In this week’s episode, Josh is talking to Alex Wells who was a Winner in the 2019 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards, Queensland.
Alexandra Wells established the Gold Coast Inclusive Sports Program for children with disabilities and additional needs when she was just 14 years old. Despite her young age, she met with leaders and spread the word about the club. She was involved in creating the program, promoting and running it, and training the volunteers. What started with 30 athletes and 30 volunteers, now has 90 athletes and 100 volunteers. The program focuses on coaching fine motor skills, teamwork, sportsmanship, and leadership whilst having fun in a safe and inclusive environment. Alexandra recently graduated from Griffith University with a Bachelor of Journalism.
In this episode:
- In Alex’s words “You’re never too young to make a change in the world”. Hear how her idea to provide an inclusive sports program where siblings of all abilities can play together and learn new sports has blossomed
- Using creativity and “pivoting” Alex was able to continue her program through the pandemic with take home kits and online programs for her athletes
- Great to see the expansion for 2021 with more programs, workshops and a focus on healthy living
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Welcome to the inspirational Australians podcast, where we chat to people, making a difference in their communities and in the lives of others. And here is your host for today, Josh Griffin.
Welcome to the Inspirational Australia’s podcast, stories of inspiring achievements and community contribution. I’m Josh Griffin from Awards Australia, a company that owns and operates award recognition programs right across Australia together with our corporate and not for profit partners with an aim of showcasing those people that’s making a difference. Every week we celebrate the good news stories, of some of our award program finalists, winners, and nominees to hear about their achievements and to share their stories. We hope we can be inspired and encouraged to know that Australia’s future is in good hands. If you enjoy hearing the stories about inspirational Australians, please subscribe, rate, and review us, we’d really appreciate it. This is a new podcast so any rate, review and subscription will really help. Welcome to the inspiration Australians podcast for your weekly dose of inspiration. And today I’m chatting with Alexandra Wells, but, uh, I’ll call her Alex for this podcast. And, uh, she’s only 19. I might get this wrong. Maybe she’s 20 now.
- Sorry. I’m 21 now. Yes.
Going on old information, but that’s fine. She’s 21. Now she was 19 when we first came across her as part of the Queensland Young Achiever Awards. And, uh, the reason I was speaking to Alex is because she established the Gold Coast Inclusive Sports Program for children with disabilities and additional needs. Now she started that in 2016 at only 16 years old. And that’s after a couple of years of planning and developing it. So at 14, she was doing this absolutely incredible. It started with 30 athletes and volunteers, 30 athletes and 30 volunteers. But since then the program tripled in size growing to 90 athletes and a hundred volunteers. And I’m sure it’s growing even since then. So we’ll talk about the program with Alex a bit further. Um, and interestingly, this is, I still can’t believe that have you had time for this Alex, you, uh, juggling you’ll uni and studies and starting this club. This is why we’re so excited to chat to you today. Welcome to the podcast, Alex.
Thank You. Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited.
Yeah. So can you tell us like what 14 year old kid is thinking when, uh, that undertaking this huge kind of effort?
Um, well, to be fair, looking back on it now, I didn’t really realize what the impact was or what was kind of happening. It was kind of, um, I guess the conversations, um, that I was having with the program, I, um, but give you a bit of background on why it all came about. So I really wanted to be a sports journalist. Um, that’s what I wanted to do. And I started a YouTube channel where I interviewed lots of athletes and, um, clubs and did lots of, I had my own website. So I used to write articles and I had a lot of fun with it. And one day I was invited down to the Musgrave Football Club, which is down in, um, South Port on the Gold Coast. And I was invited to one of the days where they have the inclusive football program, their inclusive soccer team and I got to do a big feature article and video on that program. And I came back home and I did a lot of research and realized that there was only one program up on the North side of Brisbane. And then there was a few down the gold coast, I think, maybe two or three. So there really wasn’t that many inclusive sports programs. And I got chatting with my school principal and she was kind of like, okay, so what are you going to do about it? And I was like, Oh, okay, cool. So it kind of started from there and my mum and dad, they will, like, I remember my mom picked me up from school one day and she was like, Oh, by the way, you have a meeting with, you know, the local counselor about this. And I was like, Oh, okay. Like, so we kind of jumped into it. And at the time I didn’t really realize how big it was going to be or how much effect it would have on people. Because I guess I, growing up in sport, I used to play sports so much as a kid. I always thought that everybody could access sport and everybody could play sport. And it wasn’t until we started doing that research and realize that not everybody has that opportunity. And yeah. So at the time it wasn’t really like, Oh my gosh, this is crazy. What’s happening? What am I doing next? It kind of just really, um, I don’t know. I guess it just kind of happened. And then looking back on it now, I kind of realize how big it was, uh, you know, starting that in the steps and yeah. Things like that.
