‘Exhilarating’ new inclusive sports program for students with disabilities in Queensland

A new Inclusive Sports program will be rolled out across Queensland to create opportunities for students with disabilities to participate in sports.

Non-profit organization Variety Queensland will expand its Variety Activate Inclusion sports day, following its Brisbane event to Moreton Bay, Cairns and Townsville this year, to achieve greater inclusion and participation in sport for students with physical disabilities , sensory and intellectual.

Participants will test a range of sports alongside coaches and specialist athletes from Netball Queensland, National Rugby League, Tennis Australia, Sporting Wheelies & Disabled Association, Football Queensland, Queensland Cricket and the modified rugby from the GingerCloud Foundation.

Tex Noakes plays football at Variety Activate Inclusive Sport Day in Brisbane. (Supplied: Queensland variety )

Going from the margins to the “exhilarating” terrain

Tex Noakes lives with Angelman Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that leads to cognitive, intellectual and physical disabilities, and with the proper support and infrastructure, he loved playing sports.

His mother Nerrisa Bellert said that after getting involved with Variety, Tex was now “obsessed with football”.

“We found with Tex, although he can’t use speech, he has vocalizations, which we’ve learned to interpret, he’s very expressive and he has hand gestures that are his own version of the language of signs he taught us,” she mentioned.

“Several times throughout the day he kicks with his foot and makes a ‘K’ sound.

“At the weekend he had a sustained outing and that was his request – can you take me to the park and can we kick the ball.”

Ms Bellert said her son’s transition from being a ‘spectator on the fringes of school sport’ to playing, in a way that meets ‘what he needs without being so far removed from the sport itself… was exhilarating for him. “.

An image of Tex Noakes with a woman kicking a ball
Tex Noakes has a newfound love for playing football after being exposed to the sport in an accessible way. (Supplied: Queensland variety )

He recently played at Brisbane Sports Days with Australian cricketer Holly Ferling.

“When he was playing cricket…Holly was so engaging and couldn’t wait to show him more,” Ms Bellert said.

The program was first launched in New South Wales, reaching over 6,000 children and garnering strong support from the communities involved.

Its original start date in Queensland last year was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plans to expand the program

Variety Queensland chief executive Steve Wakerley said data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that only 24% of Australians with disabilities participated in sport, compared to 65% nationally.

“There is a real gap in participation, we want more children with disabilities to participate in sport, because of the benefits sport brings to everyone,” he said.

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