The event attracted some 500 guests from over 25 sports, all of Australia’s major national sporting organisations, government bodies, media representing the ABC and SBS, representatives of the European Union and British Consulate, several major universities from every state and sponsors including HSBC, Nike, Lifeline, ACON, Play By The Rules, Great Southern Bank and RevolutioniseSport.

Decked out in my Collaroy colours, I was invited to sit at one of Tennis Australia’s (T.A.) two tables, along with Nikita Sayle – Head of Inclusion, Diversity & Programming for Tennis NSW (right of main pic. above), Tyler Juel – President of Tennis Sydney, Rowen D’Souza – founder of the AO’s Glam Slam and Dr Ryan Storr – Research Fellow at Swinburne University of Technology and Founder of ‘The Diversity Storr’, which helps organisations to meaningfully engage with issues around diversity and inclusion. Ryan was a fellow panelist at the Australian Open D.E.I. event I attended in January.

I was welcomed by both Nikita and Irena Farinacci – National Inclusion & Diversity Coordinator for Tennis Australia (left of main pic. above) – both of whom are incredibly supportive of and grateful for our Club’s work in this space. As we took our seats, Australian Idol star and multi-platinum selling artist, Emily Williams, took to the stage to perform some classic Soul / RnB hits. She was superb.

I’d hardly had a chance to finish my first glass of sparkling when M.C.  Adam Hills (renowned Host of the ABC’s ‘Spicks & Specks’) thanked Emily and announced the first awards category of the night – which happened to be ours!

All four finalists were projected on the huge screen above the stage, with Collaroy’s achievements in running AO Pride events, our incredibly successful Sydney WorldPride event and our participation in Tennis NSW’s Rainbow Ready Clubs Program listed beneath an image of Justine, Vito and myself, all proudly wearing our Collaroy Pride T-Shirts.

The Award was presented by the British Consulate General, Melbourne who announced the winner as…  Kristen Penny, National Basketball League. Kristen was responsible for introducing ‘Pride Round’ to the NBL and was a deserved winner as ‘Ally of the Year’. So we didn’t bring home the prize, but our nomination and short-listing as a Finalist was definitely noticed by many.

Kerry Tavrou – Head of Inclusion & Diversity at Tennis Australia made a point of coming to my table and congratulating me and the Club for “everything we do to promote inclusion and diversity, in tennis and in your local community”.

Kerry Tavrou (T.A.), right of pic., next to Irena Farinaaci (T.A.), Beau Newell (Pride in Sport) and Nikita Sayle (TNSW) all to left of pic.

Ben Cork – Relationship Manager of Pride in Sport, also came over to offer his congratulations saying that “Rather than using your full name in the Official Program and on the big screen, we were just going to call you ‘Dave from Collaroy’…  because everyone knows you and the Club after the impact you made on the panel at the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (D.E.I.) event at the AO in January.

“The very fact you said that day that the Collaroy committee doesn’t consider your Inclusion program to be any more than any club should be doing, spoke volumes about the forward thinking at the Club. With respect, males of your age and cultural background just don’t often see things as you do. Believe me, what’s happening at Collaroy in this space, IS a big deal.”

Tyler Juel, President of Tennis Sydney said he’d love to talk about running joint events with our Club and Rowen D’Souza of Glam Slam fame also spoke to me in glowing terms of the work we’re doing at Collaroy in terms of providing a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ tennis players.

All in all I felt very proud to be representing Collaroy Tennis Club and realised that we’re being well and truly recognised at the highest level as a Club that embraces and promotes Inclusion and Diversity.

While we missed out on first place in our category, Tennis as a sport fared extremely well. Tennis NSW won the LGBTQ+ INCLUSIVE INITIATIVE AWARD for their Sydney WorldPride Tennis Project, (for which CTC wrote a letter of support). The Rainbow Ready Clubs program in which we participated last year was part of this project.

Dave with Cassie Lindsey (left), Casey Dellacqua and Nikita Sayle, all from Tennis NSW

And both Tennis NSW and Tennis Australia were recognised as achieving Gold Tier Status (2nd highest) in this year’s Pride in Sport Index – a rigorous benchmarking initiative of the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Sports Commission that measures best practice in regard to LGBTQ+ inclusion within Australian sport.

As the night wound down I had the privilege of meeting both Adam Hills and former Manly player and NRL Legend, Ian Roberts – a Patron of Pride in Sport. What a great night!

Here’s to another year of being Australia’s most inclusive tennis club!

P.S. Details of Tennis Australia’s ‘Clubs Pride Month’ initiative will be released soon – should prove to be another opportunity for us to shine.