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Gold Coast 2018 defend volunteer training handbook after criticism

by ZwemZa on January 9th, 2018

Gold Coast 2018

Gold Coast 2018 have defended their volunteer training handbook after claims it was “political correctness gone mad”.

The training guide has been sent to the near 15,000 volunteer force for the Games, which are due to take place in the Australian city in April.

The guide has provoked a reaction due to it advising volunteers to use “inclusive” language towards visitors, rather than specific gender based terms.

According to the Australian Associated Press (AAP), the guide says “swapping gendered words for gender-neutral ones can make everyone feel included, this also demonstrates our understanding that not everyone identifies as heterosexual or cisgender”.

“If you are not sure if someone is male or female direct them to male, female and accessible toilet facilities.”

It reportedly also tells volunteers not to seek autographs and selfies with athletes while working in their role.

Deb Frecklington, who was elected as the Liberal National Party of Queensland leader last month, has claimed the guide is “political correctness gone mad”.

The politician, who admitted she had not read the training guide in full, suggested “common sense” should be used instead.

“I think Queenslanders are wonderful people and they can use their own common sense when they are talking to our foreign visitors,” she said, according to the AAP.

“I’m someone who has grown up in the ways of treating people with respect by saying ‘good morning ladies and gentlemen’, I just don’t think they should be dictated to in relation to these terms.”

Discussions over the handbook come at a time when issues surrounding gender and relationships have been high on the agenda in recent months in Australia.

The Australian Parliament passed a historic same sex marriage bill last month, after a national poll showed 61.6 per cent of people favoured a change to the Marriage Act.

Gold Coast 2018 chief executive Mark Peters has stated that the training handbook is merely guidelines for the volunteers, which are aimed at helping them should they find themselves in an uncomfortable position.

“As you would appreciate, we have a number of [volunteers] with different backgrounds and we have athletes, officials and spectators from 70 different countries coming here to experience what is great about the Gold Coast,” he said, according to ABC.net.

“If they are feeling uncomfortable, here are some more general words you can use in that situation.

“If you’re talking to some younger athletes and you don’t know if they’ve got a mum or a dad, then you just say ‘can you take this back to your guardian?’ or ‘talk about this with someone in your party?’

“We know from some of our countries that are coming here that to put your hand out and shake hands is not custom.”

It is not the first volunteer training document for a Games to cause controversy, with Pyeongchang 2018 apologising for a “badly worded” section of their handbook which outlines recommended ways to treat disabled people attending the Games.

The manual gave example scenarios of things that should and should not be said to disabled people at the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, in what could be considered as a patronising and belittling manner.

It begins with advised “basic attitudes” which initially focuses on how people should not use disabled people to promote themselves.

“The disabled is not the background for the promotion of [a] politician, patron or company,” readers were told.

Volunteers are then reminded to refer to intellectually disabled people by their correct age, adding in brackets: “when an old intellectually-disabled is a child?”.

Further passages urge against treating the disabled as a “piteous one” before adding that “a female disabled is also a female human being”.

A Pyeongchang 2018 spokesperson told insidethegames that they are “reworking and revising” the handbook and apologised for any offence caused.

“Pyeongchang 2018 aims to be fully inclusive,” they said.

Michael Pavitt

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