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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3359

Ms GRIERSON (Newcastle) (22:05): Along with other members of the House, I wish to express briefly here tonight my condolences on the passing of Margaret Whitlam, particularly to former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and the Whitlam family. My generation remembers Margaret well for the unique person she was and the personal influence she had on the political culture of the day and on the causes of women in particular. They were heady days of reform and inspiration, days that responded to the public demand for change. The Whitlams were an embodiment of that thirst for change and modernity in Australia, a quest to make this nation a truly independent and great nation that reached out to the world with confidence. In her several visits to Newcastle, Margaret Whitlam was always generous with her time and her interest in the people she met. Her genuine interest in everything Labor, and the application of everything Labor stood for to the lives of all Australians, was like a beacon of hope which drew all generations to her. That she lived a full and satisfying life is some comfort to us all.

I also wish to share last week's announcement that, after competing with rival bids from Malaysia and India, Newcastle has won its bid to host the inaugural Special Olympics Asia Pacific Regional Games in 2013. From 30 November to 7 December 2013, Newcastle will host over 1,700 Special Olympic athletes from 25 countries competing in this inspiring event. Anticipated to inject $10 million into our regional economy, participation will extend to 600 coaches, 4,000 volunteers and over 200,000 spectators.

As the Governor-General pointed out, our city has a proud tradition when it comes to sport, and I look forward to these games building upon that. The federal government is providing $545,000 to Special Olympics Australia this financial year, $100,000 of which will go towards the training and support of volunteers on the ground. Athletes will compete in various sports, including athletics, aquatics, badminton, basketball, bocce, bowling, football, table tennis and cricket, with more sports to be announced closer to the games. Undoubtedly, Special Olympics Australia is a leader in transforming the lives of people with intellectual disabilities who represent the largest disability group in the world—three per cent of the global population. In Australia, it is estimated over 500,000 people live with an intellectual disability, many of whom face difficulty in performing day-to-day tasks, a situation that too often leads to social isolation and disadvantage. Through sporting participation, a culture of inclusion, mentoring and support helps participants to build new skills and fitness, form new friendships and strive for their best.

Special Olympics Australia is part of a global movement that promotes sport as a means of social inclusion, initiated by the sister of US President John F. Kennedy, Mrs Eunice Kennedy Shriver, whose sister Rosemary had an intellectual disability. In 1962, she invited 75 children with an intellectual disability into her backyard, encouraging them through sport. This pioneering moment has since spread globally and, in the same spirit of 1962, I know the people of Newcastle will warmly welcome competitors in these upcoming games and wish them the very best of success. It is also wonderful that Newcastle's sporting facilities will be on show for the world to see, including the redeveloped No. 2 sportsground, which benefited from $2 million in federal funding, and the recently expanded Hunter Stadium, which our government supported with $10 million—a sure sign of Labor's support for regional Australia.

Further to this fantastic news, Special Olympics Australia is also launching their third Junior National Games in Newcastle, from 6 to 10 December this year. These games provide the opportunity for 350 young athletes under 16 to compete in a range of sporting competitions. I wish these young sportspeople the best, and look forward to seeing their faces again in future Special Olympic Games.

In addition to the Special Olympics events, our city will also host the 13th annual Australian Transplant Games from 29 September to 6 October. These games unite those that have been touched by the gift of life—the donation from a fellow human being of life-giving and life-enhancing organs, tissue or bone marrow. The Australian Transplant Games will offer 24 events and will feature competitors who have received transplants or undergone dialysis treatment or who have cystic fibrosis. It will indeed be great to witness such a celebration of renewed and enhanced life.

Through the Organ and Tissue Authority and the Australian Sports Commission, our government—and the parliamentary secretary is here in the chamber tonight and I know how hard she has worked towards this—will continue to support such valuable initiatives, as the benefits to both competitors and the causes they promote are profound.

These sporting events mean great things for our city and the people of Newcastle, affirming our sporting reputation and our inclusiveness. I look forward to seeing everyone at the opening ceremonies in 2012 and 2013 and wish all the competitors the best in their training. (Time expired)