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Empowering Inclusivity: Kevin Coombs' Insights on Indigenous Representation in Paralympics

During a recent meeting, Paralympics Australia Chief Executive Catherine Clark engaged in a conversation with Kevin Coombs, an esteemed five-time Paralympian and Australia's first Indigenous Paralympic representative. The discussion revolved around Paralympics Australia's Reconciliation Action Plan, which outlines the organization's objectives concerning First Nations people.

Coombs, 82, shared insights emphasizing the significance of cultural understanding while connecting with Indigenous communities. He suggested engaging with First Nations media as a means of fostering inclusivity and representation. Furthermore, he expressed how some members of Indigenous communities viewed him not as disabled but as a person capable of doing everything independently. Coombs highlighted the historical discovery of 40,000-year-old footprints at Lake Mungo, belonging to a one-legged person who used a pole as a mobility aid, indicating that Indigenous culture has always regarded individuals with disabilities as equals.

Paul Calcott's artwork, titled 'Our Story,' beautifully illustrates the coming together of Australia's Paralympians and emphasizes the unique marks they leave while training and competing, irrespective of their abilities. The RAP booklet acknowledges Australia's Indigenous people for recognizing that individuals with disabilities make distinct contributions to the world—neither superior nor inferior, just different.

Clark valued the time spent with Coombs, especially given the current focus on Reconciliation at Paralympics Australia and across the nation. Coombs expressed his support for the Voice to Parliament, considering it essential for fostering positive change in the country. As an Indigenous Australian who faced discrimination during his time competing in the 1960 Games in Rome, Coombs' perspective carries significant weight and deserves consideration.

Recounting his experiences from the 1960 Games, Coombs recalled the challenging journey to Rome due to the limited understanding of how disabled individuals could travel. He reminisced about facing scrutiny under the White Australia policy, which restricted the entry of non-white individuals into the country. However, he expressed gratitude that society has evolved since then.

The meeting between Clark and Coombs, along with the insightful discussions, offered valuable perspectives for Paralympics Australia's ongoing journey towards Reconciliation. The lessons learned from history and the shared vision for an inclusive future contribute to the organization's progress in fostering diversity and understanding.

Read the full article here.

Photo Courtesy Paralympics Australia

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