Rugby star Williams recognised for LGBTQI work

Sharni Williams OAM, rugby 7s, smiles during the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sharni Williams OAM has been recognised for her leadership, awarded the LGBTQ Out Role Model Award at the Pride in Sport Awards.

The awards, held on Wednesday night in Melbourne, celebrate athletes, clubs and organisations for LGBTQ inclusion. 

Launched in 2018, the Australian Pride in Sport Awards is the first celebration of its kind dedicated solely to celebrating and acknowledging exceptional efforts in making Australian sport more inclusive of LGBTQ people.  

It is produced by Pride in Sport, the national not-for-profit sporting inclusion program spearheaded by Australia’s largest LGBTQ health organisation, ACON. 

For Williams, Rugby has always been a game where she feels the most comfortable about who she is. 

But the Olympic and world cup champion’s roaring self-confidence was almost shattered after a workplace incident left her deeply unsettled. 

“Sharni has never actively hidden who she is,” Williams’s wife Mel Smale told the audience at the Pride in Sports Awards. 

“However, in 2019, that feeling of acceptance was threatened when she was impacted by hate speech in the workplace.” 

But it was the decisive action Williams’s employer took that changed her outlook on the world. 

“This was the catalyst that led her to look within and realise she had to stand up and be a voice.” 

The openly lesbian rugby champion has been recognised for her work in promoting LGBTQI inclusion on the sporting field, receiving the LGBTQ Out Role Model Award. 

“You can’t be what you can’t see so having that visibility is huge to make people recognise that there’s a place for them,” Williams said from France where she is in competition. 

“It’s nice to be recognised. But at the same time I’m just going out there being me and creating a safe space for other people.” 

Williams has put her name to causes such as trans inclusion in rugby and standing up against intolerance following the Manly Sea Eagles pride jersey controversy. 

She came out during the Tokyo Olympics after donning her now iconic rainbow headgear, which she also wore during the Birmingham 2022 Games. 

Congratulations to all finalists and recipients.  

2023 Pride in Sport Awards Recipients
Sporting Organisation of the Year  Hockey ACT 
Community Sporting Organisation of the Year  Kingston City Rollers 
Most Improved Sporting Organisation   Touch Football Australia 

Kingston City Rollers 

LGBTQ Ally Award   Kerry Tavrou, Tennis Australia 
Executive Leader Award   Mick Garnett, Wheelchair Sports NSW/ACT 
LGBTQ Inclusive Coach Award  Sam Dengate, T Generation 
LGBTQ Out Role Model Award  Sharni Williams, Rugby Australia 
LGBTQ Positive Media Award  ‘Melbourne United supports and celebrates Isaac Humphries courageous decision’, National Basketball League (NBL) 
Gold Sporting Organisations  Hockey ACT 

Macquarie University Sport 

Netball Victoria 

Tennis Australia 

Touch Football Australia 

Gold Community Sporting Organisation  Kingston City Rollers 
Silver Sporting Organisations  Hockey Australia 

Hockey QLD 

Hockey Victoria 

Lacrosse Victoria 

Tennis NSW 

UWA Sport 

Bronze Sporting Organisations  ANU Sport 

Australian Football League (AFL) 

Hockey WA 

National Rugby League (NRL) 

RMIT University Sport 



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