“It is a great honour to be recognised in this significant way by the IPC [International Paralympic Committee]. I have always regarded the opportunity of working with, and for, our Paralympic athletes and supporters as a privilege of the highest order, and reward enough.
“However, in receiving this honor, I do so out of recognition and respect for the remarkable people I have worked with over many years, both in Australia and internationally. They are the pioneers and achievers. These are the people who bore the brunt of the challenges of the Paralympic movement in its formative years and who were forever changed by their experience. Paralympism drills into your DNA, and it brings out the best in athletes, coaches, carers, support staff, families, administrators and, of course, the public.
“As the IPC and its constituent parts mature and grow as an organisation, it is sobering to remind ourselves of its modest beginnings, when Paralympic sport was far from the strong position it is in today.
“It is important also to constantly return to what is the bedrock of the Paralympic movement worldwide – to remind ourselves that athletes are at the core of the business, and that the challenge for all of us is to ensure that athletes receive proper and fair treatment when they represent their countries on the world stage.
“The Paralympic movement occupies a special place, a unique place, in the world of sport. It has the capacity to change people and attitudes more than any other competition. Not only do athletes often redefine their lives through sport, but by extension, they have a profound impact on the lives of those who surround them or who watch them compete.
“I have been involved in several Paralympic Games, with my deepest engagement being with the Sydney 2000 Games. The performances of the athletes were spectacular, and with their help, we managed an extraordinary transformation in public attitude and in the approach and recognition of our political leadership toward Paralympic sport and, more generally, toward people with a disability. This has stayed with us as a permanent legacy. Paralympic sport was seen as serious sport, and was lifted out of its welfare pigeonhole and into the mainstream. Progressively, national sport federations were encouraged to support athletes with a disability in the same manner as Olympic athletes. There is no turning back.
“It was a privilege for me to play a part in lifting the status and profile of Paralympic sport, and to use the Sydney Games as the catalyst to establish the South Pacific Paralympic Committee, later to be renamed the Oceania Paralympic Committee.
“But, of course, the job is never done; it is a race without a finish line. Continuing vigilance is required to ensure that the principles of equity and fairness are made rock solid, and extended to areas around the world where they do not exist or are under threat. Going forward with confidence, the Paralympic movement is uniquely placed to be a major influencer for good.
“I have been engaged in a multitude of roles in sport over a career spanning five decades. The Paralympic movement is different: you may leave it, but it never quite leaves you.”