Thursday, 20 September 2012
Statements on Indulgence
London Olympic Games
We are a nation of sports fans. We can see it at the local level and we can see where sport divides us, but at state and national level sport unites us. Naturally, Australians revel in the opportunity every four years to support our nation's athletes as they represent Australia at the greatest sporting event on earth. The Olympic Games provide the global audience with the highest sporting drama, and these games of London 2012 certainly did not disappoint and our athletes certainly played their part in what was a fantastic Olympics.
We were fortunate enough to have a representative for the electorate of Swan in Jayde Taylor, who competed for the Hockeyroos. Jayde played in each of the five preliminary games, including for 45 minutes in the one-nil loss to New Zealand, 40 minutes in the three-one victory over Germany and the one-nil triumph over the USA, 37 minutes in the one-nil victory over South Africa and 42 minutes in the nil-nil draw, with the eventual group winners and silver medallists, Argentina. Jayde and the girls did a commendable job, and we were very unlucky not to qualify for the semifinals, finishing level on points with Argentina and New Zealand at the top of group B, but third after the results and goal differences were taken into consideration. The Hockeyroos went on to beat China in the fifth and sixth classifications, and we are proud of their performance. Jayde is only 27 and we hope that she will still be on the team come Rio to have another crack at an Olympic title. In the meantime, we welcome her back to Australia and to Swan and wish her well in her continuing studies at Curtin University in interior architecture.
London provided a memorable setting and it was clear, from Danny Boyle's spectacular opening ceremony in the Olympic stadium, that it was going to be a memorable three weeks. The big stars did not disappoint and lit up the Olympic Park in Stratford, with Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and Mo Farah making the headlines.
But the Olympics is not just about the winner; it is about the spirit of the sport. It was notable how, initially, sceptical Londoners got behind the games and how it built a sense of national pride for the poms that other policies would not have been able to achieve. As Sebastian Coe said at the closing ceremony of the Paralympics, the success of the games felt like closure after the 7-7 terrorist bombings of London, the day after London was officially awarded the games in 2005.
Let us never forget the power of sport to transform lives, transform places and transform countries. Let us resolve in this parliament to treat sports policy and the sports portfolio with a greater importance than has traditionally been the case. As well as uniting cities and participating countries behind their athletes, the Olympic Games aims to unite the world, if only for a short period. The tradition of the Olympic Truce dates back to the ninth century BC in Ancient Greece as a period during which war and conflict were halted to allow for safe travel to and from the ancient Olympic Games. Today the Olympic Truce represents the IOC's aim to inspire peace through sport and uses sport to forge friendship among athletes, young people and communities. I note it is traditional for the host country to present a resolution to the United Nations formally calling for the truce. During the London Olympics, for the first time all 193 UN member states united to co-sponsor the Olympic Truce resolution for the games.
Each Olympics, new Australian heroes arise to inspire young athletes back home and strengthen the pride that many Australians feel for our success. As I stated in my recent speech about Australian's own silver medallist at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, Peter Norman, I was inspired as a 10-year-old by his great effort at those Olympics. The Olympics is a great showcase for human accomplishment. It is a showcase of the extraordinary achievements that can be had by athletes, guided by grit and determination and after putting in years of effort to develop the physical and mental discipline needed to rise to the pinnacle of their sport. The Australian athletes who won 35 medals in London deserve our congratulations, admiration and gratitude for their hard work and achievement. So do all athletes who competed for Australia and wore the green and gold with pride. There are many others who also deserve our congratulations , admiration and gratitude for their hard work and achievement. They are the many others involved that make these results happen—the coaches, the parents, the volunteers and also the fellow competitors who do not get selected but contribute to their sports and enable the strong sporting culture that is part of Australia's ongoing success at the Games. Those unsuccessful athletes dreamt of representing their country and did the same work. Their blood and sweat and tears helped to push those who ultimately had the honour of representing their country at the greatest games on earth.
Let us not forget where they come from—local communities like each of the 150 electorates represented by members in this place. There are many keen sportsmen and women in my electorate of Swan. I note that the state government has chosen Burswood Peninsula as the site for Perth's new premier sports stadium. With my interest in junior sport development, I have had a particular focus on sports infrastructure in the electorate of Swan. As I mentioned, we have been working on a local campaign for a new artistic gymnastic centre to be established in Queens Park as part of a sports hub for young athletes in the district. We need to provide access to sport for all by providing the right local sports infrastructure. It is something I have a particular focus on in Swan.
The Olympics are a celebration of human success and cooperation between nations. I am delighted to see the Australian team return home after yet another successful Games. There are many who were quick to criticise or say that Australia was not achieving the success that it should. How do you measure success? Do you measure it by the gold medals or do you measure it through participation or the amount of success with friendships made between nations?
The Games provided some thrilling moments for viewers back home. I join with my colleagues to recognise the contribution of our Olympians and wish those who are already focussed on Rio in 2016 all the best as they plan the next four years of preparation. I would also like to recognise the organisers in London for providing a great venue for the world to enjoy. London is a spectacular city and its residents can be proud of the efforts of organisers who showcased the city's rich history as well as its modern sophistication to the world, as Australia and Sydney did in 2000.
The families of the athletes and the parents of the athletes are the ones who have to spend time apart from them while they train and while they travel overseas to compete. We have many instances of that happening in Australia though such elite sports as AFL and the National Rugby League as well.
I notice that the new shadow parliamentary secretary for families is in the chamber. I congratulate him on his new position. I know that as a family man, and particularly as a South Australian, he and his wife, Estee, have got a growing and burgeoning family. He will probably want to join with me. What I would like to do is indulge and wish my son, who turned 20 today, a happy birthday.
He resides in Adelaide, in South Australia. I am sure that the member for Mayo will join with me and extend our condolences to the parents and the families of John McCarthy, whose funeral is today in Melbourne. To John's parents, Shane and Cath, his brother, Matt, his sisters, Frances, Elizabeth and Jane, his girlfriend, Dani, and his extended family and network of friends, on behalf of the parliament I extend our condolences. My son is attending John's funeral in Melbourne today. I would like to pass on the message to the parliament that it was a tragic end to a young man's life. He was one of Australia's sporting heroes. Thank you.
Mr Deputy Speaker, thank you for those warm congratulations. It means a lot coming from such a long-serving and respected member of this place. It is great to follow my good friend, the member for Swan, in talking about sport and the Olympics, and so forth. He forgot to mention that he was an outstanding sportsman himself and his son is following in those footsteps. It is just a pity that his son chooses the wrong football teams to play for! There is a far better team for him to be playing for in South Australia, and that is Sturt. He should do it, and we should get him across there as soon as we can. That is another matter, of course. While I am also on my feet and the member for Chifley is in the chamber, and we are talking about families, I should congratulate the member for Chifley on his recent addition—his first child. It is a big step in a young man's life and a big change for your life. A huge change for your life. I congratulate you very much. I am sure everything is going well. Well done!
