People with quadriplegia to get first access to sport on the Sunshine Coast following federal government grant

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People living with quadriplegia and other disabilities will have access to competitive sport on the Sunshine Coast, some for the very first time, following a Federal Government grant for Sippy Downs club Suncoast Spinners.

The $243,140 grant will pay for the creation of a Wheelchair Rugby program to add to the Club's existing Wheelchair Basketball activities, allowing people with quadriplegia to take part for the first time.

Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace said that Suncoast Spinners were one of only 57 successful applicants out of the more than 850 who applied for the $19 million Driving Social Inclusion through Sport and Physical Activity Program.

"Suncoast Spinners have been absolute leaders in creating practical, no-nonsense ways to get people who live with a disability, and those able-bodied, involved in sport and social activities together," Mr Wallace said.

"This pandemic has given many of us a greater understanding of what isolation is, and it is a fantastic time to recognise the difference that Suncoast Spinners have been making for many in our community for more than 20 years." 

Wheelchair rugby is an intense, physical team sport for male and female athletes with quadriplegia. There is currently no access to team sport for people with quadriplegia available on the Sunshine Coast.

The proposed program will run one weekly two-hour session, free of charge, for two years, with the aim of developing a local competition and increasing social and physical activities for participants.

"I have joined Suncoast Spinners to play basketball with some of the members in the past and I can tell you that wheelchair sport is a great way for anyone to stay fit.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to build a connection with new people on the Sunshine Coast and I am delighted that with the Federal Government's support the Spinners are going to be able to help more people to get involved. I'm looking forward to learning a new wheelchair sport when the program gets underway," Mr Wallace said.

The grant will pay for five new specialist wheelchair rugby chairs, venue hire, marketing and administration of the program for two years.

As the Prime Minister's representative for the 2032 Olympic bid, Member for Fairfax Ted O'Brien said the grant presented local disability athletes with the opportunity to dream big.

"We have some great examples of inspiring Paralympians like Bridie Kean, Ryan Scott and Chris Bond right here on the Sunshine Coast, but like all elite athletes they had to start somewhere and that means access to ability appropriate sports," Mr O'Brien said.

"Well that's exactly what this $243,000 grant, combined with the vision and passion of Suncoast Spinners is achieving.

"And if it inspires our younger disability athletes to set their sights on the 2032 Olympics all the better – after all we're working hard to ensure we host the 2032 Games right here in South East Queensland and wouldn't it be wonderful to cheer on our own home grown Paralympic team!"

To create a truly inclusive program, Suncoast Spinners will adopt the Club's Reverse Inclusion approach, encouraging people without a disability to participate in wheelchair sports. This approach increases social inclusion as well as driving greater social integration and larger membership, ultimately further increasing sporting opportunities for people who live with disability.

Federal Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien welcomed the funding announcement, and encouraged people from Noosa and further afield to participate in the program.

"People from Noosa through to the South Burnett have taken part in Suncoast Spinner demo days, showing there is a strong demand for this fantastic program," Mr O'Brien said.

"It's so important for all people, of all abilities, to be able to lead an active and healthy lifestyle, and to be fully welcomed into a sports club. This funding will help ensure the social benefits of sports inclusion, just as much as the physical benefits."

Suncoast Spinners President and dual Paralympic Medallist Dr Bridie Kean said: "As an organisation we're committed to increasing inclusive sporting opportunities for people with a disability in our region. We've had previous success in doing so through Wheelchair Basketball. The opportunity to expand to Wheelchair Rugby enables even greater participation options for people with all levels of ability in our region."

"It's been a really isolating time for so many people during this pandemic. This grant is going to open up avenues to play sport for people on the Sunshine Coast who have otherwise had no options at all to play sport. We are excited to be able to return to sport as it becomes safe to do so and offer avenues for people of all abilities to reap the social and physical benefits participating in team sport has," Dr Kean said.

As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and community-based group sport and physical activity resumes, SunCoast Spinners have been given an extended timeframe until December 2022 to deliver the activity. The Club are currently planning to begin the program at the start of 2021.

Further information about the Driving Social Inclusion through Sport and Physical Activity program is available here.

 
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