Thursday 6 November 2014

Hansard of the Legislative Council

New Horizons Club putting Tasmania on the world map for disability sport

[11.39 a.m.]

Mr FINCH (Rosevears)- Mr President, I start by welcoming two special guests I have in the Chamber today - Mrs Belinda Kitto and Mrs Robyn Hanson. I am going to talk about New Horizons, the sporting club for people with disabilities.

The concepts of community and caring for each other are growing rather than diminishing in our modern world. Social commentators are having a field day trying to analyse and evaluate this trend, including Hugh Mackay in his new book, The Art of Belonging. The trend can no better be illustrated than by our Launceston-based New Horizons Club, which brings together people with disabilities for a range of activities, mainly sport.

The introduction to New Horizons website puts it rather well, and I will quote:

Since 1986, New Horizons Club Inc has remained a vital link between people with disabilities and their hopes and dreams of becoming involved in activities that most people take for granted. We allow people with disabilities to compete and participate at their own level, displaying their own unique skills and abilities.

Sport and recreation activities are also ideal ways of encouraging community inclusion, of enhancing friendships, of staying healthy and of helping people of all age and abilities to strive for, and reach, their goals.

We believe playing sport enhances self esteem through recognition of effort and ability. Our sporting coaches and group leaders are all volunteers, ably supported by a dedicated Board of Management and Coordinator/Manager Belinda Kitto.

As I mentioned, Belinda is here today. It was Belinda's mother, Robyn Hanson, who is also here with us today, who started New Horizons in 1986. It might have been a trip to the Special Olympics that inspired her to think there was a void in our community that needed to be filled to support people who have these issues.

I want to touch on the way that New Horizons helps itself with its fundraising activities. You may have seen in the papers that Richie Porte is coming home for the Stan Siejka Launceston Cycling Classic. He is the ambassador for a fundraising ride we have every year called the Western Tiers Cycle Challenge, so we will be able to connect with him when he comes back home.

Belinda had an idea about a gala dinner a few years ago. Everyone wants to have a gala dinner because it is a good way to raise money. I thought we might be struggling, but the success this year, after about three or four years, has been quite amazing. This year's dinner was held on 18 October, and it is hard to believe that $21 000 was raised just from that one social night. It was held in Launceston's Albert Hall and attended by 280 people. It is really hard to motivate people to come out during autumn, but people came to support it. Every year the attendance numbers and the funds raised have grown. New Horizons intends to grow the event further as funds raised go straight back into the local community to help people with disabilities.

The New Horizons Club is helping put Tasmania on the map in relation to disability sport. This year it sent the first indoor soccer team - a futsal team - to the national championships in Canberra. That competition is played alongside the mainstream futsal nationals. It is a great experience for the participants to play and also to watch the top players in Australia. New Horizons will be sending a team to Sydney in January. By the way, players pay their own way, and New Horizons runs fundraisers to help cover the cost of uniforms and coaches.

The club is also forging a connection with Australian Rules football. Members attended a great initiative by the AFL - an inclusion carnival, as they call it - in July. They had the opportunity to play on the MCG at half-time in a game between Melbourne and North Melbourne. There was hardly anybody there to watch the game, but that is beside the point.

You may have heard of Aran Miller, who has excelled at swimming. He was the inaugural winner of the Ray Bailey Memorial Award. Ray Bailey, the former President of the Legislative Council, with his wife Lyn, were patrons of New Horizons. He was a wonderful football player, too, one of the best never to go to VFL. New Horizons arranged for Aran to toss the coin at the start of the game at Aurora Stadium for his beloved Hawthorn football team.

Last year, Aran was selected to represent Australia at the World Down Syndrome Games in Italy. The club supported Aran with a fundraiser and a donation to get him there. He came back with five gold medals, and we will see what happens now. He is in Mexico, as we speak, competing in swimming. He does his strength conditioning at my son Brian's gym at KFM Fitness, so there is something in it for everybody.

It is not just a sport. The New Horizons program called Reaching New Horizons production is to be held early in early December with 30 people with disabilities performing on stage. The club's weekly craft class has 19 regular participants.

While New Horizons continues to grow, it desperately needs a new venue. They have outgrown their current facilities, which are ageing and need a lot of maintenance - provided by the Tasmanian Community Fund. They need more funding for staff, and they are absolutely stretched to the limit.

When the club started in 1986 with fewer than 20 members, the staffing was the same as now, one full-time and one part-time helper. It now has 322 members and 166 athletes - the same staff but with massive growth and increasing need for the service in the community. Funding for staff has not changed, but it does need to change.

Last week New Horizons won a very prestigious award for community service at the Launceston Chamber of Commerce Awards, so it shows the appreciation for the club in the community.

Mr President, the story of New Horizons begs the question: just what should our State Government's funding priorities be? In the meantime, New Horizons provides a fabulous base for these athletes and their parents and carers, and I salute them.