While we are in this friendly and jovial spirit it is a great opportunity to speak on the efforts of Olympians. As the member for Swan so rightly pointed out, people do not get to the Olympics by chance. It is always terrific to watch the best of anything at the highest level. We will see it in a couple of weeks time with the AFL grand final. It is a great day because you see the best athletes at the highest level under the most pressure. It is an extraordinary thing for Olympians: all the work that goes in over four years to get to that spot, to get that opportunity, and having to execute their skills at the highest level under the highest pressure. They are extraordinary individuals, each of them. The way they carry themselves does us very proud. I know there was some criticism, I thought unfairly, of the swimmers during the Olympics. Ultimately, they are competing with the world's best. Sure, we would have been happier had we won some more gold medals, however, I know each of them put their best into the Olympics. You could tell quite obviously the disappointment on some of their faces when they did not achieve what they had spent so much time trying to achieve. I think some people were overly critical of the way that that was handled. Expecting them to give the best media appearance straight after a massive disappointment is, I think, expecting far too much. That is particularly the case coming from us, a bunch of politicians who do not always get our media right, even though we practice and prepare for it. I think it is wrong to judge someone who has just jumped out of a swimming pool and been confronted with TV cameras when they are feeling pretty low about what has just occurred. I think it is unfortunate that that commentary went on. But we should not delve too much into that; we should celebrate the achievements of those—particularly those from our electorates—who got the opportunity to represent Australia.
We had a couple of exceptional people—all of them were exceptional—but we had the first brother and sister Australian Olympic track cyclists, Annette and Alexander Edmondson from Stirling. They did so well. In fact, they achieved a bronze medal. We congratulate them very much on their unbelievable achievement. Chris Morgan of Greenhill in the rowing also achieved a bronze medal. That is two bronze medals for the Adelaide Hills, which is terrific. Harrison Peacock, who came from Mt Barker originally—where I live—but now lives in Adelaide, is pursuing his volleyball, which has a such a strong history at Heathfield High School. I particularly congratulate Harrison on representing Australia at the Olympics in the Australian volleyball team. Volleyball is not a sport I ever had much of an opportunity to play, given that I am not anywhere near tall enough to play that sport.
Also, we had the Paralympics quickly following the Olympics. Again, we had Michael Roeger from Langhorne Creek who, I think, has been to the Paralympics before. Michael has a terribly unfortunate story. He got food poisoning on the day of his run and was not able to compete in the end, which was really disappointing for him. In fact, he ended up in hospital afterwards. He was quite unwell. He is a terrific young guy and a fine young athlete. I know the Langhorne Creek footy club, which plays in its own grand final this Saturday—I wish them well against Yankalilla—had organised people to do down to the footy club to watch Michael. It was very unfortunate for Michael, but he has had a great deal of support from his community. They are very proud of Michael and his efforts. We are very proud of Michael and his efforts. We are proud of all of them for how well they represented our country in London and for the effort that they all have put in over such a long period of time.
We should not forget that many of them would now be beginning their preparations for Brazil in four years time. It is an extraordinary effort and an extraordinary commitment that these young people make. We congratulate them on it and look forward to Brazil in four years time. I think both the member for Chifley and I will be greyer and older, but we look forward very much to standing in this place in four years time and hopefully celebrating even more gold medals, but certainly celebrating their effort and achievement and their desire to do the best that they can and represent our great country on the international stage.
Thank you very much. I would also like to add my congratulations to the member for Mayo's recent elevation and wish him well in his future role. I would also like to congratulate the Member for Chifley—congratulations all round—on the new addition to your family. I am sure that you will have great joy brought into your lives.
It is wonderful to be here to make a statement on the Olympic Games and the return of the Australian team. Australians are enormously proud of our Olympic team and the wonderful efforts that were put into the London Olympics. Just watching our athletes wearing the green and gold on television, watching the coverage in the magnificent city of London, seeing all the historic monuments and buildings as the athletes made their way around the various sporting activities, made us immensely proud of the fact that Australia was represented by such a wonderful group of young men and women. They did do us proud.
To be an elite athlete requires a huge amount of discipline and commitment, and the financial expense to get to elite sport is absolutely massive. We should be very proud of every single one of our athletes, whether or not they collected a medal. It is an enormous privilege just to be chosen to go to the Olympic Games and compete at that level, let alone win a medal. We are enormously proud of the standard of excellence and acknowledge collectively the great effort put in by the Australian team.
I want to make mention of a few people. There were some particular highlights, and there were different highlights for different people. But, for me, I would like to make special mention of Lauren Jackson, our champion basketball player and captain of the Opals. At London, Lauren became the first female athlete chosen to carry the Australian flag during the opening ceremony at the Olympics, and it was a remarkable sight to watch Lauren leading out the Australian contingent. I would like to offer very special congratulations to her.
We saw some remarkable achievements at these wonderful games. We saw Sally Pearson—and I was very privileged to meet Sally Pearson at the Olympic parade in Brisbane when I welcomed the Olympians, along with the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Councillor Quirk; and the Premier, Campbell Newman. It was great to see someone like Sally Pearson elevate herself to absolutely legend status with that fantastic win in the 100 metres hurdles, and we all remember the agonising moments as we waited for the results to confirm that our girl had won the new Olympic record. Of course, we also experienced the heartache. Members have previously spoken about the heartache of an illness which, at the last minute, causes an athlete to withdraw or of the heartbreak we saw of James Magnussen missing out in the pool by one-hundredth of a second. You cannot even imagine how tiny a hundredth of a second is. It was not meant to be.
Time does not permit me to delve into all the memorable occasions of these games as there were so many of them. But also for me the women's 4 x 100-metre freestyle relay was a very exciting moment. I have to put a plug in for Queensland, as I think we do provide a large number of our elite swimmers. When I was the member for Petrie, a number of our elite swimmers got their start in the Redcliffe area, particularly under coach Woods. Many of them had their start there, swimming as young schoolgirl regional athletes and progressing to the elite levels that we saw. That particular freestyle event was just an awesome moment for me. We were always the underdogs going in, but our four young Australian girls really swam their hearts out and they won the first gold for Australia. I want to acknowledge Alicia Coutts, Cate Campbell, Brittany Elmslie and Melanie Schlanger. They really deserve to take a bow for their wonderful effort. I want to read some of the names of the athletes from my electorate who represented Australia at London: Julian Wruck, athletics; James Connor, diving; Anabelle Smith, diving; Nicholas D'Arcy, swimming; Brittany Elmslie, swimming; Edward McKendry, swimming; Stephanie Rice, swimming; Eloise Amberger, synchronised swimming; Andrew Grant, volleyball; Bronwen Knox, water polo; Jane Moran, water polo; and Sophie Smith, water polo. These are absolutely remarkable and incredible Australians and they make the electorate of Brisbane and Australia very, very proud. As I said, it was great to welcome them. I felt very humbled welcoming them and being part of that 'welcome back' ceremony in the CBD of Brisbane. To meet them in person was an incredible experience. The crowd was absolutely euphoric. It is fantastic to see them.
