The only known vision of the 1972 Paralympic Games is among rare footage from the 1970s and 1980s which has been donated to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) by Adelaide dentist and amateur filmmaker Don Worley.

CaptureThe collection includes almost 10 hours of footage which helps chronicle the development of the Australian and international Paralympic movement from a time when such material is incredibly scarce.

Highlights from these films will be released by the NFSA, and published on its YouTube channel at 11:30am on 11 July:

The Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) has found that Worley’s is possibly the only footage in the world to survive from some of these early sporting events for people with a disability.

‘Don’s films fill a huge gap in the history of the Australian Paralympic movement and give us a unique and wonderful insight into the environment and the performances of Paralympic athletes at Games in the 70s and 80s,’ said Tony Naar, Facilitator of the APC’s Paralympic History Project.

NFSA Curator Annie Breslin said: ‘In addition to their rarity, these films show a supportive grassroots community, the pioneering spirit of the early competitors, and the talent of the indefatigable Don Worley. He kept meticulous notes about all the films and we were able to work with him to identify the materials for the NFSA to preserve. All his footage has been digitised and is now part of the national collection.’

Don Worley said: ‘I think that these films are of inestimable value not only in gaining recognition for the athletes, but also in inspiring anyone, particularly young people, to realise that having a disability need not be a life sentence. It’s ability, not disability that counts.”

Mr Worley’s involvement with Paralympic sport began when he and his wife Barbara (a tennis player at state level) were involved in car accident in 1967, leaving her with paraplegia. As part of her rehabilitation Barbara began to train in several Para-sports, and eventually became a member of the South Australian wheelchair team.

When the Australian team manager broke his arm four weeks before the 1972 Heidelberg Paralympics, Mr Worley was invited to join the athletes as an escort, and was asked to take his Super 8 camera with him to ‘shoot some footage’.  Mr Worley had to learn filmmaking technology and processes as he went along – including how to use a 16mm clockwork Pathé windup camera that would allow shooting of a maximum 29 seconds before rewinding was needed.

He would continue to document international competitions for the SA ParaQuad Association from 1972 to 1984, with his footage being used by the ABC to produce a number of documentaries. His films were screened regularly in halls and schools in South Australia, raising awareness of Para-sport and the achievements of athletes with a disability.

Don Worley’s Paralympic Films:

Footage shot by Don Worley at the following events is now preserved by the NFSA:

  • World Games for the Disabled – Heidelberg, West Germany (1972)
  • National Wheelchair Games – Adelaide, Australia (1973)
  • Commonwealth Paraplegic Games – Dunedin, New Zealand (1974)
  • FESPIC Games – Oita, Japan (1975)
  • ‘Torontolympiad’, Olympiad for the Physically Disabled – Toronto, Canada (1976)
  • Olympics for the Disabled – Arnhem, The Netherlands (1980)
  • Junior National Wheelchair Games – Adelaide, Australia (1981)
  • International Games for the Disable – Stoke Mandeville, United Kingdom (1984)
  • Summer Paralympics – Seoul, South Korea (1988)

By the National Film and Sound Archive and APC Media

Posted: 12/7/2016