If I could take a moment to acknowledge a few people, the family of Sir Donald Bradman, his son John, and his grandchildren, Greta and Nick. The chairman of Sport Australia Hall of Fame member and legend John Bertrand AO, the selection committee chairman Rob De Castella AO MBE. Sport Australia Hall Of Fame members, board members, dignitaries, sport leaders, ladies and gentlemen.
The fellow 2018 Don Finalists, Madison de Rozario and Lauren Parker, two of the strongest people that I know, and also people that I value not only as my peers but also as my friends.
To Sam Kerr and Ellyse Perry… two people within our community that we just know there will be statues built of them, so generations will be able to learn about your journey.
Will Power and Daniel Ricciardo… They fly the Australian Flag in places we rarely get to see, and you just feel proud that they are out there fighting.
And to Mark Knowles, who is one of the most truly decent people that not only I have been able to share the Australian uniform with and stage with but someone who I feel grateful to have even crossed paths. It’s an honour to share this role as The Don finalist with all of them.
Apologies for my absence, I am in Chicago, I am competing, but more importantly I am spending time with my wife, Sheridan and my boy Harry, and my little girl Amelia, who have seen me at a distance for far, far too long.
I grew up with an understanding about The Don and it was as much about integrity and humility as it was about excellence in sport. And I recognise tonight that I am the first within our Paralympic movement to hold up this prestigious award, but I have no intention of self-congratulation, I have to point back behind me to the generations of proud men and women with disabilities who allowed me to become the person and athlete that you see fit to receive this award.
An athlete whose sport has been born out of the back fields of rehabilitation hospitals. That was created by men and women who had the desire to see not only what was physically possible but was humanly possible.
I’ve heard the stories of Paralympic forebears who speak about losing friends, who felt too much shame in their experience with disability - and that is within our own community. There was too much shame and there wasn’t enough hope. So our sport was born out of that hope. Hope that somebody can be judged by substance and not image. That the difference that we each hold can be celebrated and not used to be segregated.
Through the medium of sport that’s what our movement represents…Hope.
Hope, that if sport can adjust to include those with disabilities, maybe the community can follow. And when our community is shifting to this idea of perfection where life, within even a picture, is filtered within an inch of humanity.
Our movement has greater importance than ever because the image of perfection isn’t real, it’s not sustainable and it’s not healthy. And our ability to share beauty and strength in this perceived imperfection, it just cannot be matched. I fundamentally believe that sport can lead this country and I believe the Paralympic movement is a jewel within the sporting crown.
I know that there’s a few people out there now saying I should just accept this award and bugger off. But sport within this country has never been about the individual… It’s been about the uniform leading.
I recognised earlier that I am first that I am the first within the Paralympic movement to receive this award, and I am incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity – but I will guarantee that I won’t be the last. But we need every person within this room to embrace our community of people with disabilities, not only on the sporting field but within administration, in executive and within board and in governance roles.
Let’s lead the way. We won’t regret it. There is strength and substance in this community. Enough to build a country on.
Sir Donald Bradman once said that athletes who receive recognition, they also have a duty to mankind. Well I am honored to receive this recognition and I am honored by ‘The Don’ Award and I will do my best to be worthy of it.