It reminds of a more low-key event that I had in my electorate recently with the Australian Sports Commission, where I awarded junior athletes—who will be the future Olympians of tomorrow—some sports awards at the Wilston Grange breakfast. I was very pleased to meet our future athletes of tomorrow. The Olympic spirit is well and truly alive and well.
I congratulate the magnificent city of London. There were certainly detractors who were very quick to criticise the organisation, the logistics and everything else in the beginning, but London and the Lord Mayor of London and its people should be congratulated, particularly for the magnificent way that they organised the games and the security and all of the logistics that they put in place. They hosted a truly magnificent games. As I mentioned earlier, bringing the modern in with the historical buildings like Westminster and Buckingham Palace and including them as part of the program really added to the great success of that fantastic city. I want to congratulate London for a great games that we witnessed.
I know that some of my athletes back in Brisbane have had a few weeks rest. I think they have had a few weeks off and now the fun begins: preparing for the next games in Rio. I wish them all the very best in their preparation for the next magnificent games, which will be held in Rio in 2016. I look forward again to watching our magnificent athletes represent our country and do us proud.
Many fine words have rightly been said about the London Olympic Games at the general level and in particular terms about the performance of the Australian team. I want to focus exclusively on the Paralympians. I want to do so by beginning with the way my seven-year-old looked at the Paralympics. My seven-year-old, Poppy, really got the Olympics for the first time. She was captivated by the general Olympics but then was completely engaged by the Paralympics. It worked in two ways. Firstly, it was a recognition that disability was a challenge, not an impediment. For her to see people with differing degrees of disability—it could well have been Down syndrome or it could have been a condition such as cerebral palsy or the loss of limbs for the swimmers and the runners—was quite an eye-opener. We talked about it a lot. That same conversation would have gone on in families right around Australia and around the world where it was televised. So the impact on people from outside the disabilities community, in my judgement, was more profound on a quantum scale than from any other Paralympic Games. It was just a moment where the Paralympics graduated to mainstream appreciation. I think that was an extraordinary step forward for disability communities right around the world.
I am particularly delighted that China won the medal tally. You might wonder why. It is because what it says is that, in a developing country, extraordinary resources are being put into the care, the maintenance, the development and the fulfilment of those with disabilities. I think that that is a very important message and an extremely important development. So that was a very heartening thing.
I want to acknowledge two people from my own community, from my own electorate of Flinders, one of whom competed at this games and one of whom had competed at a previous games. Luke Cain of Boneo is 32. As a 19-year-old he had a tragic football accident which gave him a form of quadriplegia. He was playing AFL football for Rosebud against Hastings when he was sandwiched between two other players and developed quadriplegia, which was a completely life-changing event. It could have been a life destroying event, but he chose for it not to be. What an act of courage. He is a cousin of Travis Cloke, so he could well have had a great football career ahead of him. Instead, he picked himself up in the best way possible. He of course has had hard times—no question. He competed in the shooting. This is a young guy who has overcome the most profound of personal hardships and tragedies and has remade his life. To see him competing in the shooting at the Paralympics is a testimony to the human spirit at its absolute finest. In that respect, it acknowledges for me what these Paralympic Games were all about.
One of the people in the electorate to whom I have become very close is Mandy Drennan. Mandy is a young woman who was born without her right leg. She held an AIS Paralympic swimming scholarship in 2003-04. While she was not at these games, she was at the 2004 Athens Games and won a bronze medal as part of the 4 x 100-metre freestyle. She is an absolutely delightful young woman, completely positive in nature, who last year did a 66-kilometre swim around Phillip Island—there are some very rough waters to the south of the island—to raise money for Warley Hospital. I was invited to join her for part of that swim. I swam for a kilometre on the north side of the island. My only complaint is that she had a shark cage and everyone decided that I should swim behind the shark cage. I am not sure what the message was, but that was the fastest I can remember swimming in a long while. She claims that it was primarily so that I could get the benefit of the drag which would reduce the pressure on me whilst I was swimming. I am not so sure. She has a great sense of humour. She is a fantastic human being. She is a marathon swimmer and she is also the embodiment of what the Paralympics are about.
When you look at our performance, what a national performance: 161 athletes, 85 medals, 32 gold. Jacqui Freney won eight gold—the most gold medals of any individual at the games—and she is my seven-year-old daughter's hero. What an outcome; what a great thing! Similarly, Matthew Cowdrey, the swimmer, won five gold, two silver and a bronze. He is now our greatest ever Paralympian, with 13 gold medals.
These games were about the graduation of disability sports into the mainstream. They made a huge difference in how these people with disabilities and challenges are perceived worldwide and are a point of incredible inspiration for anybody who suffers these challenges. At the end of the day, the message to the broader community and to those who have disabilities is: these are challenges, not impediments. For that we should be thankful.
Australia sent 410 athletes to compete in 23 sports at the 2012 London Olympic Games held from 27 July to 12 August. Our medal haul was 35—seven gold, 16 silver and 12 bronze—below what we expected, yet impressive nonetheless. Australia's sailors excelled, grabbing three gold and four medals in total. The flag bearer for the opening ceremony was basketballer Lauren Jackson from Albury, just down the Olympic Highway from Wagga Wagga. Pentathlete Edward Fernon, 24, grew up in Sydney but spent every school holidays at a friend's Yerong Creek farm and maintained strong ties to Wagga Wagga through uncles Paul and Vince Fernon and their families. Edward took part in London, finishing 27th overall. Triple gold medallist equestrian Andrew Hoy, 53, from Culcairn, participated in his seventh games.
The Olympic motto of 'Faster, higher, stronger', first suggested by a Dominican priest in the 19th century, was introduced in 1924 at the Paris games. At those games, Anthony William 'Nick' Winter from Marrar won a gold medal in hop, step and jump—his leap of 51 feet 1½ inches set a new world record. Born at Brocklesby in 1895, Winter came to Marrar at an early age with his parents, Andy and Sal, who played a prominent part in the early history of the village near where I spent my first four years of life. Winter was a daredevil, pulling off many crazy stunts in his youth before serving in the Australian Imperial Force in the Great War, later becoming a fireman and then an Olympic champion. He heads the pantheon of sporting greats who have called the Riverina home. For them the rolling hills and wattle trees of south-west New South Wales hold as much appeal as a sporting stadium filled with adoring fans.
The Riverina had sporting heroes before Nick Winter and has had many more since his day of glory in the French capital. Three such stars did the region proud at the recent London games. Adam Commens and Jade Close were coach and player respectively in the Australian women's hockey team, while Brad Kahlefeldt overcame a bout of bronchitis to run a creditable race in the triathlon. It was a gutsy effort from Brad, who is a superb competitor and a fine ambassador for his family, sport and country. The 33-year-old has obviously inherited some of his great attitude from his grandfather Brian Kahlefeldt, whose 2004 book 90 Minutes to Success is one of the best manuals to a good life I have ever read.