Yeah. I suppose it was just one step at a time. Wasn’t it? But then the important thing is those steps were followed by another big step and another big step, because I think sometimes the difference there is some people have lots of a good idea. We should try that, but then, you know, you, then you’re actually talking to your principal to a counselor and then making things happen. So that’s, that’s really cool, Alex, at that age, you were doing it and you were motivated and it sounds like you were surrounded by people who were really back to your vision as well.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think, um, my mom, especially just, you know, to be able to get to, for her, to pick me up from school and be like, Hey, I’ve organized like you to speak to with this politician, I’ll do this. Like, you need to quickly think about it and it wasn’t ever, like I was put on the spot or felt, um, you know, not really ready for these meetings or anything because I think with like my parents and my school support, um, it was a lot easier I guess, um, to go into those meetings and, um, feel heard, I guess. Yeah,
No, that’s cool. And I love that you had your own like sports journalists channel on YouTube and stuff, because I really loved that as a kid as well, thinking that will be a cool career for me, but again, the difference between us, I just did nothing. And then you actually started that YouTube channel. That’s
Awesome. Thank you.
And what was your favorite sport kind of, uh, to cover or to write about or whatever grow up?
Um, definitely NRL. Um, I think I grew up, my dad is a massive, I come from a big NRL family, so my dad is a massive West Tigers supporter and I’m a West Tigers supporter. My younger brother used to play and, um, I’m now doing an internship with the Gold Coast Titans. So, um, yeah, I just love rugby league. And I think one of the most exciting things about rugby league is that it is the greatest game of all, but it is becoming the greatest game for all and making sure that, um, it is accessible and inclusive to everybody. So, yeah.
Yeah. And another thing I wanted to quickly mention is that also, um, stuck a chord with me what you said about, you know, as a kid or even as an adult, if we’re just kind of stuck in our own, um, line of sight sometimes you don’t realize, Oh yeah, people, some people don’t have access to play that sport that we love and take for granted. Um, yeah. So you would have so many stories of people now that you’re helping to play that is that, that must be a truly rewarding thing.
Yeah, it is. It really is it, um, growing up, I played lots of different sports, both in and out of school. And I know that a lot of people that I speak to who are able-bodied, they do have that opportunity to play sport in and out of school. And it’s something that we see as a right. I guess we see that we at school, we had athletics carnivals, we had cross-country like swimming carnivals. We got to play inter school sports and it’s just such a, I guess like a nothing thing for us because we had access to it. We never had to worry about trying to get down to the school oval or how we would get down there or how we could, um, you know, use or play athletics and, um, swim at the swimming carnival unassisted, things like that. So we never had to worry about that sort of stuff. We never had to worry about. Uh, am I able to play the sport with a support worker with me? Am I able to even just be able to, um, understand or if will the coaches be able to use Auslan or will there be, um, things that will help with my visual impairment, things like that. We don’t have to think about that as able-bodied people. So I guess growing up, you never think of that side of things and it wasn’t until, um, I went to the Musgrave Football Club and kind of saw and learnt from these families about how they’re having the opportunity for the first time ever to play sport was so mind blowing to me. And now at the, at the Gold Coast Inclusive Sports Program, listening to parents who tell me that, sorry, listening to parents that tell me that their children now for the first time, get to play sport with their younger or older brother, because at the program, it’s not just for people with disabilities, anybody, and everybody can play. So if there is someone in the family who has a disability who wants to come along, their siblings can come along with them. So their parents, like this is the first time that they’ve been able to go to a sports club and play basketball or soccer together. Um, this is the first time that they’ve even been included in a sports team the first time ever that they’d been able to access something like this. And I guess as well as something with our program is a lot of sports do cost a lot of money, probably about $300-$400 a season with your uniforms, the equipment, um, insurance, things like that. And we try and keep our prices really low because we know that a lot of people with disabilities do have to pay a lot of money to access things anyway. So it could be equipment that they need or, um, paying support workers and things like that. So, we try and keep the prices really low so that people can access it, people can, uh, be involved with the program in that sense as well. So, yeah.
