The Red Dust Heelers Wheeling and Healing National Campaign

Tomorrow, at the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence in Sydney – the desert, bush and city are represented as the First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN), the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC), and the newly established Outback Academy – Red Dust Heelers Team announce their official collaboration.

The partners are launching an innovative national program to increase inclusion and participation of Aboriginal people with disability in all areas of life, including Paralympic and recreational sports, employment, education and training.

The Red Dust Heelers Wheeling and Healing National Campaign will reach across the country. The program brings community members together with the Red Dust Heelers and celebrities for an action-packed Ultimate Wheelchair Basketball Challenge on day one, followed by a tailored Red Dust Healing workshop on day two, which focuses on sharing stories, understanding rights and entitlements, pathways to Paralympic and other sports as well as education, training and employment.
The Red Dust Heelers wheelchair basketball team is led by Ryan Morich and CJ Grogan, Aboriginal Australian Under 23s players; Brad Ness, Captain of the Australian Men’s Wheelchair basketball team – the Rollers; Kathleen O’Kelly-Kennedy, member of the Australian Women’s team – the Gliders, and Rob Pike WA wheelchair basketball athlete.
Ryan Morich, said: “To me, the Red Dust program is an exciting opportunity, to help bridge the gap for Indigenous Australians and be a part of something bigger than myself.”
Damian Griffis, Executive Officer at FPDN said: “The First Peoples Disability Network is proud to be a partner in this project. The Red Dust Heelers team and the program will play an important role in reaching Aboriginal community members with disability. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience disability at higher rates than the general population and are often described as facing ‘double disadvantage’,”
“Aboriginal people with disability, their families, carers and service providers will also be involved in order to build greater inclusion and participation.”

Jason Hellwig, CEO of the APC said: “In the lead up to the Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games the Australian Paralympic Committee is excited about unearthing new talent and interest in all Paralympic sports while building stronger connections and relationships with Aboriginal communities across Australia.”

The Red Dust Heelers will also provide mentoring to young people with disability. The team was formed in honour of its Patron, Kevin Coombs OAM (for services to Wheelchair Sports and Aboriginal communities). Mr Coombs is a former Paralympian Wheelchair Basketball Player and Ambassador for the National Indigenous Strategy for Literacy and Numeracy.
“Since the age of 12 years after an accident that left me unable to walk, I have had mentors like the late Sir Doug Nichols who encouraged me to ‘Get up and have a go at life’, I hope this program provides the same sort of valuable encouragement and support for young people across Australia,” said Coombs.

The First Peoples Disability Network is the national peak body representing Australia’s First Peoples with Disability
The Australian Paralympic Committee helps Australians with disabilities participate in sport and compete at the Paralympic Games through partnerships with governments, business, sporting bodies and the community.
The Outback Academy – Red Dust Heelers Team is a group of Aboriginal & other athletes, with & without disability, committed to the increased inclusion of people with disability into all areas of life.

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