Recognising our Paralympians

Kiama Council

Kiama Council, alongside Wollongong City Council and the Illawarra Olympic Fundraising Committee want our community’s help to collaborate on a working group to help recognise our region’s Paralympians.

Together, we’re calling for community volunteers to be part of a working group which will seek to update the Illawarra Olympic Wall in Lang Park, Wollongong, to ensure we’re acknowledging the hard work, dedication and sporting success of the region’s homegrown Paralympians and Olympians.

The Illawarra Olympic Wall in the Park’s southern end celebrates the endeavours of sporting stars from the Kiama, Shellharbour, Shoalhaven, Wingecarribee and Wollongong local government areas who have competed in the Summer and Winter Olympics since the inception of the modern Olympic Games.

It was installed in Wollongong in the lead up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics and was the first of its kind in Australia.

Over the years, the IOFC have been a patron of the Wall, and been responsible for adding new Olympians and recognising their achievements. Now, they’re keen to work closely with the five Illawarra councils to expand the Wall’s recognition to the region’s Paralympians.

“We take great pride in all of local athletes, including the many extraordinary people who have strived to become Paralympians and represent their country and local community,” Wollongong City Council Director Community Services [Acting] Lucielle Power said

“For some time now, the Illawarra Olympic Wall has recognised Olympic Athletes who have ties to our community. We want to extend this recognition to include our cities’ Paralympians who have achieved great success for themselves and the Illawarra’s sporting history.

“Council would like to have representatives on the working group from each of the five Illawarra local government areas. What we’re looking for are people who can demonstrate that they have local sporting networks that will assist in identifying previous Paralympic participants.”

Local Paralympian, Jonathan Goerlach, is the first volunteer to join the new working group. He said that he hopes to ensure equal recognition of past, present and future Paralympians.

“‘Para’ in Paralympics is defined as ‘Parallel to’ which means parallel to the Olympics. It is vital that the Illawarra be viewed as a region where all achievements of both Olympians and Paralympians are recognised in parallel – a symbolic step towards equality and inclusion,” Mr Goerlach said.

Simon Kersten, Chair of the Illawarra Olympic Fundraising Committee, said that the Wall was an initiative of the Illawarra Olympic Fundraising Committee (IOFC) and the local community with some assistance from the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC).

“The wall recognises every local Olympian, going back to our first in Dunc Gray who represented Australia in 1928,” Mr Kersten said

“We feel it would be a great tribute to local Paralympians to create a section of the wall to remember them by. The IOFC is keen to be part of the process and to recognise these fantastic local athletes.”

This is a big project as identifying names of local Paralympians is not as straight forward as it may seem.

“There has been many Paralympic Games and there are many Illawarra athletes, or their families, that will need to be contacted for approval to be included on the wall,” Ms Power said.

“People may have moved away from the area and the community they identify themselves with can change with time. That’s why we’re keen to work closely with community members who have a history of involvement with the Paralympic sporting community and draw upon their knowledge and connections. It’s a big job and we’re ready to get started.”

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