I have known Adam Commens for many years and vividly recall his entry into A-grade hockey on the grassed fields at Jubilee Park, Wagga Wagga, in 1989. Small in stature, he would have been all of 12 turning 13 at the time. Adam ran out for Junee alongside his father, Russell, who was the team's fearless full-back. My team, Harlequins, was doing our pre-game warm-up and listening to our captain Ross Martin talk about tactics. The next thing you know, Russell entered our huddle and asked if we would mind going easy in the skirmishes involving his young son. He ought to have known the other teams did not label us hackers for nothing. Harlequins had the reputation for toughness, for getting first use of the ball, whatever it took. Our team's enforcer, Greg White, angelically inquired of Russell, 'Which one is he?' Not that identification was necessary. Adam's youth made him a standout. 'That's him,' Russell responded, pointing to the diminutive lad dribbling the ball around as if it were connected to the end of his stick. Russell trotted off content that we would look after his young fellow and Greg then made it abundantly clear to the rest of us that if the boy wanted to play against men he would have to contend with whatever came his way. The bully was taken to start proceedings—that is how hockey games began in the good old days—and the ball shot straight across in Adam's direction. Then it happened. Greg being Greg, ran straight over the top of the rookie. In charged an incensed Russell and it was on: pushing, shoving, grappling, words being exchanged. It did not worry Greg. He loved it when the going got tough. He was a skilful player but very much no-nonsense. He revelled in the roughness; more often than not, he started it. Greg was as hard as there was in the competition at the time, which probably came from growing up alongside his hockey-playing brothers, Peter, Trevor and Mark. When the dust settled from the melee, Greg emerged with his trade-mark grin, Russell was still steaming, but had maintained the family honour by protecting his off-spring, and Adam simply brushed himself off, got up and played on. It was a baptism of fire but it showed the kid had courage and it was not long into the game that Adam demonstrated the wonderful stick work and ability which would later see him on the world stage. From memory, he scored three terrific goals from open play that day—a dashing debut—and finished full of running, relatively unscathed, despite competing against bigger, older opponents, and having survived his encounter with my good mate Greg. Adam won the admiration of all his opponents that afternoon—especially Greg White—and we all watched with close interest as his career developed and blossomed. His talent was mercurial and he was a regular in the top grade for Junee, which had not long reformed and which immediately became the dominant club, winning premiership after premiership in the late 1980s and early 1990s. While Junee, with Harold Norris, Brian Smith and others proving a class above, gave Harlequins, Lake Albert and Mustangs the run-around, Adam set his sights on higher honours. He made his goal the international arena and with commitment, determination and passion, as well as support from his parents Russell and Kerrie, Adam made the big time. In all Adam played 143 games for Australia scoring 20 goals with his finest achievements being a bronze medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympics and gold at the 1999 Champions Trophy in Brisbane. On 4 July 2007, he was named head coach of the Belgian national field hockey team and he guided that country to ninth place in the 2000 Beijing Olympics—that nation's first entry into the Olympic hockey tournament since 1976. Now 36, Adam took over as coach of the Australian women's team at the start of 2011 and immediately instilled his strict discipline and fitness regimes into the Hockeyroos players. Unfortunately, Australia narrowly missed making the semifinals at the London Games on goal difference—a solitary goal—with New Zealand sneaking in ahead of us. The Netherlands won the women's tournament and the gold medal, beating Argentina 2-0 in the final.
Wagga Wagga born Jade Close played her part, netting two goals for the Hockeyroos, the first in our 4 August 1-0 win against South Africa and the other in the 2-0 victory against China on 10 August, the win which gave Australia fifth place overall. It was great to have two locals involved in the hockey program and this has provided tremendous inspiration to all the boys and girls running around Wagga Wagga's Jubilee Park. Adam and Jade showed that anyone, even someone from a regional area, with natural talent mixed with perspiration and determination can accomplish anything. Given Adam's experience and Jade's youth—she is 24—there will be more in store from this wonderful Riverina duo. On behalf of the people of the electorate, I wish them both all the very best in their future endeavours.
I rise to welcome home the Australian Olympic and Paralympic teams and to congratulate them on their success at the 2012 London Olympics. I will begin with a few words on the London Olympics. Very few cities have as many venues as spectacular and historic as London. To watch beach volleyball in Horse Guards Parade, to watch the equestrian at Greenwich Park, to see the marathon and triathlon finishing in The Mall, to see archery at Lords—it really was a spectacular Olympics. And the opening and closing ceremonies were a real reflection of what it is to be British. As good as Sydney was, I think London—in terms of the whole spectacle—was at least its equal. I am sure many Australians across the country spent many a late night sitting up to watch their favourite sports and favourite competitors.
We can be very proud that, of 204 competing nations, we ranked 10th in the medal tally at the Olympics. Australia finished the games with seven gold, 16 silver and 12 bronze medals. While we may not have been as successful in the pool as we had originally hoped, there were a number of Australian success stories which, as a nation, we should be proud of. Our Australian sailors produced fantastic results, with gold in the men's 470, gold in the men's 49ers, gold in the men's Laser and silver in the women's match race.
South Australian physio Jessica Trengrove finished the women's marathon in a time of two hours, 31 minutes and 17 seconds, giving her 39th place in what was only her second ever marathon. The men's K4 1,000-metre crew rewrote their 2008 Beijing result by winning gold at Eton Dorney. Sally Pearson edged out Dawn Harper by two-hundredths of a second in the women's hurdles. Finally, Anna Meares battled long-term arch rival Victoria Pendleton to take the gold in the women's sprint. Focusing on some other athletes—who can forget Usain Bolt in the men's 100-metre, 200-metre and 4 x 100-metre relay events? He is truly the most amazing sprinter I have ever seen.
On a South Australian note, there are a number of Olympians I would like to congratulate. There were 36 South Australians among Australia's 410-strong team in London. The South Australian medallists included Anna Meares, who won gold in the women's sprint and bronze in the team sprint; Sam Willoughby from Hallett Cove, who won silver in the BMX; Jack Borbridge and Rohan Dennis, who won silver in the team pursuit; and Emily Seebohm—although she is from Queensland, she spent her early years in Brighton and we do claim her; her father played over 300 games for the Glenelg Football Club in the SANFL—who won two silver medals.
Abby Bishop and Laura Hodges won bronze in basketball; Annette Edmondson won bronze in the omnium; and James McRae and Chris Morgan—one of whom is a member of the Adelaide University Boat Club, my rowing club—won bronze in the quad sculls. Hayden Stoeckel won bronze in the men's 4 x 100-metre medley relay.
In addition, a number of Olympians spent their formative years attending schools in my electorate. Nathan Roberts and Greg Sukachev both attended Brighton Secondary School—a government school that has a special interest in volleyball. They competed in the men's volleyball with the Volleyroos who finished fifth. It is my understanding that Brighton Secondary will now name a volleyball court after their old scholars. Brad Newley and Joe Ingles both attended Pasadena High School and competed in the men's basketball with the Boomers and finished seventh overall. We are very proud of them; and Pasadena High School had signs on the board outside the school really celebrating their journey with the Boomers. Renee Chatterton, who attended St John's Grammar Belair as well as Highgate Primary and Concordia, rowed in the women's eight in London, the self-styled Motley Crew.