So how do you keep those prices kind of lower?
We’re really fortunate that we have amazing sponsors. Um, so our sponsors, they, uh, help us pay for all of our trophies, our jerseys, sporting equipment. Um, we’re very fortunate at the high school that I went to – LORDS, they currently are the, um, venue for the program. So we can use that free of charge. We can go and use like their basketball courts or their indoor sports center and the oval, things like that, a lot of their sporting equipment as well. So we’re really fortunate for that because that is such a large cost.
Yeah, that’s great. And as you said, that means you can keep the cost low. So, look, we may as well give the sponsors a shout out who are some of the sponsors that are helping you, there’s LORDs obviously that’s great.
Speaker 1 (11:14):
Yeah so, we have LORDS, we have LJ Hooker Ormeau, uh, we have Bendigo bank Ormeau, Zarraffa’s Coffee Ormeau, Um, we have Fire Apparel and Heart of Juno designs. I think that’s it. They’re amazing. They all, you know, a lot of sponsors as well. Um, could just say like, Hey, here’s our donation for the season. See you later. Um, but they’re so involved. They’re coming down to the program each week. They’re learning about all about athletes. They’re making changes in their workplaces to make it more accessible for people. And I think that is so fantastic because it would have been really easy for them to be like, Hey, we want our free advertising. Here’s your donation, but they’re being involved. They’re coming down. They’re seeing what it’s like. And it’s, you know, they’ve been on since the very start of the program, which is really exciting. So yeah,
That’s awesome. I’m a big advocate for sponsorship as a really great way for companies, whether it’s small businesses or bigger companies to do exactly what you said, not just make a little donation and then off you go, Robert is difficult on our wall, but yet to make actually a partnership and then that’s bringing change to the way they do things it’s helping other people in their communities. So I love that. That sounds absolutely great.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
So can you tell me how, um, in the intro I mentioned that it started with 30 athletes and volunteers, even that’s a really good study number. How did you get 30 to start off with?
So it started from word of mouth and we had 30 people and it was really crazy because on the very first open day that we had, we actually had people come and travel from Roma and Lismore to the program. So they were traveling hundreds of kilometers to come to the program. So it was really mind blowing that just through word of mouth that we’ve reached all of these areas already.
Yeah. That’s really that’s cool. Yeah.
Yeah. So then, um, after our, we held two open days, um, just to kind of get a grasp on how many people would want to attend and sign up. And by the end of that year, we were already getting so many people contacting us, saying we want to be involved next year. We want to be involved next year. And it really grew to the point that we never in the second and third year, we never had to go and advertise it anywhere because people were coming into the program, attending, seeing what it was like, and then going out into their communities and telling people about it. And it got to a point where there were so many people coming on that we actually had to cut off how many people could attend, just because we want to do something really well. Um, with the amount of volunteers and things that we have, and we didn’t want to grow too fast. So we had to cut it off, um, for a year, I think just because there were too many people
That must’ve been a hard decision to make, to have to cut it off, but it’s sounds like it was important to make sure that the people who take part could do so, you know, safely and get the most out of it and actually yeah. Be able to enjoy it properly.
Yeah, exactly. So it was really important to us that we had the right amount of volunteers to help our athletes, because it would have been great to have a whole heap of athletes come along and be involved because we do want to give people the opportunity to play sport, but we also want to do that safely. We want to do it, um, right. And we want it to have the best outcomes for our athletes so that they’re reaching their goals. But yeah.
