Olympic gold medallist promotes same sex marriage in Lismore
FOR Olympic swimming gold medallist Daniel Kowalski, 'coming out' publicly as a gay man was a bigger challenge than standing on the blocks of the Olympic 1500m final in 1996.
But when he finally did come out in 2010, after years of internal struggle, he felt relieved - and still admits to wishing he had faced it earlier.
"It's not anything to be ashamed of, it's not anything to be embarrassed about... my life is a lot better for having accepted who I am," he said.
Crossing that bridge has enabled the sporting star to lend his high profile to the growing push for marriage equality reform in Australia.
Tonight in Lismore he will speak at a marriage equality forum, part of a new Australia-wide tour on the issue called The Equality Campaign.
The tour has already hosted an event in Grafton, where Mr Kowalski said there was "passion, frustration, and in some cases anger" from same sex couples who had wanted to have a recognised union for years but couldn't.
The 42-year-old said he was "frankly frustrated" by the fact there had been no substantial political progress on gay marriage to date.
But he said he had faith in the Australian public to realise "the power is actually in their hands".
"People are going to continue to fight the good fight until this is resolved," he said.
Tonight's event runs from 6pm-8.30pm at the Lismore Workers Club.
The new campaign is the biggest ever in the country, according to The Equality Campaign director Tiernan Brady, with an emphasis on regional events to inspire people to take the message to their local federal member.
"When someone from Lismore picks up the phone to the MP representing the area, that's when the MP notices," Mr Brady said.
"MPs keep telling us the one thing that changes their mind the most is real stories from real people about why this matters.
"All too often people think this is about the city centre of Sydney, or the city centre of Melbourne, when in fact there are LGBTI people in Lismore, in Berwick, in Carnarvon and Toowoomba.
"There's also mothers and fathers, and brothers and sisters and friends - and all of them think this is important."
The Equality Campaign conducted a ReachTel Poll of the Page electorate which revealed more than 63% of people believed Federal Page MP Kevin Hogan should be able to vote on same-sex marriage if a bill was presented to Parliament.
Mr Hogan has previously said he would vote in favour.