Para-Sports Day at St Joseph's Primary School

Published on 21 June 2022

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Students at St Joseph’s Primary School, Malvern experienced the fun of accessible sport at Sport4All’s Para-Sports Day, while also learning important values of inclusion.

The event was headlined by para-alpine skier and 2018 Winter Paralympian Jonty O’Callaghan, who was born with cerebral palsy affecting his right side. This hasn’t stopped him hitting speeds upwards of 120kph on the snow as he competes at the Paralympic Games, World Championships, and other events across the globe.

Through the day’s various games, children from grades 3 to 6 learned how sports can be adapted to include people with disability. These included:

  • Using a blindfold and a rattling ball, the children understood the perspective of blind athletes playing goalball.
  • Seated volleyball showed how people with either limited or no use of their legs can still enjoy a sport typically known for its running and high jumping.
  • Students were challenged to play dodgeball without the use of their dominant arm, or even adapt to playing without the use of any arms at all.
  • In pairs, students guided their blindfolded partner along a course, highlighting the trust and bond that para-athletes have with their guides.
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Students then heard from both Jonty and City of Stonnington Disability Inclusion Program Officer, Jeremy O’Sullivan about what inclusion means and what students can do or say to help make sport more inclusive for others.

It could be changing a rule, allowing different equipment, or any necessary modification to the game that allows someone with disability to enjoy sport to its fullest.

Jonty also explained how not every person with disability might want changes to rules or unique treatment in-game, some are comfortable with participating as is and don’t want to be treated as fragile.

The most important thing that kids can do is not be afraid to ask questions or say the wrong thing when interacting with someone with disability. Being curious, respectful, and listening to what they want goes a long way.

“Sport4All's purpose is to support people with disability to participate in sport when, where, and how they choose,” Jeremy explained.

“Inclusion is everyone's responsibility and Para-Sport come and try days, like St Joseph's Primary's, gives students the opportunity to walk in the shoes of their peers with disability and understand how adapting rules, equipment, and the environment can include everyone.”

Mahla Davies, a teacher from St. Joseph’s Primary School shared the positive feedback from staff, students, and parents.

“The Sport4All incursion was a valuable opportunity for students to experience for themselves diversity in sport and begin the building blocks of disability inclusion awareness.”

“The students, staff and parent body provided overwhelming feedback in regard to the program and what it represented. "

Most importantly, the students enjoyed the experience and were able to take some learnings about disability inclusion with them.

"Jonty was amazing and we were really impressed with his skills and his story," said one student, while another enjoyed that there was “so many different ways to play and modify games and include everyone."

You can find out more about the Sport4All program at https://www.stonnington.vic.gov.au/active/Sports/Sport4All

Schools in Stonnington that wish to get involved with the Sport4All program and begin their disability inclusion journey can do so by contacting Jeremy O’Sullivan, Disability Inclusion Program Officer at City of Stonnington: josullivan@stonnington.vic.gov.au.

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