We also must congratulate our Paralympians, who have returned from London. Australia had over 300 Paralympics competitors, competing in 13 of the 20 available sports. We ranked fifth in the medal tally at the London Paralympics. I know that I sat up cheering on our Australian Paralympians in the same way I did our Olympians. The strength, determination and courage that our Paralympians show should make us all proud to be Australian. I would especially like to congratulate Matthew Cowdrey, a proud South Australian and now our most successful Paralympian ever. It has been my privilege to meet Matthew on several occasions. He was a very early and very strong advocate for the state aquatic centre in Adelaide, in Marion, in my electorate. We were very pleased to see that aquatic centre hosting the trials in March for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. I saw Matthew Cowdrey win his events at those Paralympics trials and he made the point then how great it was to be able to race in his home state—which was something that had not been available for a long time. At only 23 years old, Matt has 23 medals to his name—13 of which are gold. I think he is also a lawyer and he is interested a career in foreign affairs. I certainly wish him all the best. In London, Matt received five gold, two silver and a bronze to become our most successful Paralympian ever. It was also the final Paralympics for Libby Kosmala, who has been a veteran of Paralympics. Libby has decided that this would be her last one. I wish her all the best. She has made a tremendous contribution over a long time for the Australian Paralympic team.
About six months ago I was at a meeting and the guest speaker was speaking about the Olympic Games. His opening comments resonated. He said that if we use history as a tool with reference to the good and bad things that happen in our world, religion has the potential to divide us as a nation and a planet; but sport has the capacity to unite us. Sport has an inherent ability to bring together people with different interests, backgrounds and beliefs, people from different cultures from every sector of the globe and put them in an arena where they can all strive, equally, to provide their best—to achieve, to try and to strive to do their best for the nation that they represent. As a result of that, I stand here to acknowledge our Olympians that travelled on behalf of Australia, to London. I congratulate the Australian Olympic team on their achievements during the games recently held in London. Australia was tenth in the medal tally and we achieved seven gold, 16 silver and 12 bronze. I know we focus, as a nation, on the gold but, it is equally important and not a bad second best to have silvers and bronzes sitting in your cupboards. With that goes an enormous amount of commitment and an enormous amount of training. It is not sexy. It is not television-worthy to watch people training, swimming laps of pools or running ultimately for hundreds of kilometres to get themselves in peak conditions from these events. I also acknowledge those commitments by athletes behind the scenes to get them to the Olympics. In my electorate, Greg Lindores, who owns and runs a large turf farm, must be a very proud father. His son, Bryce, who was blinded as a teenager, won a silver medal at the Para cycling events at the recent Paralympic Games in London. Bryce has been competing at an international level for the last six years. Being a local boy, I congratulate him on bringing home some silverware for the local community.
I encourage parents all around Australia to make sure that they give the opportunity to their children to participate in some form of sport or outdoor activity. Their health and social wellbeing can only prosper as a result of being involved in sport. Sadly, an estimated 37 per cent—one million—of our children do not participate in any organised sport. I am sure there are many reasons for this, but as a nation we need to provide an opportunity where children can participate in affordable sport and an active lifestyle. An estimated 1.7 million—67 per cent—of children participate in at least organised sport outside school hours. That was in the 12 months of 2009 when the last ABS stats were available. Participating in organised sport was highest amongst the nine- to eleven-year-olds at 68 per cent, compared to 58 per cent for the five- to eight-year-olds and 65 per cent for 12- to 14-year-olds.
Within the electorate of Wright, we have a vast number of sporting activities that are available for children to participate in. The Lockyer Valley Sports Club offers a variety of sports in the Grantham, Murphy's Creek and Gatton area, an area which was devastated by floods. With the reconstruction money, we have been able to get those sporting fields back together. Equestrian events, dressage and jumping—which I will come to later, which I have a personal interest in—is an event a little bit a more costly, but a very worthwhile sport. There is the Jimboomba Little Athletics Centre with tomorrow's stars, running around our backyards in the electorate. Hopefully, we will see them on the Olympic trail. Beaudesert sporting clay shooters club get out there every weekend and just punch the metal through targets. They have a great time. That is an Olympic sport that is well participated in in my electorate. The Lockyer Valley Netball Association also has over 500 members. Gatton Hockey Club trains as the US Gatton campus. It is very generous to be able use the fields there because their fields were destroyed. The hockey club is able to continue the training regime. And the Mudgeeraba Aquatic Centre has Australia's future swimmers. The Tamborine Mountain Sports Association with its brand new tennis facility will hopefully bring through the next layer of Olympians.
But on indulgence, I would like to stray from my electorate and talk about my baby girl, who I believe is a future Olympian. When we come to this place, we spend a lot of time away from our families. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the enormous amount of support that I have as a father in not being there to see my daughter compete, and relying on other fathers to set up jumps and train horses and on the grooms, vets, dentists, farriers and everyone who is part of our team which allows my daughter to compete at a senior level. My daughter is 16. She is in grade 11 at a boarding school. She has the opportunity to take her horse to school with her where she can compete in the three-day event. For those of you who may not be aware, this is an Olympic sport which involves a combination of dressage, show-jumping and cross-country on the same horse, and an amalgamated point system. Grace has been competing at the three-day event for some five years . She came up through the pony club ranks. Her recent achievements have been significant. She won the champion at the last south-east Queensland event. She won the supreme rider for the whole tournament, which was a result of her winning the champion dressage, the champion equitation and champion showman, and coming second in the high jump. Before that, she had recently won an international event in New South Wales, followed by winning an event at Scone in New South Wales, which had 414 riders present. She was in good company. She struggles along okay. But she would not have been able to make those achievements without the past experience of previous Olympians who assisted her in her campaign. I would like to acknowledge Guy Creighton, a past Australian Olympian who competed at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Guy was a champion showjumper and in Grace's early days was her specialised showjumping coach. I would also like to thank Heath Ryan. We recently bought a warmblood stallion off Heath and that horse is producing some wonderful results for Grace at the moment. Heath competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and has competed on the world stage in grand prix dressage since 1990. Heath's experience in personal coaching with Grace is invaluable, as every time they are able to be reunited Heath shows Grace new buttons on this horse and new and wonderful places that this horse can take her.
I would also like to acknowledge Chris Burton, a current Olympian who competed in the eventing team for Australia. Chris is a personal friend of our family and Chris's mother, Ruth, was Grace's first introduction to the three-day event. For countless hours we have trained on Chris Burton's family property, getting Grace ready for her next transition.
In addition to those wonderful skills that she has picked up, I would like to acknowledge two other Olympians in the three-day event: Megan Jones and Shane Rose. Whenever Grace is at a competition and there are riders of that calibre at the events, the kindness, compassion and encouragement that they give junior riders is so rewarding. When a child comes out of an arena and you have a current Olympian standing there at the gate, patting your daughter on the leg as she walks out, saying, 'Great ride—keep it up. We'll see you in Brazil,' that lifts a child beyond all comprehension.