Yeah. And I’m sure it would be quite, I mean, I shouldn’t assume is it hard to find volunteers?
We are really fortunate because we, because run out of a school, a lot of our volunteers are school-based kids. So from year seven to 12, um, which is really exciting. Um, it is hard sometimes, especially going into like exam season. We have a lot of university students as well. So going into like the later weeks of semester, it is really hard to get volunteers there. Um, but I’ve always said that it is once you come along to one session and volunteer, they’re more likely to come back. It’s just getting volunteers to that first session because people, I guess, going into it might be a bit scared. They don’t really know what it’s going to be like, um, volunteering. And then they go and attend one session and realize what it’s like. And then they’re bringing their friends back and coming back in the sessions after that. So it is hard I guess, to get volunteers there in the first place. But once they’re there that in that first session, it’s a lot easier to retain volunteers.
I mean, that’s great that you’ve got so many kids from Lords and university and stuff who are volunteering. It’s fantastic. And speaking of coming to the end of the year, um, what, when does the program run to, is that kind of wrapping up now or…
Um, so we only unfortunately have 10 sessions a year, so we run it in terms two and three of the school year fortnightly. Next year, we’re expanding that we’re hoping to go up to 20 sessions. Um, so the reason we only did 10, uh, I guess kind of similar to why we cut off our intake a few years ago is that, um, we wanted to make sure that we were meeting the community’s needs and making sure that we were doing it right. Um, so we were only doing 10 sessions a year, and we’ve soon realized that a lot of our families are really wanting more sessions a year. So next year, going into 2021 touch word, no COVID restrictions next year, either that we will be able to expand to more sessions a year because it is really important that because sport is such a great thing for the body and your mental health. So being able to act not only just access that, but be able to access sports regularly is really important. So we’re really excited to be expanding that in the next year.
Cool. And can you tell us what a session looks like? So do you cover, you know, as a rugby league fanatic yourself piece, like this is just rugby league or are you doing all sorts of sports or how’s it look?
So, I think the really exciting thing about the Gold Coast Inclusive Sports Program is that we play numerous different sports. Our main goal going into it is that we are training the fine and gross motor skills. So we know that, uh, for me, uh, growing up in sports as a young girl, the fine and gross motor skills, I was told that from a very young age and being able bodied, I was able to be taught that as a very, at a very young age and go into sports. But for a lot of people with disabilities, those kind of basic skills that we learn in sport, aren’t really taught outside of therapy. So we go into a session, um, we have four different teams. We have a minis team, a genius team, a senior team, and a tiny tots team. So we started the age of two and we go up to 18 years old. Athletes will arrive at a session, we kind of split up into the teams. Um, and we all train separately at different times as well. So for me, I coached the junior team and we go into a session, we do a warm up, um, we’ll go into those fine and gross motor skills. So that could look like throwing and catching bean bags, tennis balls, hopscotch, skipping ropes, things like that. Um, then we’ll have a fruit break, which I wonderful sponsors, um, with their donations. We can, um, have like oranges and watermelon and things like that. So the kids can have a bit of a break in between, and then we go on into a bigger game of sports. So we might go into learning then the skills of basketball. And at the end of the session, we’ll play a game of basketball or we might learn the skills of touch footy. And then we go and play a game of touch footy. So every session is really different, which is really exciting because then the kids and the volunteers get to learn all these different skills, how different games are played, and then hopefully athletes can then learn that skill and say, Hey, I really love playing rugby league or, Hey, I really love playing cricket and I can go on and hopefully find a cricket club that have an inclusive team, and then they can go and play cricket specifically. But it’s about opening those skillsets in the fine and gross motor skills and seeing, and having access to, you know, these sports and seeing what it’s like before. Yeah. Hopefully going on.
Yeah. That’s awesome. And is it, uh, how does it work? We’ve got people from all different abilities and, um, levels of ability or, or whatever like that. Is that then where the volunteers come into play because they’re able to modify and assist as needed?
