Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Opening of the Special Olympics Trans Tasman Tournament tomorrow

The Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas will tomorrow welcome athletes and spectators from across Australia and New Zealand to Cairns for the opening of the Special Olympics Trans Tasman Tournament.

As part of the Tournament, more than 300 athletes from across the region will go head-to-head in athletics, basketball, football (soccer) and tenpin bowling.

Senator McLucas will officially open the games at a ceremony at Barlow Park.

“It is such a delight to welcome this great event to Cairns – the first time a Special Olympics event has been held here.”

“The Special Olympics is about giving Australians with intellectual disability the opportunity to get involved in sport, to be part of a team, to meet new people, to enjoy an enriching experience—all in an exciting and supportive environment,” Senator McLucas said.

“It’s about breaking down prejudices, recognising that having a disability should not be an obstacle to achieving goals, being an active and energetic member of the community, and realising great personal success and fulfillment.”

“This tournament is about inspiring people with an intellectual disability to reach their personal best.”

The Trans Tasman Tournament runs over three days from Tuesday 9th to Thursday 11th October and includes a full program of events and medal presentations.

The opening ceremony on Monday evening will feature the lighting of the cauldron, the parade of athletes and the raising of the flag.

Senator McLucas reflected on the power of the Special Olympics to bring people together and promote the achievements of people with intellectual disability.

“Last year, I had the honour of attending the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens and I recently returned from London where I supported our Paralympians.

“Our athletes proved on the world stage that disability is no barrier to achieving.”

In 2011–12, the Australian Government provided $545,000 to Special Olympics Australia.

Globally, the Special Olympics supports 3.5 million athletes in more than 170 countries. Across Australia, it supports about 4,600 athletes in more than 350 sports clubs.

Senator McLucas said the Australian Government is working towards a future where all Australians with disability lead lives of dignity and opportunity.

“According to the World Health Organization people with an intellectual disability make up the biggest disability population in the world,” Senator McLucas said.

“We have about 500,000 people with an intellectual disability in Australia—that’s about 1 in 44 Australians.

“And we know that the existing disability service system is failing many of those people.

“That’s why our Government is building a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

“We are delivering $1 billion to deliver the first stage of an NDIS.

“More than 20,000 with significant and permanent disability, their families and carers will start to benefit from the first stage in five locations around the country from the middle of next year.

“We want every Australian, including people with disability, to achieve their best in life, to develop skills and gain experience, and to have the confidence to dream big and believe in themselves.