HSV Lecture 2015 – Generation next: progressive, passionate and political

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HSV Public Lecture by Jason Ball, pioneering LGBTI advocate and Greens candidate, at Balwyn Library on 26 November 2015

Jason began by describing growing up in Christmas Hills and being nourished by close association with the surrounding bush.

At around 12 years of age he realised he was gay, so he started to view his future as a bit on the dismal side. He thought that his parents and friends would discard him. But fortunately he was accepted by both and later by his football club.

In recent years he has formed the view that the major political parties have no positive policies for gays.  After meeting Adam Bandt and other Greens activists he saw the appeal of the Greens Party policies, so decided to become involved with them and agreed to stand as a candidate in the Federal seat of Higgins.

Jason identified four current issues that he planned to campaign on.

First, he was critical of the federal government’s intention to hold a plebiscite on marriage equality and provide money for both the Yes and No sides of the question.

Second, he was sceptical of the current federal government taking real action on climate change, despite the recent change of PM, because Turnbull was still taking Abbott’s policies to the Paris climate talks.

Third, he was concerned over Australia’s appalling treatment of asylum seekers, and cited approvingly that a collective of doctors and nurses had recently spoken out against current policies. They strongly emphasised the harm incarceration was doing particularly to the detainees’ long-term mental health.

Fourth, was mental health, which despite concern expressed by various levels of government lack sufficiently well-funded services. Jason had an ongoing interest in mental health and had accepted the role of an ambassador for Beyond Blue.

Formative experiences

Having identified the four key issues on which he planned to campaign as a candidate in the federal election, Jason gave a brief overview of how he got involved in freethought activities.

In 2005 while on a student exchange he found himself in the US bible-belt State of Kansas. He was taken aback to find himself the only person who accepted evolution. This led him to become a passionate advocate for science and evolution.

Once back in Australia and attending the University of Melbourne he became active in the University Secular Society. This led him to being in contact with other university freethought groups and having a key role in the formation of an Australian Freethought Student Alliance, which many groups joined.

Jason was one of the many young people recruited by the Atheist Foundation of Australia to help them manage the very successful Global Atheist Conventions held in Melbourne in 2010 and 2012.

More recently Jason has become interested in issues where secular people can share ideas with religious people. Hence his involvement in interfaith groups.

When Jason came out publicly as a gay person, he attracted quite a bit of media coverage. He commented that quite a few secular friends expressed surprise at him playing and being enthusiastic about football.

Coming out led to his involvement in an AFL campaign against anti-gay language in the football culture. Several league players have also stepped up to be associated with the AFL’s anti-homophobic campaign, even joining the gay pride march.

In standing as a candidate for election, Jason wants to present himself as someone with a track record of ‘getting things done’. Although Higgins has traditionally been seen as a ‘Liberal’ seat, the demographics are changing and he’s hoping there will be a real battle between the Greens and the Liberals.

He finished by saying that the Greens don’t accept donations from major companies and other vested interests. Instead they will be campaigning in a face-to-face way, hoping to persuade people.

Report by Rosslyn Ives