Amidst National NAIDOC Week, the focus turns to celebrating the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This year's theme, 'For Our Elders,' highlights the significant role that Elders play within Indigenous communities and families. Ryan Morich, a Whadjuk Nyoongar man and WAIS wheelchair basketball scholarship holder, has a profound connection to his Elders with a family history deeply rooted in the Perth region.
As Ryan explains, "My family's history is all here in Perth. My family name used to be Moorich but changed to Morich during the stolen generations when my Pop was a kid." He further shares, "On my grandmother's side, my family name is Williams, so I have an extensive family network throughout Western Australia." This deep-rooted connection to his heritage explains why Ryan feels a strong pull towards his hometown.
Ryan's journey into wheelchair basketball began when he was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, at the age of 12. After undergoing a leg amputation, he discovered wheelchair basketball during his time in the hospital. Ryan recalls, "I was an avid footy player, and I found wheelchair basketball to be the closest possible thing to a contact sport, so I decided it was what I wanted to pursue." Since then, Ryan's passion for the sport has only grown, leading him to represent Australia, secure back-to-back Collegiate National Championships with the University of America, and receive prestigious accolades such as the 2015 NAIDOC Sportsperson of the Year and the 2017 Young West Australian of the Year.
Ryan's accomplishments extend beyond the court. He is a dedicated leader within the Red Dust Heelers (RDH) program, which promotes disability inclusion as part of Outback Academy Australia. The RDH program comprises Aboriginal and other Australians with disabilities who serve as advocates and leaders, striving for greater inclusion in all aspects of life.
Ryan expresses his enthusiasm for being part of the program, saying, "I love the opportunity it provides to take wheelchair basketball to communities across Australia that might not otherwise have access to the sport." As a captain, he continues to learn and grow, embracing his role as a leader and using his disability to inspire and support others.
For Ryan, the RDH program aligns with the values of NAIDOC Week. He highlights the importance of cultural visibility and recognition, stating, "I think celebrating culture and supporting other cultures is an important part of being human. Through cultural exchange, storytelling, and community activities, NAIDOC Week helps to bridge gaps and foster a sense of belonging for all Australians."
Despite a busy schedule that includes training, competitions, and work in Business Intelligence at the Department of Finance, Ryan remains focused on his ultimate goal of making the Paralympic Wheelchair Basketball squad. His dedication and passion serve as an inspiration to those around him, both on and off the court.
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Photo Courtesy Western Australian Institute of Sport