A school sports program offering tenpin bowling classes for regional students with disabilities is being hailed by advocates as a "fantastic" step towards changing community expectations.
Rockhampton State High School teacher Sebastian Kilpatrick-Brazier teamed up with the local bowling alley to allow his class the chance to play a sport that was a bit different to their usual offerings.
Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association general manager of services Kelli Chilton said it often fell to local champions to make services happen.
Mr Kilpatrick-Brazier agreed and said his school was always on the lookout for different activities for their students.
"Other than this, I think there's some soccer as well, some Aussie Rules at school, but there's not too much more than that."
He said tenpin bowling was particularly well suited to students with disabilities because it could easily be modified.
Mats are placed in the alleys to shorten the distance between the bowler and the pins. As students improve, the mats are shortened and they gradually move further and further back.
"It's a very safe environment — they're not out on a footy field in front of 30 other players and 30 or 40 other parents," he said.
"We're just with other kids from our class and coaches, so it's a safe environment for them to get used to it and then they can feel more confident to do it on the weekend if they [want] to."
Ms Chilton said while the actions of Mr Kilpatrick-Brazier and other local champions like him were to be commended, more needed to be done.
Mr Kilpatrick-Brazier said the eight-week bowling program has had huge benefits for his students.
"The kids are excited to come to bowling, so they're excited to come to school," he said.
"There's one student, for example, who would miss three or four days a week just because he didn't want to come to school. But now he comes most days and there's very rarely a day where he's not at school."
Giving disabled kids a go
Fourteen-year-old student Nathan Shaw said he looked forward to the sessions.
"This program is pretty good because it helps us disabled kids go and have some fun," he said.
"I used to be a bad bowler — now I'm pretty good."
Fourteen-year-old Madison Sander said she had noticed more than just an improved bowling average.
"It helps with balance and it helps your muscles," she said.
Mr Kilpatrick-Brazier said there were limited paths for children with disabilities to play at a competitive level in sports.
"It gives the kids an opportunity to participate in a sport that's not just at a local level, like these kids could go and take it from here to a state championship or a national championship or the Olympics as well," he said.
"It gives them a chance to do something that's different, unique, and can take them a long way in life."
More work to be done
Ms Chilton said, right across the country, regional communities were calling out for more.
"People are keen to do more but they're not sure what's available in their local community; they're not sure how to get started and they'd really like to see more in the local community," she said.
"I think those of us who provide sport and physical activity have definitely got work to do."
Ms Chilton said while it was up to service providers and local communities to do more, governments also played a role.
"A local croquet club might be very keen to make sure they're accessible for everybody but they have a very little fundraising budget and they're in a little old hall that's got a couple of stairs," she said.
"Local government being able to supply a reasonably small grant in order to enable them to have a ramp and maybe an accessible toilet — that's not only going to help people with a disability but it's going to help everyone in the community."
She said they also had a role in changing perceptions right across the community.
"If you're promoting your community and in the photos of the marketing material you've got people who are representative of all of your community, then that's going to send a really strong message that Rockhampton is about everybody," she said.
"Those sorts of images stay in people's minds and that sets up an expectation as well."
For now, Mr Kilpatrick-Brazier was focused on changing the sporting horizon for his class.
"There's lots of high fives, cheering and they're just enjoying school really which is what it should be about."