Motor Accident Authority Paralympic Program



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SpeakersKelly The Hon Tony; Della Bosca The Hon John
BusinessQuestions Without Notice

MOTOR ACCIDENT AUTHORITY PARALYMPIC PROGRAM

The Hon. A. B. KELLY: My question without notice is to the Special Minister of State, and Assistant Treasurer. Will the Minister inform the House as to activities conducted by the Motor Accident Authority Paralympic program?

The Hon. J. J. DELLA BOSCA: I thank the honourable member for his question.

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The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: We had this question and answer two weeks ago.

The Hon. J. J. DELLA BOSCA: It might be the same question, but I have different information.

The Hon. J. H. Jobling: Read Hansard.

The Hon. J. J. DELLA BOSCA: The Hon. J. H. Jobling is a specialist at that. This important question relates to an important program, the Paralympic program, which is an injury prevention program that targets young people between the ages of 13 and 25 years. This age group is most at risk of serious injury on the roads. If honourable members opposite would listen they would realise that this relates to a number of serious matters. It consists of a team of Paralympian athletes - Team MAA - who undertake direct, face-to-face road safety talks and appearances in collaboration with other road safety stakeholders, such as police, schools, local government and the New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority.

In exchange the athletes receive a yearly scholarship of $8,000 so they can pursue their sport and prepare for the Paralympic Games in 2000. The program began in June 1997 with a team of 10 athletes and was launched by the Premier and two MAA athletes who abseiled off the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Hon. M. R. Egan: Did the Premier abseil off the harbour bridge?

The Hon. J. J. DELLA BOSCA: I was waiting for a member opposite to say that, and I could not think of anything to say, but I do not believe so. Since then the program has grown to include 17 athletes. The program promotes the tag line "You only get one body, drive safely." The athletes have suffered serious injuries in car crashes but have had outstanding sporting success despite amputations, brain damage, paraplegia or quadraplegia. Most of the athletes in Team MAA have developed international sporting careers, won multiple medals, and set national or international records.

Part of the appeal of the program is that the athletes tell a personal story of injury, rehabilitation and achievement to young people in their own communities. The audience can ask questions and see the real results of road crashes and rehabilitation programs. For young people, who demand graphic, credible and realistic messages, the athlete’s personal appearance is a powerful counter to the intractable myth - particularly for young males - that, "It won’t happen to me." The program is a free service for the community and is well used by the full spectrum of government and community organisations.

Since the beginning of July 1998 Team MAA has spoken face to face with more than 8,000 people, more than 80 per cent of whom have been between 13 and 25 years of age. The figure grows to about a quarter of a million with media coverage of their appearances in the press and electronic media. Fifty-three per cent of talks were carried out in metropolitan Sydney, 19 per cent in northern New South Wales, 24 per cent in south and south-western New South Wales and 4 per cent in far west New South Wales. There is no metropolitan bias in this program. Thirty-six per cent of talks were carried out in collaboration with the police, 29 per cent with local government campaigns, 13 per cent with Health Department campaigns and 8 per cent in MAA campaigns.

Formal audience evaluations found that over 80 per cent rated the Paralympian talks as excellent, and it should be remembered that these are the young people most at risk of becoming road trauma victims. I ask honourable members to bear with me while I name some of the current Team MAA members. Angela Ballard, a 16-year-old wheelchair racer became a paraplegic in a car crash at seven years of age. She set national records and is part of the Australian women’s wheelchair relay team. Wayne Bell is a 28-year-old pentathlete who is an above-knee amputee following a motorcycle crash. He holds the Australian record for shot-put.

Fabian Blattman is a 40-year-old wheelchair racer who became a quadriplegic following a motorcycle crash. He holds world records and was a multiple medal winner at the Atlanta Games. Craig Cannane is a 24-year-old wheelchair basketball player who became a paraplegic when he crashed his trail bike. He plays for the Sydney Comets. Cameron De Burgh is a 27-year-old swimmer who lost a leg above the knee on his trail bike when he was 16 years old. He has broken national records and won silver at the Atlanta Games. Grant Mizens is a 21-year-old wheelchair basketballer who became a paraplegic in a car crash. He plays for the Sydney Comets.

Duncan Nisbet is a 27-year-old wheelchair basketballer who became a paraplegic in a car crash. He also plays for the Sydney Comets. Lisa O’nion is a 31-year-old veteran wheelchair basketballer who became a paraplegic in a motorcycle accident. She was a member of the Australian women’s team at Barcelona and Atlanta. Branka Pupovac is a 25-year-old wheelchair tennis player who became a
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paraplegic in a motorbike crash, is currently ranked fifteenth in the world and is part of the Australian team. Christie Skelton is a 18-year-old wheelchair racer who became a paraplegic in a car crash at the age of nine. She is a multiple medal winner and a member of the Australian women’s wheelchair relay team.

Frances Stanley is a 32-year-old sprinter who lost her leg above the knee in a car crash. She is a national record holder and Atlanta Paralympian. Wayne Teagle is a 32-year-old sailor who became a paraplegic as a teenager following a car crash. Sailing is a new event for this Games and Wayne is in line for the team. Stephen Wilson is a 26-year-old runner and long jumper who lost a leg when hit by a truck as a child. He is a multiple medal winner at international competitions. Lastly, Craig Windham is a 38-year-old skier who lost an arm in a motorbike accident. Craig was team captain for the Lillehammer Games and is now also a medal-winning waterskier.

I look forward to having the opportunity to further inform the House about the Paralympian program and the success of some of those fine athletes. All of these people’s injuries were caused by car or motorcycle accidents, and that adds to their value in contributing to road safety and injury prevention. I believe that this initiative is of great value to the community and the House. I thank the House for listening to my contribution without interruption.