From little things, big things grow – and Bushrangers Basketball is no exception. Like most passion projects, it was founded with a simple objective powered and supported by a group of friends who believed they weren’t alone. The goal? To create an inclusive, safe space for LGBTQIA+ people to be part of their community and learn how to play the game they love. With this strong foundation, Bushrangers Basketball has grown far beyond Melbourne, where they were established in 2015. Bushrangers Basketball has not only expanded within Australia with clubs in Brisbane and (soon to be launched) Canberra but has crossed the Tasman, with Auckland being Bushrangers territory.
One of the founders and current president, Stella Lesic, recalls watching womens basketball as a child “I remember 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”. This shows the importance of visible role models for the LGBTQIA+ community. Role models don’t have to be top tier athletes, they’re often people at a grassroots level. Bushrangers Basketball have found their strength in creating a visible, inclusive, safe space for players of all abilities, sexualities and gender. This commitment has seen them working with associations to, in some cases, re-write the rule book to be more inclusive of non-binary and gender diverse people. Stella mentions that they worked closely with Carlton Baths and the association to redefine or include language that was inclusive of non-binary and gender diverse people.
Stella describes how their focus on people who “fall through the cracks”, specifically on the non-binary and gender diverse community has created a snowball effect, bringing in new members and increasing the reputation of the Bushrangers program.
“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”
If basketball isn’t your thing but you love the safe, inclusive space Bushrangers have created? How about a wander through the bush with Bushrangers Bushwalking. More of a homebody? How about Bushrangers Bookclub – coming in 2020
Stella has a message for anyone still undecided. This is the club for anyone. The Bushrangers want you to play. Results on the court are second to Bushrangers commitment to inclusion and community. With the Come Out and Play program, potential players can try the sport at no cost – every week, Sunday, 9.15AM at Carlton Baths.