Paralympic Team Lunch, Sydney Olympic Park

 

… Inspire so many Australians. Inspire Australians with a disability, inspire all Australians. The way you are able to triumph over adversity, adversity that most people could not imagine themselves being able to cope with and yet you are able to do it, and you are able to excel. You are an absolute inspiration. You are as Glenn said changing attitudes. You are opening the eyes of all Australians and people around the world. We admire you so much. Let’s give you another round of applause.

You know in 2012 in London for the first time in its history the Paralympics were a record sell out. That there says a lot about where Paralympics is now, and Glenn you are right about the Seven Network and the way in which a big broadcaster with a big heart gets behind the Paralympics and the way that opens up the eyes and minds of so many people. It is right at the centre stage as you said of global sports.

In the lead up to the 2016 Paralympics we are captivated we're enthralled by these tales of triumph over adversity, of Australians living with disabilities that are seizing these opportunities in elite sport.

Let me talk about Curtis McGrath an Australian Army engineer who lost both legs in an IED blast while serving in Afghanistan, while keeping us safe, keeping Australians safe, keeping the world safe. He lost his legs doing his nation's service in 2013.

Since then, he has overcome those injuries through rehabilitation and intense training to become an elite paracanoeing competitor. Now only three years on from that shocking accident, that shocking event, those wounds, those injuries, he is out on the water representing Australia at Rio, providing an inspiration to our Defence Forces, to all our wounded warriors, those with a disability and those without. His story is a remarkable feat of triumph over adversity, triumph out of tragedy.

It lifts the next generation of athletes both able bodied and those with a disability. You see, that is the capacity of sport, to inspire us, to motivate us, to bring out the best in every one of us. I'm sure, for many of us here, we remember being inspired by many other Paralympic stories.

I want to pay tribute today to Kevin Coombs, the first Australian Aboriginal Paralympic competitor for Australia a wheelchair basketballer and athlete who competed at five Paralympics, including the first Paralympic Games in 1960.

So all of us are inspired by our athletes. All of us here today have been inspired by you. You are going to Rio to inspire us yet again. To our 2016 Paralympic team captains Kurt Fearnley and Dani Di Toro, we are so proud of you.

Kurt Fearnley is a three time Paralympic gold medallist that's won marathons all around the world. Dani Di Toro is a five-time Paralympian for wheelchair tennis that has now made the shift to para table tennis for the 2016 Rio Games. You both provide fantastic examples of the courage and the resilience that is the Olympic spirit.

Glenn you are right all sides of politics are here we are absolutely united in our support and admiration for our Paralympians. Jim Chalmers is here representing Bill Shorten. Sussan Ley our Minister for Health and Sport and Aged Care. Craig Laundy MP, the Member for Reid and Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Stuart Ayres, the New South Wales Minister for Sport, Trade, Tourism and Major Events. In the lead-up to this year's Paralympics I'm proud of our Government's support for athletes with a disability.

In Government we provided close to $65 million direct funding to support the 167 athletes with a disability in the lead-up to Rio. Our direct Athlete Investment Scheme as you know supports both able bodied athletes and athletes with a disability at the same level of support. Our investment also includes funding to national sporting organisations for high-performance Paralympic sport programs and the Australian Paralympic Committee.

Our support for athletes with a disability extends beyond the sporting arena. One of my first acts as Prime Minister in September last year was to sign the National Disability Insurance Scheme agreements with New South Wales and Victoria. Since then we have reached agreements for the full rollout of the NDIS with Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT.

The NDIS is one of the largest social policy reforms in Australia's history. It provides choice and control to around 460,000 Australians with a disability. That is what it will do when it is fully rolled out, as it is being rolled out - a totally transformational social policy change.

Now in closing I want to salute the achievements of all of our Paralympians past and present. I want to wish you all the best on the road to Rio. You are doing our nation such a great service. We are with you, we are with you all the way, we back you all the way, all the way to Rio.

Thank you and congratulations on your extraordinary example of courage, of determination, of the human spirit triumphing over adversity. You inspire every one of us. Thank you so much.