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The success of the Paralympic movement and its administrative strength has meant that Paralympics Australia (PA) has become the most effective and influential disability sport organisation in Australia.

PA was originally established in 1990 as the Australian Paralympic Federation to coordinate the Australian Paralympic Team. However, with the awarding of the 2000 Paralympic Games to Sydney the organisation accepted the role of preparing Paralympic athletes across all sports and changed their name to the Australian Paralympic Committee in 1998. In 2000 the APC managed the programs of all 18 sports in which Australia competed. In 2019 the organisation re-branded as Paralympics Australia.

Role

Over the years Paralympics Australia has also developed expertise which enabled it to identify and effectively address wider needs. After the Sydney Games, the organisation initiated and guided the process of ‘mainstreaming’, whereby the generic national sporting organisations (NSOs) take responsibility for integrating the disability side of their sport within their organisational structure. They also expanded their role in educating Australians about Paralympic sport, identifying and nurturing talented athletes, and advocating for sport for people with disabilities.

Paralympics Australia is a company limited by guarantee, with its shareholders being NSOs and NSODs. PA is a not-for profit business organisation and a registered charity, governed by a Board of Directors which may include elected and appointed members. The Board sets PA’s strategic direction and policies and oversees their implementation.

As the peak body for disability sport, PA is actively involved in delivering social good through their brand, assisting athletes and providing services. Sporting excellence, in all its dimensions, is an overarching goal of PA [source: Mission & GoalsParalympics Australia, (accessed 15 February 2019)].

PA plays a lead role in assisting the Oceania Paralympic Committee, made up of member nations: Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, and Australia. Since 2000, the Australian Government has provided PA with financial assistance to service its Paralympic commitments in the Oceania region.

Support

PA provides support to sporting organisations and individuals with a disability through:

  • Classification – This is the basis of fair competition in disability sport and tPA’s classification program is a world leader. PA works with sports to ensure that participants can be accurately classified as early as possible in their development pathway and given certainty as they progress on their sport pathway. Each Paralympic sport has sport-specific minimal disability criteria that athletes must meet in order to be eligible to compete and specific processes for athlete classification which are managed by PA in conjunction with the respective National Sporting Organisations.
  • Managed Sports. PA manages the Paralympic Preparation Program for three sports: boccia, goalball, and wheelchair rugby. The APC employs national head coaches and full-time support staff to handle the day-to-day operations of each program.
  • Select a Sport. This online tool allows input of disability characteristics and then suggests suitable sports programs. Paralympic sport presents a range of opportunities for people with various impairments to participate. As with any sport choice, some sports may be better suited to an athlete’s specific ability/disability or physical characteristics.
  • Get Involved in Para-sports. PA, in conjunction with its sport partners, provides a broad range of opportunities for people with disability to get involved in para-sport through special introductory events or trial programs, i.e. ‘Get Involved Days’. PA maintains contact officers within each state and territory to facilitate these programs. The Paralympic Talent Search Program was an extension of 'get involved' initiatives. The objective is to identify people with physical disabilities who have the athletic potential to progress to elite level competition. Since the program’s inception in March 2005, more than 1,000 athletes with potential have been identified and then encouraged to compete or offered opportunities as part of athlete development programs. At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, 43 athletes on the Australian Paralympic Team were products of the Paralympic Talent Search Program.
  • Paralympic Speakers Program. Paralympic athletes have powerful stories about how resilience, teamwork, and commitment can overcome adversity. This program allows Paralympic athletes to share their story and inspire others.
  • Paralympic Workplace Diversity Program. This PA initiative is designed to help place Paralympic Preparation Program (PPP) athletes into employment which provides a flexible work environment allowing for training and competition commitments and meaningful career opportunities.
  • Australian Paralympic History Project. PA established the Paralympic history project to capture, manage and preserve the history of the Paralympic movement in Australia. This multi-disciplinary project partners with specialist organisations in areas such as oral history and information gathering. Much of the History Project material is available in the 'Resources' section.

Recognition of achievements

PA established the Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2011 to recognise the achievements of individuals who have made a significant contribution to Australia's Paralympic success; enhanced the profile and understanding of Paralympic sport within the Australian community; and promote the role of the Paralympic movement.

As part of the history project, a partnership between PA and Wikimedia Australia, Australia’s involvement in the Summer and Winter Games [source: Australia at the Paralympics, Wikipedia] has been extensively documents, with links to Australian performances at specific games and profiles of Paralympians. More than 750 Wikipedia articles have been created through this project.

A chronology of milestones in the development of the Australian Paralympic movement is listed under, Paralympics Australia. [source: Wikipedia]

Delivery

PA supports summer Paralympic sports through the delivery of the Paralympic Preparation Program (PPP). The PPP aims to provide Australia's elite Paralympic athletes with the guidance and support necessary to allow them to perform to their potential at the Paralympic Games.

PA directly manages three Summer Paralympic sports: Boccia, Goalball, and Wheelchair Rugby. Other sports are managed by their respective National Federations and receive funding through a mainstream agreement with PA, they include:

PA supports two Winter Paralympic disciplines: Alpine Skiing and Para-Snowboard. Other Winter Paralympic disciplines include: Biathlon, Cross Country Skiing, Ice Sledge Hockey, and Wheelchair Curling.

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