In addition to Grace's contributions in the equestrian arena, she was also the age champion in the pool at her college for the last two years. In addition to that she was the athletics track all-age champion for the last two years. Two days ago she was competing at the regional titles for the 100 metres sprint in Brisbane, which she won on a personal best time, and she came second in the shot-put. The week before that she had been part of a participating team which won the touch football grand finals. In addition to all of that, she got an A in accounting.
Can I say I am a very proud father. In Australia we have enormous opportunity to promote our youth and build future Olympians. If my daughter does not choose to be an Olympian, that is fine, because what she is doing at the moment costs me a fortune.
We are honouring today the achievements of the Australian Olympic team at the London Olympics and Paralympics. I want to make note today of the achievements of some of the current and former residents of my electorate of Wentworth, which is a very sporting electorate because it is on the peninsula of the eastern suburbs of Sydney, with the ocean on one side and the harbour on the other. So it is not surprising that we have some very strong performances on the water, and none stronger than that of the men's K4 1,000-metre canoe sprint team, which won a gold medal at Eton Dorney.
Murray Stewart is a former Scots College student, and the other three of the four are Dave Smith, Jacob Clear and Tate Smith. They were part of that great team, and Tate is a member of North Bondi surf club. That is my own surf club. I regret to say I have not been even remotely as distinguished as him at any time, in or out of the water. But it was a good Wentworth contribution there.
They went into the final as the fastest qualifiers and they kept a cracking pace right through the final, leading the whole race. It was our sixth gold medal for the Olympics and the team, as we remember, clinched victory ahead of Hungary and the Czech Republic. Tate's grandmother Lorraine Smith, who has been proud to call herself a Bondi resident for more than 40 years—and, as we all know, you can take the girl out of Bondi but you cannot take the Bondi out of the girl—said: 'I did not stop screaming. I rode that boat all the way home.' Murray Stewart, the former Scots College student, is obviously a keen kayaker but he has also represented his school in water polo, swimming and cross-country running. He has been an outstanding role model for the other students, whether it is in the sports field or in the classroom, and he is regarded by all who know him as a very modest young man. He is someone who will go a long way and set a great example to young men and women in our community.
Staying in the water, I also offer our congratulations to another Australian Olympian who began her life in Wentworth. This is Olivia Price, who was born in Darlinghurst and attended St Catherine's School in Waverley. Olivia skippered the Australian sailing team, progressing to the semifinal of the women's Elliott six-metre class event and going on to win silver. This was a gripping final against the Spanish, with both teams fighting hard for gold and with rough conditions and wind speeds of more than 25 knots. The Spanish managed to stave off an ambitious attack from the Australian team when Olivia fell overboard after being hit by a wave. But, in race three of the best of five final, her crewmates—Lucinda Whitty and Nina Curtis—had to circle around to get her back on board. Despite the score being level at two all, the Australia team won silver after receiving a penalty, sadly, in the deciding race.
While the Elliott six-metre event will not be in the next Olympics, Olivia Price is hoping to represent Australia again as skipper of the Australian team in the new women's 49er class. That is a spectacular sailing class, as we know. We see the 49ers on Sydney Harbour and she will do very well there, I am sure. She has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to her sport, that is typical of our Olympians. In 2009 she made the decision to complete her HSC through distance education so that she could travel to all the various regattas. She attended the distance education high school in Woolloomooloo so she is a graduate of both St Catherine's in Waverley and the distance education high school in Woolloomooloo, both in the electorate of Wentworth.
I will just say a little bit about the distance education high school in Woolloomooloo. It is a public school. It is committed to excellence and equity in distance education. They provide courses and education for those students, like Olivia, who are not able to attend a regular school on a full time basis. The flexible learning arrangements of the school allow people like Olivia to pursue their sporting careers without having to sacrifice their education. They do great work.
St Catherine's is also very proud to have had three members of their staff attend the Olympics and to have a St Catherine's old girl win silver in the Paralympics. Old girl Sarah Stewart claimed a silver medal in the women's basketball grand final against Germany. The Gliders hoped to improve on their Beijing bronze medal and return with gold, although they lost to Germany in a nail-biting final. Stewart contributed two points to the 58-44 score, in front of a crowd of nearly 13,000. St Catherine's coaches Joel Dennerley and Richie Campbell also represented Australia, competing in the men's water polo, and coach Andrew Tanitsas provided valuable support to the team as the men's water polo science coordinator and coach. The Australian men's water polo team, the Sharks, finished seventh after defeating the United States 10-9. It was Dennerley's debut appearance at the Olympics, while Campbell has previously represented Australia in Beijing.
Emerging from the water, we are all so proud of the achievements of Steven Solomon. I am sure that everyone who was watching the Olympics closely will be aware of the young Steve Solomon, the 19-year-old from Vaucluse who ran in the 400-metre final. While he finished eighth in the final race, it was his personal best and it is, as his father Dr Michael Solomon says—and it is a comment we can share—the feelgood story of the Olympics. Steven was a former student of Cranbrook and, as I said, he ran successive personal bests in both the heat and semifinals and broke the 45-second barrier for the first time. The boys at Cranbrook closely follow Steven's career and, on the day, 100 students packed out the school hall at 6.30 in the morning to cheer on their old boy in the 400-metre men's final. Steven has come a long way since running his first 400-metre sprint event only 2½ years ago at the under 16 National Championships. He then went on to win a bronze medal at the World Junior Athletics Championships in Barcelona in July, also running a personal best. Like many athletes, Steven is naturally gifted, having already excelled in soccer, rugby and other athletic events. He captained the Australian Junior Football side at the 2009 Maccabiah Games, and is well known in the Jewish community for his sporting achievements, having been named the Maccabi NSW Junior Sportsman of the Year. He has only recently turned his attention to the 400-metre race and his accomplishments have been very well deserved. He gained very valuable experience at the London games. He is a very young man, and we were all very excited to witness his progress and look forward to witnessing his progress at Rio. As anther athletic star, David Culbert, tweeted, Steven is pretty fly for a white guy—very high praise. Not shy of taking on a challenge, he is planning to follow in the footsteps of his father and go on to study medicine at Stanford University.
I want to congratulate all of the athletes from every electorate who took part in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, especially those from my own electorate—and I have identified a number of them. I would also like to say that I was fortunate enough, with my wife, Lucy, to be at the Olympics for the first five or six days, and I want to pay my respects and offer my congratulations to the organisers of the London games and to the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, surely the funniest political speaker I have ever heard in my life. All of us try to be amusing but Boris Johnson is a nonpareil in terms of his charisma and good humour. It was a very well organised games. Mitt Romney came over and made some criticisms a week or so before the London Olympics, which was not a very smart thing to do. I remember David Cameron, in referring to Romney's experience in organising the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, saying that there is a big difference between organising the Olympics in a global city as opposed to organising an Olympic Games in a city in the middle of nowhere, which was probably a bit tough on Salt Lake City. But the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom made a good point there in reminding everyone that London is a gigantic city, a much bigger city than Sydney, obviously, where our Olympic Games, I think, are still the benchmark against which all subsequent games are measured. I could never suggest—as the former Lady Mayoress of Sydney—that Sydney's Olympic Games were anything other than the very best, but London came very, very close; it was extraordinarily well organised. The public transport system worked brilliantly. The Jubilee line, which is the main subway line that connects the two big sporting events—Wembley at one end and Stratford at the other—was running around 33 trains an hour, so they were running at less than two-minute intervals. The sheer efficiency of public transport was a great reminder, actually, for all of us as we consider the problems of congestion in our cities—that there is really no way to ease congestion in big cities other than by investing in mass transit, and it worked so well in London.
