AJAX Football Club must say “No to Homophobia”

I have invited AJAX Football Club to join the “No to Homophobia” campaign.

From: Michael Barnett <mikeybear69@gmail.com>
Date: 9 September 2012 10:09
Subject: Asking for AJAX Football Club to support AFL’s “No to Homophobia” campaign
To: Ian Fayman <ianfayman@yahoo.com.au>, Ronnie Lewis <rlewis@matchexecutive.com.au>, Mark Feldy <mfeldy@bigpond.net.au>, Peter Kagan <pkagan@bigpond.net.au>, Michael Sojka <msojka@rosepartners.com.au>, Bernie Sheehy <bernard@sheehysaw.com.au>, Darren Seidl <DSeidl@rk.com.au>, Gary Blusztein <bblusztein@bigpond.net.au>, Gary Blieden <bliedz@hotmail.com>, John Rochman <johnrochman@gmail.com>, Adam Slade-Jacobson <asladejacobson@qualitas.com.au>
Cc: Jason Ball <jasonball8888@gmail.com>, Rob Mitchell <rmitchell@rjm.it>

Dear AJAX Football Club,

I am writing to ask for your club to support “No to Homophobia”.  Please read this story in The Age and consider distributing it, along with the associated petition, to the members of your club.

Story: ‘I didn’t know any footballers who were gay’
Petition: I’ve experienced homophobia in Aussie Rules Football first hand — now it’s time to end it.

In addition, please consider issuing a statement of support from the AJAX Football Club.  It would send a strong message and support your clubs aims:

Ajax will assist in the development and improvement of its members, not only by requiring and facilitating the highest standard of physical fitness and skills associated with Australian Rules Football-but also general aspects of life and community to further their careers.

AJAX shall strive to achieve the most successful onfield team performances at all levels whilst maintaining its unique Jewish identity.

I have copied Jason Ball on this email.  He would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.  Additionally I have included Rob Mitchell, who has a close connection to the AFL and takes a keen interest in these matters.

Lastly, I’d like you to read this blog I wrote after meeting Olympian Daniel Kowaslki:

I urge you to bring this matter up with Maccabi Victoria at your earliest convenience, as it is in the best interests of the welfare of all members of AJAX FC and Maccabi Victoria.

Michael Barnett.

History making statement issued by Australia’s Jewish peak body against ‘respected’ Orthodox Rabbi

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has distanced itself from the toxic message of the homophobic Orthodox Rabbi, Dr Shimon Cowen. Whilst the it has issued statement is welcome, the message it conveys is far from sufficient.

ECAJ logo

Last Friday, February 10 2012, news came to me by way of Queer community journalist Doug Pollard that Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen had published a paper via the virulently anti-gay Australian Family Association, slamming homosexuality and along with it the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria.  The SSCV web site describes itself as “Dedicated to supporting gender and sexual diversity in schools.”

Doug Pollard has a personal interest in the welfare of SSCV as he was instrumental in helping the program get off the ground.  I have a personal interest in fighting homophobic intolerance in the Jewish community.  So without delay I wrote to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and asked they intercede in this unpleasant matter, as they had made a commitment to countering hatred against GLBT people.  Together with Doug Pollard and also Rob Mitchell of the RJM Trust we had a dialogue with the ECAJ, explaining our concerns and reasons why a prompt response from the ECAJ would be beneficial.

On Monday, February 13 2012 Peter Wertheim, Executive Director of the ECAJ, issued a statement indicating the rabbi’s views were not representative of those of Australian Jewish community and in doing so, distanced themselves from his toxic viewpoints.  To the best of my knowledge this single acts sets a precedent for the Australian Jewish community (and perhaps even globally), as there has never been an organisation representing, in part, the Orthodox Jewish community that has spoken out publicly against an Orthodox Jewish rabbi.

I have to praise Peter Wertheim and the ECAJ for their professionalism, sensitivity and swift action in handling the concern presented to them.  They have told the community that it is unacceptable to vilify homosexuals and attack organisations and programs that have been established to prevent young people from bullies, especially bullies of the likes of Rabbi Cowen and his cohorts.