Yeah. So we’re really fortunate with the volunteers. Um, we do have a, well, we try to have a one-on-one volunteer to athlete ratio. Um, so basically the volunteers then can, uh, look at the athletes, see how they’re doing with the game or the skill that they’re training at and they can modify it. So, um, if there’s someone with a physical disability, they can modify it to help them achieve their goals and get through it. Um, and then the same with, we know we have kids who, um, have autism or ADHD and they might just get there and, or they might have anxiety and they get there and they’re like, no, I don’t want to play basketball today. This is I’m out. And our volunteers are able to go, Hey, that’s so fine. What would you like to play today? And if it could just be sitting down, throwing and catching a ball for the whole two hours that they’re there and our volunteers will sit down and do that with them, because that’s what they want to do. And they’re still learning, they’re still playing sports so that our volunteers are able to modify it for our athletes, which is really good as well.
Yeah, that’s fantastic. Um, it sounds like a good approach just to coaching in general.
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I’ve worked with kids, um, from a very young age. So I was about the same time I started the program. I was teaching, um, dance. I was a dance teacher and, um, yeah, I think I learned a lot of stuff from the program and volunteering and the program that I’ve been able to apply to, you know, my work and working with children. So I think it’s a really great, um, program, not just for our athletes, but for our volunteers as well, to learn skills about coaching and leadership and volunteering and being able to go into their careers and apply those skills.
I’ve always thought that sport is such an integral part of community. It’s brings people together from different walks of life. Um, and as you said before, it teaches things like leadership, which, and you touched on this earlier too. Sometimes that’s not really taught or learned in other areas, but sport, it naturally lends itself to teaching that. So how do you kind of incorporate things like that, teamwork and leadership? Is it just through the different sports that you’re learning?
Yeah, definitely. So sort of the different, um, sports that we’re learning the volunteers, I guess before we go into a season, we always have a volunteer training session, but there’s no better way to, I guess, learn that than being there and learning it hands-on and doing it, um, because it’s very easy to be, or to listen to someone be like, this is what you need, or this is what you have to do. And that’s how you’ll use it, but it’s until you get there and you actually do it and you are able to experience it that you learn best, I think.
Yeah. And you mentioned before about athletes finding a sport they love and then, you know, maybe going out to a club. So has that happened?
Yeah. Yeah. So we’ve actually, we had an athlete, um, who came to our program and he had really high anxiety. Um, and he, when he first started the program, he didn’t want to be involved in, I guess, um, any of the activities we were doing, he didn’t want to be involved in, um, playing sports or anything like that. He spent two years in the program and by the end he was helping us volunteer, um, without other athletes, which was awesome. And then he didn’t come back the next year and we were like, Oh no, what what’s happening? Like what’s going. And we contacted his family. And his mom said that he ended up joining the local rugby league team because he then had the confidence to go out and play in being involved in the team and which was really, really exciting. So yeah, it’s always a nice, happy story.
Yeah, that’s really cool. Yeah. And, uh, the volunteers from what you’re describing to me, it sounds like they must get as many lessons and enjoyment out of it as the athletes do.
Yeah, absolutely. And the really exciting thing with our volunteers is the majority of them are high school aged students. So it is really great that that firstly giving up their Saturday afternoon to come and volunteer, I think that is amazing in itself. Um, they are learning what it’s like to, um, I guess, make things accessible and what it’s and learning from our athletes, what it’s like to have a disability and how we as able body people can help and can help give them the microphone. And I guess stand up and, you know, have a seat at the table, I guess. Um, so it’s teaching our volunteers that what the importance of inclusive, not inclusivity, not just in sport, but outside in workplaces at school, um, at the shopping center, things like that. So I think it’s really great that our volunteers are so young, they’re learning it so young so that as they grow and move into their careers or go into university, things like that, they’re able to, you know, take these lessons with them that they’ve learnt off about athletes.
Yeah, for sure. And now you mentioned COVID earlier, um, I did want to ask you that must have thrown a lot of Saturday work this year for your program. Yeah. Tell, tell us out what, what was affected and, you know, were you able to kind of, um, come up with another way to go about it?
