International Day of People with a Disability | SPEECH


The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (12:25): I rise to make a fairly short contribution. I thank the member for Hurtle Vale for bringing this forward, and I appreciate the improvements by the amendments of the Deputy Premier, and all those who have made a contribution. I would like to comment particularly about an outstanding event in Port Augusta that runs through the winter, and that is inclusive basketball.

I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my life, and I hope it continues, with regard to health and ability to participate in all sorts of physical activities. I have never taken it for granted. While I have been fortunate not to see things through a different lens, I have never taken it for granted. I have put a fair bit of effort in a private capacity into supporting people who are not as fortunate as me in that way, but who are more fortunate than me in other ways; they might be smarter or have a lot of other things going for them that I do not have.

Most recently, over the last few years in Port Augusta inclusive basketball has taken that town’s sport supporters and broader community members by storm. An absolutely outstanding program has been running there now for four years, I think. It was probably started by Emily Holden, a wonderful young woman and local leader involved in many other things, but of course aided by many people—family members, local community members, the basketball community—and lots of people come along to watch. Initially, I went along a few years ago to provide some support, offer some encouragement and to learn a bit. I go nowadays for selfish reasons, to be quite honest, as it is one of the most fun, most enjoyable and happiest things that I get to do in any week during the winter when it is on.

The joy with which the players go about their competition and participate—and there is a juniors section and a seniors section—is incredibly infectious. It is fun for family and friends and it is fun for other members of the community like me, who turn up just to be there and cheer and get pleasure from doing that. It is something that the players look forward to like you would never imagine. When I see junior players, younger kids on the street, or adults who participate, it is almost always the first topic of conversation: ‘Looking forward to inclusive basketball on Tuesday night this week.’ It is absolutely outstanding.

I want to very genuinely commend the organisers of this sport in Port Augusta and acknowledge the great community support. Perhaps most importantly, as I share this as one of my experiences, I highlight to the house how much good comes out of really active public team participation in many ways. Of course, there are lots of other things that people with a disability can do that are incredibly productive, but I highlight this activity because of the sheer pleasure it gives people.

Every single person in the basketball stadium—whether they are a player, a parent, a brother or a sister, whether they are a basketball follower or just a community member such as me—gets something out of this. The grand finals, which are held at the end of the season, are massive events. The number of people who come out to support the players and the families is really impressive; it is really tremendous, as is the function afterwards.

The last thing I would like to say is that people are aware of Port Augusta, people are aware of some of the challenges we have, some of the great strengths we have and some of the natural advantages we have. Port Augusta has impressed me for two decades now—in fact, a bit over two decades now—with regard to the willingness of people on the street to accept those members of the community who have a disability.

I will give you one real-world example that I have seen time and time again in Port Augusta. I am sure that it is true for many other places as well, but I have not seen it displayed quite as well as in Port Augusta—that is your typical group of mid-teenage boys acting pretty tough, looking like maybe they are up to some mischief, maybe wondering how much fun they could have in a way that might not be exactly the way their parents would expect or hope that they would behave. They are doing absolutely nothing different from what most of us did. There is probably no man who did not act that way at some stage when he was a teenager.

When these sorts of hardened young men come along and a person with a disability comes in the other direction, I see that they have complete respect for that person. If it was another 15, 16, 17-year-old boy coming the other way, who knows what might have happened, but when a person with a disability comes the other way in Port Augusta they make space and say, ‘G’day, mate’. They usually know that boy or girl’s, or man or woman’s first name. They say ‘Hello, how are you going? Everything good? Yep? No worries. See you later.’

It is the happiest, most respectful passing on the footpath that you could hope for from a group of people who at that stage in their life do not necessarily treat everybody that way. I think that speaks incredibly well of my community in Port Augusta, and I congratulate Port Augusta on that.