Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with disabilities will be encouraged and supported to get more active, through a $130,000 boost from the Turnbull Government for the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC).
Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM, announced the two-year project today, to help with Closing the Gap in health and wellbeing for First Nations people with disabilities.
“This project is focussed on helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with disabilities to reach their full potential,” Minister Wyatt said.
“Among our people, rates of disability can be up to 70 per cent higher than the general population. This program will use sport and physical activity to break down health and social engagement barriers, which can be critical for wellbeing and dignity.”
Minister Wyatt said inactivity associated with disability made Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability more susceptible to diabetes, heart disease, mental illness and certain types of cancer.
The funding, from the Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme, will deliver community engagement and awareness events, research, education and online resources.
The project will be delivered in consultation with health, disability, education and sporting organisations that work closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“Our goal is to encourage more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities to be involved with sport and pursue a healthier lifestyle,” Minister Wyatt said.
“The positive impact physical activity can have on our general wellbeing is well documented and it is crucial we work towards ensuring there is an equal opportunity for all Australians to participate.
“The Australian Paralympic Committee is ideally placed to deliver this program, with its track record of helping Australians with disabilities to get involved in sport.”
The funding for the APC will assist to develop an online education resource and hold several community engagement events for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability throughout Australia.
These will combine ‘Come and Try’ disability sports-based programs with a health focus where Para-athletes will work with Aboriginal and Torres Straight Isander people on health education, sport awareness and participation opportunities.
To deliver the new initiative, the APC will collaborate with the Outback Academy and Red Dust Heelers who work together to increase participation and investment for First Nations people with disability within Para-sports.
“The APC is grateful to the Federal Government for this opportunity because we know the outcome it will deliver will make an enduring impact,” APC Chief Executive Lynne Anderson said.
“Working with our partners, including Outback Academy Australia and Red Dust Heelers, we’re really excited to connect with more Aboriginal and Torres Islander People living with a disability and share the countless benefits that come with participating in Para-sport and engaging with our wonderful Paralympic athletes.”
Speaking at the funding launch this morning in Canberra, Paralympic legend Kurt Fearnley said it has the potential to have an incredible impact.
“I can guarantee one thing; everything we know, what we believe we know, about disability right now, everything we believe we think is an amazing thing about Paralympic sport right now, in 50 years we’re going to be shaking our heads saying: ‘ah gee, were we really that far behind?’ We’re going to push this thing forward for the next 50 years. We will,” he said.
“We are bringing community with us. And when community grab hold of who we are they love our movement because we are basically what this country is. We are resilient. We appreciate the good things and we will fight for them. But also we do need advocates. Like the Noongar people with disability in this country, we are still fighting for our place and we’ll never solve disability.
“It’s not something that can be solved. It’s not something that can be done with. Disability’s a conversation that we all have on a day-to-day basis.
“We’ll be bringing as many people along with us and there is no better movement to challenge what it is to be included in community than the Paralympic Movement.”
By the Australian Government Department of Health and APC Media