Yeah, so it was a really funny year for everyone. Um, and in the program we went into, obviously we went into the nationwide lockdown. So the program wasn’t able to start when we were supposed to. Um, and then because a lot of our athletes do, um, are probably more susceptible to COVID. Um, we had to really go back to the drawing board and think about how we were going to go about it because community sports had restarted. Um, but our problem was with, because we run out of a school, we have to go by the school’s insurance policy. So the school’s insurance policy was that, um, parents weren’t allowed on the school grounds, um, which makes it a lot harder for our program to run because we couldn’t have the parents with them, um, which the parents aren’t involved in the program, but we always liked, well, they, a lot of parents are, but we didn’t want to have to say to the parents like, Hey, you can’t come and watch your kid, um, play sports, say, because you have stay in the car, you have to drop them and go. Um, and we didn’t think that was fair. So we ended up going back to the drawing board and we decided to cut out, um, sessions in half. So there were different starting times and finishing times, which, um, you know, minimize the amount of people on site. Um, all of our kids, we didn’t want to, um, with our sporting equipment, we didn’t have enough time to be, um, you know, swapping and sanitizing the equipment and then quickly going to the next team. Um, so all of our kids were able to get their own bag of sporting equipment. So, they had a whole bag with like bean bags, tennis balls, soccer, balls, basketballs, everything that they needed for their session was in the bag. Um, and then unfortunately right after we had our first session back, um, without you fancy little sports kits, um, another COVID outbreak happened in Queensland and we had to, um, postpone and then we started doing some online sessions, which was really exciting. So a lot of the kids who were at home, they got to take their sports kit home and they were able to join in online with their sports kit. So we were all in our backyards, um, playing sports through zoom.
Lucky you, uh, arranged for everyone to get their own kit. That’s actually pretty fortuitous.
Yeah. It was really lucky. So, and I know a lot of the kids are loving it. We get so many like messages and photos and videos of the kids playing with the kid, um, out like with their neighbors and the street and things like that. So it’s really nice that they are not using it just for inclusive, but they’re able to use it at home with their friends as well.
Yep. Well, I suppose the timing was lucky, but the planning was excellent Alex too, to get them their own stuff. That was good thinking.
Thank you. Yeah.
Yes, so they’ve, so now they’re doing their, um, sessions in their backyard and, um, or wherever they can online. And did you find that most people were able to participate that way?
Um, it was definitely a lot harder and compared to being in person, the numbers definitely dropped. Um, but a lot of people were able to, um, join in and play. And it’s good because we had a lot of volunteers as well, so we’re able to do the breakout rooms, so the volunteers could focus on, Hey, I’ve got two athletes in this breakout room. What can assessing the situation? What can we do, um, altogether with our sports kit? So I guess it’s the same as being in person, being able to assess a situation and say, Hey, how can I modify this activity to suit my athletes best?
And I’m sure that would have been a hectic zoom call with so many add ons.
It was very hectic, very hectic as well with like the basketball bouncing and lots of kids like laughing and everyone talking over each other, but we did get there in the end.
Oh, that would have been cool. Um, yeah. So, and then you were able to restart as the year wore on or was that, um, had to be put on hold and, and aiming for next year?
Yeah, unfortunately it did have to be put on hold. Um, but we are aiming for next year and we are aiming for an expansion in the program as well, which is really exciting. So, um, like I said before, going from the 10 sessions a year up to 20, um, and then we’re also looking at incorporating, um, different workshops as well with our kids. So with sport comes things like healthy eating and mental wellbeing. So we’re looking at doing workshops on like, um, what it’s like to eat healthy and what the impact and benefits of it are, or a workshop on mental wellbeing. So, um, yeah, we’re really excited for that and really excited to incorporate different aspects of healthy living in the program.
Yeah. That’s exciting. Now sounds like it’s such a success. Is there any thoughts in your mind about, you know, taking this beyond the gold coast or, or anything like that?
