The Foundation’s primary purpose was defined as removing barriers and ensuring every opportunity for children with a disability to access sport.
The vision of the Foundation and its purpose were driven by my own personal experience living with a hearing loss as a young child – and later vision loss in my adult life – and knowing the power of sport to help grow your confidence, self-esteem and sense of belonging.
In the lead up to the Foundation’s launch, I had the incredible support and advice of several people who helped me navigate the demands outside of my training towards the Rio Paralympics. These were Matthew Kelly, Rosemary McGrath, Bernadette Pilling, and Andrew Martin. They too had supported the idea of a Foundation, and I was very thankful when they all agreed to be involved as founding Directors of Sport Access Foundation. Later in the year we appointed and welcomed Martin Kelly as a Board Member.
We were also very grateful to secure the services and support of Adrian Perkins, partner of King & Wood Mallesons, as a Board Member. Adrian and his firm supported us with legal advice to set up the Foundation and register as a Company by Guarantee Limited, and continue to guide us as Legal Advisers. Later in the year, we secured the support of Roberts & Morrow as auditors, with Sam Notley, Managing Partner, providing his services to the Foundation.
Within the first day of launching, the Foundation received a significant donation from a supporter and mentor of mine, Mr Bill Moss, AO, Chairman of the FSHD Global Research Foundation which was also awarded the 2017 Australian Charity of the Year. I would personally like to acknowledge Mr. Moss’s incredible generosity to Sport Access Foundation.
From the beginning the Foundation have had the generous time and support of Mark Taggart, of Tagzart Design, to bring together our Sport Access Foundation logo, branding and website and social media platforms. Thank you also to Boomworks, a Sydney based multimedia agency, for their earlier work in conceptualising the Sport Access Foundation brand.
I am also thankful for the in-kind and good will support of my own sponsors who extended where possible their support to promote Sport Access Foundation. These were Magnetite (retrofit windows), Zoggs Australia and New Zealand, Hoka One One, Harvey Norman and Triathlon Australia.
As part of the Foundation’s launch we also distributed our first Sport Access Foundation eNewsletter to a targeted group of my supporters, including AIS senior executives, National Sporting Organisations, and key stakeholders in the disability sector. This growing database, currently sitting at around 300, has been a key factor in providing the Foundation with exposure to key influencers in the sports and disability sector.
On Australia Day 2017, I had the honour of being awarded the Order of Australian Medal for my success in winning the Gold Medal in Rio, and for services to working with various community groups and organisations in the disability and accessibility space.
In February, I was awarded the Sir Roden Culter Award, from The Primary Club of Australia, Australia’s cricketer’s charity of choice. Previous award recipients include Kurt Fearnley, Leisel Tesch and Ben Felten. I received the award from Mrs. Daphne Benaud at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The award included a $20,000 donation, which I donated to Sport Access Foundation.
Having achieved the Foundation’s first earlier goals of establishing and launching with effective, targeted promotion to key stakeholders, our focus then shifted to promoting the opportunity for supporters to donate and secondly to open our first round of grants.
We established our Sport Access Foundation donation page on the Australian Sports Foundation website. This allowed us to provide tax-deductible receipts and expanded our visibility within the sports sector.
We then opened our first round of grants in February. This was to be three grants of $2,000 each.
The SAF Board established a subcommittee for the grants process, comprising Bernadette Murray, Martin Kelly and myself. Our role was to define the selection criteria processes and confirm an independent Selection Committee.
We were delighted to secure the services and support of the following three outstanding individuals who formed the independent Sport Access Foundation Grants Selection Committee:
Sport Access Foundation received 25 applications in inaugural first round of grants.
Applicants ranged in age from 11-17 years and were from across SA, NSW, QLD, WA and VIC. Their physical and intellectual challenges ranged from autism, to legally blind, to amputees.
The subcommittee shortlisted the applicants to a final eight – and then the independent Sport Access Foundation Grants Selection Committee followed the due processes (as set out by SAF subcommittee) to determine the final three recipients.
The three grant recipients were:
It was to be one of my greatest highlights in 2017 when I phoned each of the three recipients, and spoke to them and their parents, to tell them the news. You realise at these times, the real challenges faced by parents trying to guarantee their children have every opportunity to play sport and achieve their goals.
The first three recipients were officially announced at a launch on Thursday 30 November 2017.
This then leads to the Board’s third key objective in our first year – to find the resources whether by way of cash sponsorship or capital – to formulate a Strategic Business Plan for Sport Access Foundation. The aim being to scope and define the opportunities so the Foundation can truly become a leading organisation in promoting opportunities for children with a disability to play sport.
To this end, I am pleased to advise the launch of the first round of recipients on 30 November also coincided with the announcement of an ongoing partnership for Sport Access Foundation with the ASX listed steel company BlueScope. As our partner BlueScope will help us develop and define our strategic business plan.
The partnership is a legacy ‘spin off’ from the innovative ‘Change the Game’ program between BlueScope and the Australian Institute of Sport which sees elite female athletes and BlueScope business professionals brought together for mutual learning and development opportunities over a 12-month period.
The partnership has also provided the opportunity for the Board to appoint Kristie Keast of BlueScope as a Director of Sport Access Foundation.
Another important and recent development for Sport Access Foundation is the significant donation received from The June Canavan Foundation to fund the second round our grants, planned for 2018. The June Canavan Foundation carries on the work of June Canavan who campaigned for the opportunity of those disadvantaged to access education and develop in their chosen pursuits.
Throughout this year I have been continuing to train as a full-time high performance triathlete under Triathlon Australia’s High Performance Coach, Dan Atkins. I train on the Gold Coast at the AIS Pizzey Park HQ and with Bond University.
This year resulted in my second World Championship gold, winning the Paratriathlon Vision Impaired race in Rotterdam, with Michellie Jones as my Guide. My first World Championship gold was 2015 in Chicago. I am now training for the World Championships on the Gold Coast next September – and my long-term goal is to make the Australian team for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
In between I’ve attended and spoken at a number of events which has resulted in donations and promotion of Sport Access Foundation. These have included:
I am looking forward to 2018 and working closely with our new partner BlueScope to develop and define our strategic business plan.
Sport Access Foundation has only just begun, and we have so much potential to make an impact and to change the lives for all young Australians living with a disability.