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Changing attitudes changing lives

by Stephen Collopy on 16 Feb 2017
Dan Fitzgibbon and Leisl Tesch training on Pittwater Stephen Collopy
The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club prides itself on inclusion of all in the sport of sailing and on Friday 10 February the club along with ANZ Bank hosted a charity lunch for the Attitude Foundation raising awareness for social integration of those living with disabilities.

More than 80 guests attended the lunch, chairman and founder of the Attitude Foundation and former Australian Disability Commissioner, Graeme Innes opening the talks presenting the aim behind the Foundation and outlining the social change which needs to occur to promote better lives for those living with disabilities.

“The Foundation aims to promote change through their own stories, stories of those doing work, doing sport and doing life. Said Grahame Innes.

“These stories will help create a better understanding of what it’s like living with a disability that will change people attitudes and remove the barriers to promote inclusion in both society and the workforce. “Graeme Innes said.

Five time Paralympic medallist in both wheelchair basketball and sailing, Liesl Tesch spoke of the importance of the role sport plays in the promotion of change.

Coming from an accident when Liesl was 19 she told of how her discovery of wheelchair basketball pushed her through living a life with a disability.

This passion for wheelchair basketball led to Liesl winning silver at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics, Silver in 2004 Athens Paralympics and Bronze in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. From there her passion and competitive spirit propelled her into the sport of sailing.

Meeting Daniel Fitzgibbon at the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club the pair teamed up and with the help of key members developed the award winning Integrated disAbled Sailing Program (IdS) which strives to promote sailors of all walks of life to be integrated into the club’s regular sailing program.

Daniel and Liesl won gold medals at the 2012 London Paralympics and the 2016 Rio Paralympics along several world and national championships in between.



Amongst all these sporting achievements and a career as a high school teacher Liesl still found the time to promote the message of inclusion through sport in countries like Kenya, South Africa and Lao along with doing work within the local community which led to the foundation of the organisation SportMatters which goes by the motto “For Everyone. For Life.”

Liesl expressed her gratitude for all the support she and Daniel Fitzgibbon have received without which they couldn’t have achieved their goals.

“Sport is a great medium for social inclusion, I had knowledge that we could create new things which has driven me to do what I’ve done but it couldn’t have happened without the support from others, I do thank the RPAYC for all the support and effort from all the volunteers and members, it’s been an incredible contribution to our two gold medals.” Liesl concluded.

As ambassadors of the IdS program, Paralympic gold medallists, Leisl Tesch and Daniel Fitzgibbon have expanded the program to branch out to other organisations and community groups including Sailability Crystal Bay and Australia’s Soldier On organisation which assists in integrating the country’s veterans into civilian life.

As evident through the work of the Attitude Foundation and the RPAYC it is important for identities like Graeme Innes, Liesl Tesch and Daniel Fitzgibbon continue telling their stories to create effective change.

For the bigger picture the Attitude Foundation seeks to spread the message and encourage others to tell their story. In doing so the Foundation is raising money to produce a TV series to air on the ABC to show the stories told by those living disabilities. To donate visit www.attitude.org.au

For more information about the RPAYC IdS program visit www.rpayc.com.au

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