Yeah, definitely. I, um, had a meeting last week actually with our local cricket club, the Ormeau Alberton Hurricanes. And they’re looking at starting an inclusive team, um, either next year or the year after, which is super exciting. And I guess the dream, the dream career for me, I have a journalism degree now I’ve only just graduated. So I want to really incorporate that community development and the communications all into one. Um, so my dream career would be to be able to go and start these programs or, um, give educational tools to different sporting teams so that they’re able to start an inclusive team. So going to the local AFL club or the local rugby league club and saying, Hey, here is the best way to start an inclusive team. This is what you need. This is how you start it. And for them being able to make sure that everybody neck and community isn’t included and has access to that sport.
Yeah, that’s a really cool idea. And I suppose, you know, in my head I was thinking, Oh, so you you’d take more of these inclusive programs, but, um, the clubs themselves have all their facilities. They have everything in place for that sport. And so that makes sense to just get them ready to welcome more people.
Exactly. I would love to start more programs, um, in other places other than the Gold Xoast, it is definitely a goal. But I think that, you know, telling teaching people the importance of being inclusive and making sure that their workplaces or their sporting clubs are inclusive is just so, so important. Um, it’s, it doesn’t matter how many inclusive programs that are on the gold coast or will be made in a suburb if people aren’t actioning that in their own personal lives or in their sporting clubs or in their workplaces, because there is such a need in the community for inclusive sports and inclusivity, that it doesn’t matter how programs we cannot cater for everybody. So for everybody to be able to learn the importance of it and be able to take that on and incorporate that into their lives makes a better society for everyone, especially people with disabilities.
Yeah. I agree with that a hundred percent everyone deserves the, the right and the choice just to have the choice.
Exactly. Yeah. Yep.
Um, so you said you finished university and now we know what your dream career would be. Yes. So yeah, it’s kind of pre-empted one of my questions because I had written down basically ask Alex, how is she going to, you know, she finished university, you’re a 21-year-old young person. I was going to ask how you plan to continue this. Obviously you’ve got that ambition, but, uh, I guess aside from, you know, Gold Coast Inclusive Sports Program, what is kind of next for you, Alex?
Um, I just was offered a job here on the Gold Coast with kid’s therapy club, which is really exciting. So I’m looking at doing, um, I think the role is called the Community and Communications Liaison Officer, um, which is really exciting. So that’s kind of like the next immediate steps, which I’m really looking forward to. Um, but I guess five-year ten-year plan. Um, like I said before, just making sure that, uh, or creating these educational tools to make sure that people, um, offer inclusive sports, um, and making sure that people have that choice and, you know, can access inclusive sports. So, yeah,
That’s awesome. And for a rookie Rugby League person, I’ve known nothing about this sport. Tell me why I love that you said at the start, it’s the greatest, the greatest game of all. And then that was a good follow-up and you want it to be the game for all something.
Yeah. Yeah. So, the goal, the Gold Coast Titans, um, where I’m currently intending, so maybe a bit biased, but I think the Gold Coast should be so proud of the Gold Coast Titans and their club because the community work that they’re doing, first of all, is amazing. They have a physical disability and an intellectual disability rugby league team. I’m pretty sure they offer up to 13 different modified games of rugby league to make sure that everybody can access it. Um, and that quote of being the greatest game of all, um, and for all is from Dennis Watt, the chairman of the Titans and, um, the team that is just absolutely amazing what they’re doing for people with disabilities and making sure that not only they have access to rugby league, um, but you know, in the community, making sure that they have access to lots of different things is amazing. So I think rugby league, especially the Gold Coast Titans are just doing amazing things in their line of work, um, and should be highly commended for that.
Yeah, that’s cool. And that’s, I’m going to give a little plug to one of our awards at the moment. We have a not in all of our programs, but it’s one that I love. And I had kind of been trying to get this category out there more, but it’s a sport in the community award it’s, as we’ve been talking about this, it’s just, you know, I love sport like you, and it is such a powerful tool for making change in the community. So for anyone out there who is involved with sports clubs, who are, who are doing great things, like what you’re talking about with the Gold Coast Titans are doing what your inclusive sports program is doing, then yeah. Please let us know. You can email email@example.com and we’ll make sure you get nominated because it’s, that’s what we love doing is sharing stories like yours, Alex. It’s so inspiring to me.