In saying that though, there is ample room for improvement in the position taken by the ECAJ.  Their cautiously worded statement lacked the necessary gravitas to tell the Orthodox Rabbinate that they must never again speak ill of homosexuality, that they must never refer to it as an illness, that they must never offer ‘reparative therapy’ as a ‘cure’ for homosexuality and that they must actually accept that homosexuality is a normal and healthy expression of human sexuality.

I have presented the ECAJ with a statement each from the Australian Psychological Society and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.  These statements are absolutely unambiguous in their message and leave no room for uncertainty as to what these two professional bodies believe is the best approach to the issue of reparative therapy.  Yet the ECAJ has refused to publicly acknowledge these two statements.  Why?  It surprises me that an organisation that has access to a plethora of psychologists and psychiatrists in the Jewish community didn’t source one of each to help them understand and convey these plain language statements.

The presence of Professor Kim Rubenstein on the ECAJ executive adds the necessary relevant academic and scientific qualifications to the repertoire of the ECAJ, as she is the convenor of the Gender Institute at the Australian National University, and is well-connected on these matters.  With her talents at hand, and access to a wealth of resources through the ANU, the ECAJ currently has no reason for saying “but it’s outside our area of expertise”.

I need to remind myself that the Jewish community, at its official level, is excellent at fighting hate from beyond its borders.  However it is far from having perfected that art when the hate emanates from within.  What is rewarding though is seeing that it is trying hard to get there.


Doug Pollard and Rob Mitchell interview John Searle

Listen to the podcast and read the transcript of the August 5 2011 JOY 94.9 interview between Doug Pollard, Rob Mitchell and the JCCV’s John Searle. It’s the answers that John Searle doesn’t give that are most telling.


Click above for the podcast and transcript of the interview on JOY 94.9FM  between presenter Doug Pollard, co-host Rob Mitchell and John Searle of the JCCV.  They discuss the JCCV’s Call for Submissions into discrimination and vilification of GLBT people in the Victorian Jewish community.

Read an analysis of this JCCV initiative over on Jew on This.  You can also read my submission to the JCCV.  If you’re similarly motivated, do send a submission of your own in.

I’ve been promised a copy of the report on these findings once the JCCV has released it.  I’ll make sure it gets posted here.

Davenport Underwear. You will be dying to wear it

Congratulations to Rob Mitchell for taking an important stand yet again in fighting intolerance and the tide of suicide victims.

If you’re not speaking out, you’re part of the problem.


From: Rob Mitchell <rob@rjm.it>
Date: 8 September 2010 20:11
Subject: Stephanie Rice
To: customerservice@davenportunderwear.com.au


Can I suggest you check out


It is a web site I have set up highlighting the link between the systemic vilification peddled by your ‘star’ and the inevitable result is has on the mental health of the 10 % of young people in this country who are not straight.

For years Davenport has banked great wads of money from the gay community by flogging it their expensive underwear, but when the time comes to discipline one of your ‘ambassadors’ for vilifying that community, you are missing in action.

It’s not good enough, and we are not going to put up with it.

Starting tomorrow (Thursday) we are going to be hitting the GLBTI and metro media with the website, and that is just the start. If you google ‘Davenport’ and ‘suicide’ you will see we are already at number six out of 360,000.

You should ditch Stephanie as an ambassador, as Jaguar have done. To do anything less is to simply profit from hatred and vilification.

Stephanie Rice can burst into tears as often as she likes but I can see no concrete offers of help, monetary or otherwise, to genuinely assist the GLBTI community deal with the vilification related rates of suicide and depression that are endemic in our communities.

If it’s one thing we’ve learnt fighting HIV / AIDS over the last quarter of a century, it is that persistence works. Sooner or later, the broader community are going to associate Davenport underwear with bad corporate governance, and you don’t have to be clairvoyant to work out what that will mean for your bottom line.

It’s unfortunate it’s come to this, but for too long sport has been a ‘safe harbour’ for behaviour that would be unacceptable in any other context, and too often companies that profit from the sporting world won’t step up when required.

Those days are gone.

Rob Mitchell

Member Governance & Inclusion Project, Vic Dept. Sport

Member Integrity In Sport Committee, Australian Sports Commission