I never would have imagined that beach volleyball could ever be more entertaining than it was on Bondi Beach in the Sydney Games, but to have the beach volleyball courts set up on Horse Guards Parade with all of the great buildings of the British Empire, Whitehall and Downing Street surrounding it—the venue itself, regardless of what was happening on the court was absolutely hilarious and a really good spirit embraced it. I think the British did a remarkable job with the games. They have lifted the British spirit. That country is struggling with a very severe economic recession and the games lifted their spirit and showed them and the world that they could carry off an enormous logistical challenge, and do so with very good humour. I will tell one story: the mayor gave a speech where I was present. As you know there have been some issues with Barclays Bank and the rigging libor. The bank has been, in fact, a part of fixing the libor rate, together with some other banks. It is not very edifying. The 'Boris bikes'—the public bikes—are sponsored by Barclays. Johnson gave this deadpan speech about how the people of London were much more honest than the people of Paris because only a handful of the Boris bikes had been stolen whereas in Paris thousands had been stolen. And then, still deadpan, he said, 'Of course, that just indicates the very deep respect the people of this city have for Barclays Bank'. He was really brilliant—absolutely brilliant.
I will just make one final comment about the London Games and that is the incredible contribution made by Westfield. A Westfield shopping centre—the largest in Europe—is at Stratford, and was committed to prior to London winning the games. This is in what was a very, very run-down—desolate, really—part of East London; old railway yards and so forth. They had committed to this enormous shopping centre and it became effectively the portal through which most of the people who attended the games at the main venue went. It is a great tribute to Frank Lowy, who we heard speak so well yesterday. His contribution to so many cities has been formidable, and none more so than in London. That shopping centre, with all of its facilities, was a really big part of the success of the games. So that was a great Australian contribution.
I must say that it is reminder of something we did not get right with the Sydney Games. I just note this because the great criticism of Homebush has always been that after an event there was nothing there, and all you could do was file off to the railway station and go back home. The great thing that that Westfield centre and Lowy have done for the London Olympic precinct, is that when it is used after any event in the future there is life: there will be restaurants, bars and shops, and things for people to do. They are not going to walk out into a huge concrete void with nothing to look forward to other than a long ride home. I will concede that that is one respect where the British undoubtedly did a better job, but with Australian assistance. On that note, I am proud of our Australian athletes and our Australian entrepreneurs and I am really delighted to speak about the Olympics.
The London Olympic Games finished on 12 August this year. Over the weeks since, homecoming celebrations have been held in each of our capital cities. This is my homecoming oration to them all. I would like to congratulate our Australian athletes; not just those who have won medals but everyone who has represented our country. I would also like to acknowledge the hard work and large amount of effort put in by the athletes who represented our nation at the Paralympics, those who participate in the Special Olympics and our true young champions. However, I cannot ignore those who have represented my electorate and surrounding towns, and the importance that sport has played on these athletes in bringing our communities closer together.
Sport is an important part of life. It is an essence of our social fabric and it is an important part of the great Australian history. It allows for identities to be built and for role models to be created. Nothing less could be said for our athletes. Role models are what they are. They are the true meaning of inspiration. They all deserve to be welcomed home, and to those yet to compete, they deserve our best wishes. Role models and the influences of sporting heroes, from the likes of Sir Donald Bradman to Cathy Freeman, will always be remembered and looked up to by many. But events such as the Olympics series give the opportunities for new heroes to emerge. The Olympics, Paralympics and Special Olympics are all symbols of peace, trust and unity, bringing the world and the local communities together into one big family. Sport fosters team building, trust, honesty and the chance to help each other to achieve the best results. It is these factors that create and mould Australia's sporting identity. Local heroes are an imperative part of a town or city. To the local residents they provide the encouragement which inspires the actions to achieve success. The Hunter reflects the Australian sporting identity, fostering its own league of sporting legends that represent themselves, their home town and their country at the prestigious Olympic Games.
The Olympic Games, of course, commenced in ancient Greece in Olympia. All wars were stopped for the games to go ahead—peace was particularly important. The Olympic Games were celebrated in honour of the gods. At Olympia, Zeus, the king of mythical gods, was honoured. Winners were recognised with the olive leaf crown and a red woollen ribbon and they held a palm frond. The Olympic organisation articulates that 'Olympic champions became important figures in their town or city', and when they returned home they received a welcoming ceremony. This movement has endured thousands of years, and yet this extensive progression through time has not altered the importance of our athletes.
There are several Olympians whom I would like to individually congratulate: firstly, Simon Orchard, now based in Perth, however his parents reside in my electorate. This young 26-year-old man made his Olympic debut and achieved a bronze medal for the men's hockey team, the Hockeyroos. What can only be described as one of the goals of the tournament, Simon contributed to his team's defeat of England on their home turf. From my surrounding suburbs, Nathan Outteridge, from Lake Macquarie, achieved an outstanding result, winning a gold medal in the 49er skiff class with teammate Ian Jensen. I would also like to congratulate Angie Bainbridge, from Merewether, who secured a silver medal in the 4x200 freestyle relay, and Thomas Fraser-Holmes and Richie Campbell for their efforts in the pool. I extend my congratulations to Suzy Batkovic and Jenni Screen for their success with bronze medals in the Opals basketball team. Josh Ross of the Australian 4x100-metre relay team, who in 2005 was named Maitland Sportsperson of the Year; and to Kristy and Lyndal Oatley, participating in equestrian dressage events representing the Hunter region. To Thomas Benn Harradine, Brendan Sexton and Daniel Repacholi, I also applaud you. But still the success does not stop there.
The athletes do more than just compete in competition. The Olympic organisation involves schools across Australia to participate in interactive afternoons with Australian athletes in London. I understand that live interactive television was installed at Edgeworth primary school and allowed students to communicate with the athletes. I am thrilled that the Olympic notion adheres to what it was historically shaped by—unity engaging the world. Outlined by the Olympic organisation, the Olympic movement encompasses five aspects deemed to be what the Olympic Games are all about: sport for all; development through sport; education through sport; women and sport; and sport and the environment. This movement includes everyone, connecting them through sport and celebration at all stages of life. The aim was to include and rehabilitate those who fought and were injured in World War II. The first archery competition for wheelchair athletes commenced at the same time as the opening ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games.