Thank you. Yeah. It’s been great listening to the other, all the other podcast episodes and listening to yeah. That weekly dose of inspiration. It’s awesome.
Thank you. So before we wrap up, I just wanted to ask if you had a message for anyone out there who’s listening, um, chance for you to kind of share something.
Um, I guess that two things, um, that you’re never too young to make a change in the world. I think that is really important because looking back on it now, I realize how, how nervous I was speaking to adults about a program like this and trying to get adults to listen to me. And I was very fortunate that I was, I had so many supportive people behind me who helped me and, you know, gave me that microphone, I guess, to speak about that. But just letting people know that they can make that change and that, um, you, you aren’t too young and you don’t have to be like, I always thought you had to be like a grownup to do that grown up in quotation marks, but yet you definitely don’t have to be an adult or anything like that to make a change. And I think the second most important one is just to in your daily life, just think about ways you can make things more accessible. Um, if it’s on your Instagram, I’ve recently like started doing image descriptions so that people with visual impairments, if they have a screen reader, um, they know what the image or picture is that you’ve just posted or captions on your videos or is your workplace accessible, other ramps, are there lifts other bathrooms that are accessible and things like that. So just having that thought once or twice a day thinking, you know, is what I’m doing right now accessible. Is it inclusive? Can everybody access it or use it, I think is really important.
Yeah. That’s great. So practical with that Instagram tip, is that, um, as simple as just in the caption writing the description or is it a tool?
Yeah. Yeah. So just in the caption, you just write like, whatever you want to go with the photo and then write down below, just write in brackets image description. It could just be something like, there’s a girl in the photo she’s slightly towards the right. She has blonde hair, she’s smiling. She has, she’s dressed in the graduation cap and gown. And then that’s it. And that’s the way that way someone who might use a screen reader who follows you or that account can go through and it’ll read the whole thing and they know what the images and what the description is that goes with.
Yeah. Brilliant, great idea. That’s awesome. Thank you. And other things I wanted to ask you is for people who are inspired by this and you know, they’re in the Gold Coast area, they want to get involved. How could they know maybe inquire about volunteering?
The best way to get in touch with us is to shoot us a message on Facebook or Instagram. We’re called the Gold Coast Inclusive Sports Program. And, um, yeah, we’ll be able to get in contact and figure out the best way to volunteer is. Yeah.
Yeah. Well, I can’t wait to, I’ll be following those, uh, those pages and to see what 2021 brings and, um, hopefully as you said, you know, but I think we’re all touching what, at this point, has there ever been more pressure on a year to be good than 2021?
So yeah, fingers crossed that the program is, is all going, um, can go ahead, can increase, uh, in sessions and yeah, that’ll be absolutely brilliant to follow Alex. Thanks for being part of this.
Thank you so much for having me.
Absolute pleasure. Great to chat with you, Alex. Thank you.
You too! Thank you.
I hope you enjoyed that interview. If you liked it or any of our other episodes, it would be great. If you can rate and review the inspirational Australians podcasts, it really helps us out. If someone, you know, needs a little dose of inspiration, why not let them know about this podcast? And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribed so that you won’t miss an episode, join us each week. As we talk with ordinary Australians, achieving extraordinary things, you can always head through our website at awards australia.com/podcast, for more information and details on each guest. Now, before we go, I’d like to thank Annette, our producer. Here’s a fun fact, Annette is my mum and our other hosts. Geoff is my dad. This podcast is brought to you by Awards Australia, a family owned business that proudly uncovers the stories of people who make a difference for others. We can only do this with the support of our corporate and not-for-profit partners as they make our awards programs possible. So do you know someone making a difference if you’d like to recommend someone to be guests on the podcast, get in touch through our Instagram page, inspirational.Australians, or maybe your business might like to sponsor the podcast or get involved with the awards. We run head to our website, awards, australia.com for more details until next week, stay safe and remember, together we make a difference.
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