I wish to express my disappointment with the banning of Gel Blasters which is such an amazing sport and hope you would kindly read this letter that states my reasons.
I was an international student here in Australia, fell in love with this country due to its diverse cultures, friendly community, and generally feel it is among the safest places to live in the world even though I live in one of the more “unsafe” areas of Perth.
During my early student days here in Perth, the stress of living in a new environment and having to be acquainted with other people of different cultures in addition to the daily challenges of life (work and studies) had severely affected both my physical and mental health, causing me to spiral down into bouts of depression and anxiety. Eventually, I developed a fear of joining people for outings and feelings of mistrust about everything. I became a shut-in, an introvert and felt that I did not fit in any of the communities in University or with society in general. I felt that people were secretly judging me for my background, skin tone, and beliefs. I became afraid of being ridiculed by society, a pariah in the face of society and an unproductive member of society.
In my mind, dark thoughts began to form. During my waking moments, I would have panic attacks and jump at the slightest disturbance and noise. I felt weighed down by the burdens of life itself. I was not spared during my sleep either as I found myself waking up in the middle of the night with cold sweat and vivid memories of the nightmares I experienced.
As a healthcare provider (I am a qualified U.K physiotherapist and am currently doing my Masters), I realised that my mental health needed medical attention before something drastic happened. I spoke to my GP and was given the appropriate medication to help me cope with my depression and anxiety. The medication certainly helped but I knew I needed to take the extra step to bring myself out of the dark pit. I began to try and find like-minded people within the community. It was then I stumbled into gel blasting and decided to choose the sport as the first step to begin mingling with society again.
I was always keen on the sport of Airsoft and was disappointed that it was not legalised here in Australia. The next best thing was getting involved with gel balling. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the sport via social media, bought myself a nice expensive gel blaster (as a way to motivate me to mingle with others and play the game because nothing motivates me better than spending money on something and wasting that money because I don’t use it). I then set off to my first game ever.
I still remember vividly the first time I drove up to a gel ball field, having a fraction of an idea of what the sport was like and being extremely anxious about how people would treat me. I figured if I was ridiculed by the community, I would just pack up and leave the area. But to my surprise, I met other like-minded people and was warmly welcomed by the friendly community and introduced to the rules of the sport. I knew then I might have found a clique that I could be comfortable with.
One member handed me a pamphlet on “My blaster, my responsibility” which contained information on how we should behave in and out of the field. I felt safe and comfortable knowing that the members of the gel balling community took their sport seriously and always prioritise safety during matches. It was during my first game; I felt a strange emotion that I have not felt in a long time. I felt happy and excited and was secretly grinning from ear to ear behind my mask. As the game continued, my anxiety melted away and I felt that I finally found a sport that I could enjoy sufficiently to distract me from the worries and troubles of life.
I began to look forward to their weekly matches and viewed it as a way to reward myself after a hard week of studies and work. I also developed good friendships with many of the members. One of them, who has a 20-year-old son who suffers from Autism and has trouble interacting with other people, used the sport as a way to connect and chat with people during matches.
I cannot stress enough the importance of having good physical, emotional and mental health that everyone is entitled to. My life was quite frankly, radically changed when I first contacted the gel blasting community, and I fear that banning this sport simply due to the unacceptable behaviour from several irresponsible members of the public, has condemned a community that has always practised the sport with great respect, responsibility and care.
On behalf of the gel blasting community that plays the sport, I humbly ask and beseech the governing authorities that appropriate and reasonable changes be made to the sport instead of simply banning it. The Weapons Regulation 1999 of Western Australia should be amended and updated accordingly to allow the sport to be enjoyed in a safe and responsible manner. The authorities should also do a thorough research on the sport and not simply ban it based on unfair biasness. They should also consider the fact that the removal of this sport would affect businesses that rely on it for their livelihoods and individuals who enjoy this activity as a form of physical exercise and an important means of improving and maintaining their mental and social wellbeing.
Thank you for reading this long letter. I hope to hear a favourable response from the governing authorities and that appropriate changes would be made to allow the sport to be enjoyed safely by Australians for many years to come.