Sporting codes across Queensland joined forces with Variety – the Children’s Charity of Queensland for the ground-breaking new program, Variety Activate Inclusion Sports Day, as part of a state-wide rollout of the free program for Queensland schools.
In a bid to achieve greater inclusivity and participation in sports, earlier this week Cairns school students with physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities were given the opportunity to trial a range of sports alongside specialised coaches and athletes from National Rugby League, Football Queensland, Queensland Cricket, Tennis Australia, Sporting Wheelies & Disabled Association and Aspire Golf Coaching.
More than 83 students from seven schools across Cairns registered to take part in the Activate Inclusion Sports Day, following a successful launch in Brisbane in May to encourage kids with a disability to get involved in sport.
Variety developed the program to create more opportunities for kids living with disabilities, given research found that only 24 percent of Australians with a disability participate in sport or physical recreation in comparison to a national participation rate of 65 percent (ABS, 2009).
We caught up with CEO Steve Wakerley and Support Manager Angela Haines on the importance of encouraging Cairns kids with disabilities to get involved and the need for greater inclusivity in sport.
Q. What is an Activate Inclusion Sports Day, and how did it come to be?
Variety Activate Inclusion Sports Days are a multi-school event, delivered by specialised coaches and volunteers. The sports days are for children with physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities.
The Variety Activate Inclusion Sports Days provide children with an opportunity to come and try a range of modified sports in an inclusive, fun and safe environment with the aim of identifying sports that the child enjoys.
The Variety Activate Inclusion Sports Days came about due to research that found only 24 percent of Australians with a disability participate in sport or physical recreation in comparison to national participation rates of 65 percent (ABS, 2009).
Q. How can people get involved and participate?
Interested schools, sporting organisations, sports clubs, and volunteers can contact the Variety Kids Support Team to register their interest in participating in the Variety Activate Inclusion Sports Days. The next sports days will be held at the Gold Coast, Townsville, Nathan, Rockhampton, Toowoomba and the Sunshine Coast.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone: (07) 3907 9314 for more information and to participate
Q. What are the benefits and rewards of physical activity?
There are many benefits of physical activity for people of all ages including reduced risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, and enhanced thinking, learning and judgment (WHO, 2020). In young people it ensures healthy growth and development (WHO, 2020).
Q. Why is inclusivity in sport so important, and how can we do better?
Variety believes all children should be given a fair go, no matter what challenges are thrown their way in life. Every child has the right to participate in sport. As a society, we all have a responsibility to ensure kids with a disability are provided with necessary resources and support so they can live their best life. Variety’s Activate Inclusion Sports Day rollout is critical for students who would typically have limited opportunity to try these sports or join a local club due to lack of resources, infrastructure or access.
Q. Why is it so important to encourage local kids with disabilities to get involved in sport?
Research shows that those who played sport as children were more likely to play as adults. So, supporting your child to play sport now, while they’re young, will assist your child to develop a lifelong love of sport which will enable them to receive the many health benefits of being physically active.
Q. How can people find sporting groups and activities to accommodate their needs?
Participants of the Variety Activate Inclusion Sports Days receive information about local inclusive sports clubs, including their contact details and locations. In addition, Variety offer a free program for parents who would like their child to play sport with their local club. Parents can call the Variety Family Liaison Officer to obtain assistance in identifying a suitable sports program and inclusive club for their child. The liaison officer will also discuss any further assistance or support that can be provided for the child to play sport, including a $50 credit from Variety Queensland, that can be used towards sports registration, training fees and specified required sports equipment and clothing.
Having achieved remarkable success and feedback from 36 Activate Inclusion Sports Days which reached over 6,000 kids in New South Wales, Variety Queensland can’t wait to round out an already successful debut program across the Sunshine State and continue its work in changing the lives of kids with disabilities.
“The Cairns event is a first for North Queensland, with Townsville to follow, and we can’t wait for our exciting new program to inspire inclusion, socialisation and healthy habits for kids living with disabilities in the region,” said Steve Wakerley.
“Sport is such an incredible platform to meet people, try new things and make friends. Every child deserves this opportunity and we couldn’t be prouder of our new program becoming a foundation for increased inclusivity.
“Whilst Activate Inclusion Sports Days primarily encourage kids with disabilities to reach their full potential, the program is also a foundation to help build support networks for hundreds of students and their families.
“We also encourage parents to speak with Variety’s Family Liaison Officer who can help connect children with local sporting clubs in Cairns after they try and test a range of sports at the Activate Inclusion Sports Day” he said.
Queensland Rugby League General Manager, Glenn Ottaway, said he couldn’t be prouder that Rugby League is supporting Queensland’s first Activate Inclusion Sports Day roll out to help make sport more accessible for children living with disabilities.
“With the support of the game’s staff in QLD, we are honoured to be part of Variety Queensland’s first Activate Inclusion Sports Day roll out to ensure all children are given the chance to try their hand at rugby league. It aligns with the commitments made in our Diversity and Inclusion action plan,” said Glenn Ottaway.
“We are excited to encourage kids with disabilities across the Sunshine State to get in and give footy a go, but most of all – we are eager for them to socialise and get a taste of the camaraderie that playing rugby league instils,” he said.
The Cairns event was made possible thanks to Cairns Regional Council and Department of Social Services. Variety is encouraging more students, families, schools and businesses to get involved in the program, to help give Queensland kids with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of sport.