Dr Ludwig Guttmann was the forefather of what now stands as one of the most recognised sporting events throughout the world, the Paralympic Games. These games were held annually in England, however, it was not until the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome that the Paralympics earned its title and it was held annually alongside the Olympic Games. Since Ludwig Guttmann found that the Paralympic Games in England in the forties, the event and its athletes have had to overcome the feeling of living in the shadows of the giant-like Olympics, and feeling like they were a 'second' or 'afterthought' as quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald. However, as the 2012 Games were held in London, it was perceived that the Paralympic Games went home and a rebirth of the event was developed to ensure the greatest respect and equality for both the athletes and the volunteers. The games did not disappoint. Compared to the 400 athletes that competed in the 1960 games, the 2012 games saw 4,200 athletes compete from 165 countries. These games have developed over time and have fostered the motivation that stems from what these athletes give to the Australian population. Among Australia's past and present Paralympic athletes, I am proud to have some of these participants representing my electorate and the Hunter region broadly. Heath Francis of Booral was born and raised in my electorate. Due to a farming accident at a young age, Heath had his right arm amputated. Having not let his accident impede his future, Heath overcame various obstacles to become an Olympic champion. After an excellent athletic career, Heath retired in 2010 as the Paralympic champion of the 100-, 200- and 400-metre track events. He is still an outstanding ambassador for Paralympic sports and the Australian Paralympic Committee. He is truly an inspiration to all of us.
The second athlete I would like to draw upon has accomplished many great things that most of us will never get to do. Kurt Fearnley was born without the lower half of his spine, known as lumbosacral agenesis. He now resides in Newcastle, and to date holds 28 national marathon victories, three gold medals, five silver medals and one bronze medal across three Paralympics. In 2009, Kurt crawled the Kokoda track in Papua New Guinea over a duration of 10 days. That is 96 kilometres of harsh terrain and unpleasant weather. He has crawled the Great Wall of China. He has won five world championships and conquered more than 20 marathons around the world. He is also a qualified teacher. This three-time Paralympian and six-time world champion has previously been the Commonwealth Athlete of the Year With a Disability, and in 2009 was the New South Wales Young Athlete of the Year. What immense accomplishments.
Great sporting achievements also inspire and expand through to our younger generations. Taylor Corry secured a silver medal in the 100-metre backstroke S14 event this year. This 18 year old was the first athlete from my electorate to secure a medal at the Paralympic Games. Taylor Corry and her older brother, Kieran, are equally exceptional swimmers. Both siblings have been recognised as finalists in the Paterson Young Sportsperson of the Year award. Kieran in 2010 and, more recently, Taylor earlier this year. Taylor has also been a recipient of our local sporting champions program grant in 2009 and 2011. I had the privilege of honouring this achievement in both years.
The Hunter region's Maddie Elliott has had many highlights in her athletic career, being Australia's youngest medal winner at 13 years of age and having previously been ranked No. 1 in the world for the 50-metre backstroke S8 event. Maddie scored a bronze medal in the 400-metre freestyle, beating her personal best time, and a gold medal as part of the 4 x 100-metre freestyle relay team, serving to smash the world record. In addition, her teammates Ellie Cole, Katherine Downie and Jacqueline Freney also had outstanding swims. Here we see the importance and teamwork and what it is that these results can accomplish. I cannot express how proud and encouraged I am by these exceptional athletes. They have overcome and endured life-altering circumstances, and have emerged on the other side stronger than they have ever been. I would also like to congratulate Christie Dawes of Merewether and Georgia Beikoff of Valentine on their outstanding performances at this year's Paralympics.
2012 has been a monster year for the sporting industry. We have just participated in the Olympics and the Paralympics, and later this year we will see through the Junior National Games. The Special Olympics organisation runs many different events on local, national and international levels. In December this year, Newcastle will play host to the third Junior National Games. I am proud of the Hunter region's dedication to hosting such a prestigious event. I know Newcastle and Hunter residents would share in these feelings upon this occasion. This is the very first time that the Hunter has held the Junior National Games, joining with Canberra and Launceston as host cities.
The Special Olympics not only has the Junior National Games every four years, but in late 2013 Newcastle will also host the Special Olympics Asia-Pacific Regional Games, in which 24 countries will be involved. Various sport facilities throughout Newcastle and the Hunter will be used to accommodate the relative sports. These athletes, aged between eight and 15 years, provide motivation, and are an inspiration to others. Performing what we see grown adults doing, these youngsters are absolutely mind blowing. By taking part in this affair, the Special Olympians can now take part in something that provides acceptance, courage, friendship and, most of all, fun.
Special Olympic ambassador and athlete Steve Robson resides on the Central Coast. However, he has been quoted as saying that he is glad the Asia-Pacific games are going to be a local event for him. He said, 'This is awesome.' Steve is also an achieved accomplished athlete with many sporting highlights, being awarded the Life Without Barriers Sportsperson with a Disability Award in 2010, winning a gold medal in golf in Athens at the 2011 summer games, and was a record holder for the Special Olympics. As quoted by the Special Olympic Organisation, 'The Special Olympics are the largest sport and humanitarian event in the world.' However, it is not as well known to the general public compared to both the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games. Similar support that was seen with both large-scale games has been crucial for the event to be highly regarded by the athletes around the world. Nonetheless, everything has a small beginning. Looking back to the very beginning of the Paralympics, a doctor used sport as a rehabilitation method through including his patients turned something personalised into a major event of world renown. The Special Olympics has been no different.
On an even smaller scale, I have recently had the pleasure of presenting several local sporting championships grants in a diversity of sporting fields. As the next four years builds up to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I am excited to think that these fine young sports men and women will be competing in this tournament. I look forward to hearing of their future accomplishments in representing my electorate, the Hunter region and the nation. I am already impressed by their efforts.
Early on in the Olympics it did seem that some of the supporters were hard to please. At the beginning of the Games, I am sure we can all recall the harsh words and absurdly high expectations the media placed on our athletes. I am grateful that this soon dissipated and the media chose to focus on recognising our athletes' hard work and achievements. To me, no matter what place our athletes finished, no matter how few medals were accomplished, to make the Australian team and to be competing against 200-odd nations at the Olympics, Paralympics and Special Olympics is a fantastic achievement in itself.
As previously mentioned, the traditional Olympics were never about winning medals, but in honour of Zeus. Our athletes should be recognised for what they have achieved both physically and mentally and be honoured accordingly. The athletes have described how much they appreciated the support from the nation and from their local communities. I cannot think of many other people more deserving than our Australian athletes of being role models and figures who can inspire others. I admire them all and I am glad that our youth have these people to look up to, these three teams of athletes and our local young champions representing our homes and our nation. They have set a perfect example of what it is to be an Australian athlete. They have done us all proud.
On this positive note, I would like to welcome our Australian Olympians, Paralympians and the volunteers who worked behind the scene to aid our athletes' home in London. I would like to say thank you and congratulations on representing our nation and themselves. I would like to acknowledge their achievements and to them I say, 'Great job, well done.' In particular I would like to recognise the contribution of the parents and the broader families in making these champions great. The sacrifices of time and finances being placed into these young people should not go unrecognised. I would also like to give my best wishes and good luck to the athletes of the Special Olympics and the local champions. It is these people who make us proud to be Australian.