Australian Sports Commission Chair Josephine Sukkar AM writes that watching her father work as volunteer doctor at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games ignited her own passion for sport.
One of my most treasured items left to me by my late father didn’t cost him a cent.
It’s an item that reminds me of his journey from Lebanon as an 11-year old, to how sport helped him assimilate and find belonging in our country and one of the many opportunities afforded to him as a proud Australian.
My Dad, or Dr Buddy MacDessi as he was known more broadly, was a volunteer doctor at the Sydney 2000 Games and the sight of his uniform still brings an unbridled smile to my face.
Dad was always an active man and played rugby league and rugby union, cricket and squash, but the majority of his involvement with sport was as a passionate supporter (of the success starved Cronulla Sharks!).
In the eighties, Dad was the doctor for the Canberra Raiders rugby league team when they played in Sydney, and his family’s business was the naming rights sponsor of the Newtown Jets.
In the lead up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2000, there was a push for volunteers to get involved to ensure Sydney was the success that it promised to be.
16 years after he passed, my father’s values of community service remain with me. The joy he got out of volunteering has stayed with me and led me to a life of volunteering in sport too.Josephine Sukkar AM
He was one of 70,000 volunteers and joined a medical team looking after the teams of smaller nations while they were in Sydney.
I am not sure I saw him happier than when he was given the opportunity to volunteer in Sydney, and to this day one of my most treasured possessions is his volunteer uniform.
16 years after he passed, my father’s values of community service remain with me. The joy he got out of volunteering has stayed with me and led me to a life of volunteering in sport too.
Now more than two decades later, I have the honour to be the Chairperson of the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) as we turn our attention to the incredible opportunity we have as a sporting nation.
We are on the starting line of the green and gold decade with close to 30 major events confirmed to be held on our shores in the lead up to Brisbane 2032.
The road ahead includes the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Victoria and World Cups in basketball, football, netball, and many other sports.
Just last week, World Rugby confirmed Australia the host of men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups in 2027 and 2029 respectively.
Sydney 2000 was so successful due in large part to volunteers like my father, and over the next decade we are going to need 130,000 more volunteers to support sport to bring to life this extraordinary opportunity.
Volunteering in sport comes in many shapes and sizes and overwhelmingly our volunteers speak of it being a fun and rewarding way to be part of the community and a great way to meet new people and experience life from a whole new angle.
The ASC is passionate about leading our sector to give our athletes the best opportunity to reach their potential and to ensure every Australian can be involved in sport.
Sport in this country would not survive without the 2.9 million Australians that volunteer in sport and I encourage all of you to take the opportunity during National Volunteer Week to celebrate what they contribute to the communities that make up our country.
If Dad was still with us, I know he’d urge you to get involved as a volunteer to experience and enjoy everything sport has to offer.