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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 2326


Mrs GASH (10:55 AM) —From time to time it is my privilege to come across an individual in the community whose attitude to life and determination sets them apart from their peers. Through their approach, the strength of their personality and an ability to inspire others, they shine like a beacon in their community. I am sure other members of the House would share that sentiment, but, when it is a young teen struggling with a disability in the face of adversity, I am truly impressed.

It was my good fortune to recently meet a 16-year-old girl from Vincentia, which sits on the shores of Jervis Bay. Grace Kennedy has spina bifida and paraplegia, and this has not slowed her down. In fact, I believe it has made her even more determined not to be beaten. She is a true competitor in every sense of the word. Grace is a successful competitive swimmer with excellent upper-body strength and a high achiever scholastically who demonstrates some natural sailing skills and a very can-do attitude. She has a desire to compete in sport on equal terms with able bodies.

She is a member of Sailability Callala, a local sailing club, and has been invited to participate in the 303 doubles in Melbourne as a crew member of the club’s president, Malcolm Cameron. Malcolm identified her potential early and has undertaken to coach and mentor her in sailing. Grace’s parents are fully supportive, and I applaud Malcolm for his vision and his faith in Grace. Malcolm says he could see Grace competing at the 2011 nationals in a 2.3 single, and so can I.

Recently I was honoured to be invited to Sailability Callala’s season open day, where Grace delivered a speech. I would like to share her words with the House today. She said:

As a member of Sailability Callala I would like to express my thanks to a number of organisations who have generously contributed to our club.

On behalf of my fellow members we recognise and thank:

Culburra and District Community Health Services

Huskisson RSL

New South Wales Communities Sport and Recreation

And Callala Bay Community Association

The thing about sailing is that although the wind is free everything else costs money.

Without assistance we could not afford the boats and equipment that has made our club one of the best in country New South Wales.

Recently I spent a couple of days in Sydney learning the ropes of our new SKUD.

It looks fantastic and the design means it can be sailed by anyone.

I also met Dan Fitzgibbon the previous owner this boat who is an Australian Paralympian which was a real thrill.

Through Sailing, it was another chance to meet many people and make new friends.

Through Sailing I can enjoy a sport that may be a large part of my life.

Grace stands as an inspiration to other teens, regardless of whether or not they are able bodied. She is a courageous young woman and deserves the full support of the community. Grace says that sailing makes her feel ‘free and equal’ and that she ‘loves being splashed’. I can only begin to imagine the intensity of the emotion behind those words, but slowly I am beginning to appreciate that many of the bounds that hold us back are of our own making. I take my hat off to Grace, and I am very proud of her.