An inaugural Wheelchair AFL season, a Southeast Queensland inclusion competition, Auslan footy – AFL in Queensland has a lot to celebrate today for International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD).
The United Nations observed day celebrates the contributions and achievements of people with disability and increases public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability across the world.
AFL Programs and Participation Manager – Queensland, Richie Lyons, said the AFL was committed to making the game accessible and ensuring its inclusive for all continues to be a priority.
“2021 has been a really significant year for AFL Queensland inclusion programs with the establishment of new programs and competitions for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy our great game,” said AFL Programs and Participation Manager – Queensland, Richie Lyons.
“From Come and Play Days, to representative football matches and the introduction of new competition structures, today is a day to celebrate these achievements and showcase the many inclusion opportunities that exist in the state.”
Some of these achievemnts include;
- In a Queensland first, an official mini-season of inclusive Wheelchair AFL was launched on the Gold Coast, welcoming people of all abilities to take part. The first-of-its-kind program was brought to life by Sporting Wheelies and AFL Queensland, with the support of Toyota Australia, to enable locals with disability the opportunity to take part. Nearly 100 people took part in the season, which also saw Gold Coast SUNS AFL Women’s stars get involved.
- AFL Queensland hosted an AFLX Inclusion carnival with teams from Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast all taking part for the first time. Following the rules of AFLX, the game was played in two seven-minute halves on a rectangular filed.
- With the AFL National Inclusion Carnival cancelled due to COVID challenges around the country, the best players from Southeast Queensland played in a “Brisbane Lions” v “Gold Coast SUNS” QClash on the Sunshine Coast. The game was live streamed to a national audience via the NewsCorp platforms.
- Nambour Special School and Currimundi Special Schools were joint winners of the Junior Inclusion State Championships as part of the 2021 StreetSmarts AFLQ Schools Cup.
- As part of the AFL’s National Volunteers Week, AFL Queensland recognised the work of Annette Foun from the Jindalee Jags. In early 2020, Annette Foun started a program for kids with special needs to get out of the house to be active, visible, and part of the community. Facilitating a weekly session for children with Autism and Cerebral Palsy, she uses footy as the foundation of their exercise and movement program.
- Former Gold Coast SUNS player Daniel Ramage was named Queensland Disability Inclusion Volunteer of the Year in the 2021 Toyota AFL Volunteer of the Year Awards. Daniel has been the head coach of the Queensland State Inclusion side since the very first carnival in 2014 and has shown how committed he is to this team by making himself available year in, year out.
- Auslan-adapted football continues to thrive at Yeronga South Brisbane Devils AFC. The program has been adapted from NAB AFL Auskick and is tailored for young children who are deaf or hard of hearing. It’s funed through Deaf Services and Deaf Lottery Australia. The club created the program after a video they posted of their QAFLW team performing their club song in Auslan went viral.
With one in six Australians living disability, AFL Executive General Manager Rob Auld said it was pleasing to see participation in disability inclusion football grow across the country.
“Australian Football has a great ability to create social connection, camaraderie and inclusiveness, and we hope that the establishment of new inclusive football programs encourages more people with disability across the country to get involved in their local football team,” Mr. Auld said.
“I’d like to thank Toyota for their ongoing support of our national inclusion initiatives, and their help in increasing the game’s accessibility to allow more people to enjoy our great sport.”
AFL Executive General Manager Social Policy and Inclusion, Tanya Hosch said it was important to celebrate inclusion and continue to make Australian Football accessible for all people.
“International Day of People with Disability is a wonderful occasion to celebrate the contribution people with disability have on our game and showcase the wide variety of inclusive football programs available across the country. It is also a much-needed reminder that we need to continue to work to ensure that we are including the contributions of people with disabilities in our game and in our workplaces and communities.
“Today is an opportunity for us to commit to making positive changes to the lives of the 4.4 million Australians with disability.”