Social Inclusion Week – Once a Gold Rat, Always a Gold Rat
In honour of Social Inclusion Week, our staff are sharing their own stories of inclusion. Writing about his experiences in the power of contribution is Tom Hughson.
I never appreciated how lucky I was growing up; I was part of so many communities that made me feel welcomed for being me. It wasn’t until I moved away from these connections I realised the power of community and social inclusion.
For me this was relocating for University in a town I knew no one, had no safety net which meant no community. Luckily for me, I spoke a language that crossed barriers, that being the language of rugby.
I managed to make lifelong connections through a game that I had played since the age of four. For the first two years at University this was easy, training twice a week, playing games on Saturday and enjoying numerous functions throughout the season. It wasn’t until my third year I realised the power of social inclusion on my mental wellbeing. In my third year at University I played a total of seven minutes of rugby that season, before dislocating my shoulder in a warm-up game, trying to get back on the field I made the injury worse and lost feeling in my arm, this was the end of my playing season. The physical pain was intense although this was over shadowed by the mental pain when the realisation that if I could not play rugby I would also not be connected to my mates, my club, and my social life, basically loose the person I saw myself as. If I wasn’t playing rugby, I was no longer a “Gold Rat “and my identity and community would change.
Fortunately for me, I was the only one that saw it this way and thanks to the club, together we found a way to make sure I was still part of the community, that was cooking the best BBQ every week that we ever had. I still attended every training session, every game both home and away and every function. I cooked the best BBQ, raised money to support the club and more importantly felt included for being me. At the end of season at the end of year awards, I was humbled to receive the Clubman of the Year award for my contribution to the club, something that I am privileged to share with some amazing past winners.
I was accepted for my unique gifts, on how I could contribute to my community and celebrated for exactly who I was. I was and still am proud to call myself a Gold Rat, this will always be my community and even though I now live on the other side of Australia, I have lifelong mates spread across the globe and continue to keep an eye on how the next bunch of Southern Cross University Rugby players are getting on.