A new inclusive sports program will be rolled out across Queensland to create opportunities for students with disabilities to participate in sport.
- Variety Queensland have launched an inclusive sports day so children living with a disability can join in
- Mother Nerrisa Bellert said the experience of playing sport for her son Tex Noakes, who has Angelman syndrome, was 'amazing'
- The program will be held in Moreton Bay, Townsville and Cairns. with plans for it to be expanded next year
Not-for-profit Variety Queensland will extend its Variety Activate Inclusion Sports Day, after its Brisbane event to Moreton Bay, Cairns and Townsville this year, to achieve greater inclusion and participation in sport for students with physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities.
Participants will trial a range of sports alongside specialised coaches and athletes from Netball Queensland, National Rugby League, Tennis Australia, Sporting Wheelies & Disabled Association, Football Queensland, Queensland Cricket, and the GingerCloud Foundation's Modified Rugby Program.
Going from sidelines to field "exhilarating"
Tex Noakes lives with Angelman syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which results in cognitive, intellectual, and physical disabilities and with the right support and infrastructure has loved playing sport.
His mother Nerrisa Bellert said after becoming involved with Variety, Tex is now "obsessed with soccer".
"We found with Tex, although he can't use speech, he does have vocalisations, that we have learnt to interpret, he's very expressive and he does have hand gestures which are his own version of sign language which he's taught us," she said.
"Multiple times during the day he makes a kicking action with his foot and makes a "K" sound.
"On the weekend he had a supported outing and that was his request – can you take me to the park and can we kick the ball around."
Ms Bellert said for her son to have gone from being "a spectator on the sidelines of school sport" to getting to play, in a way that accommodates "what he needs without being so far removed from the actual sport itself … was exhilarating for him".
He recently played at the Brisbane sport days with Australian cricketer Holly Ferling.
"When he played 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 more than 6,000 children and garnering strong support from the communities involved.
Its original start date in Queensland last year was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Plans to expand program
Variety Queensland chief executive Steve Wakerley said Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed only 24 per cent of Australians living with a disability participated in sport compared with national participation at 65 per cent.
"There's a real gap in participation, we want to get more kids with disabilities participating in sport, due to the benefits that sports bring to everyone," he said.