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Is there enough gold to go around?

By Rob Evers - posted Thursday, 30 August 2012

A few short weeks ago, Australians were transfixed by the quest for gold at the London Olympics. We held our collective breath as Sally Pearson won the 100m hurdles by two one-hundredths of a second.

It was interesting to see the calculation of just how many millions of dollars it cost us for each medal won by Australians at the Olympics. According to Sports Researcher Dr James Connor, each medal won (there were 35 in total) cost the Australian public approximately $10.7 million. That's a total cost of $327 million. In the four years leading up to the London Games, the Australian Federal Government invested more than $382 million towards elite sport. Then there is the sponsorship from companies keen to bask in the reflected glory of medals won. Money everywhere!

As we turn our attention once again to London, this time for the Paralympics, it begs the question - will the event capture the attention of Australians like the able-bodied games? While the ABC will broadcast 100 hours of the Paralympics including the opening and closing ceremonies, will the event receive the same, dedicated coverage in the newspapers? And as for sponsorship, forget it. Apparently a medal in the Paralympics is worth little compared to one won a few weeks earlier by an able-bodied athlete.


This year, we will send 161 athletes to the London Paralympics, the largest Australian team ever. In 2011-2012, the Federal Government provided more than $13.5 million to the Australian Paralympic Committee, as well as $2.7 million in Direct Athlete Support.

In June of this year, the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas told the Australian Paralympic Committee: "The Paralympics is an opportunity for people with disability to come together and show Australia, and the world, that people with disability can live their dreams, achieve their goals and reach their full potential," she said.

By all means we should admire the athleticism and dedication to sport of those who represent our country at an elite level, whether they be Paralympians or able-bodied athletes. But as we watch people compete at the highest level, perhaps we should think about those people who face a different kind of struggle every single day.

The Productivity Commission tells us that there are 410,000 Australians with disabilities who have a permanent or a significant disability and who will be in need of support for the rest of their lives.

If you suffer a life changing disability as the result of car accident, the Transport Accident Commission in Victoria (and similar authorities in the other states and territories) will cover the costs of any medical treatment, rehabilitation services, disability services, income assistance, travel and household support services required as a result of a transport accident. Not so for those whose disability is a result of some other cause. Then you are in the disability funding lottery, where some win, but most lose.

To provide a fairer and more equitable outcome for all Australians with a disability, the Productivity Commission recommended the setup of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This scheme will ensure no one misses out on essential support and services to live life to the fullest, much like our Olympic athletes.


The commission estimated that the NDIS would cost $13.6 billion to roll out between

2018-2019. This is no small sum, but what price will we pay to be fair?

The commission also recommended the introduction of the National Injury Insurance Scheme (NISS), which would cover the lifetime care and support needs for all people who experience a catastrophic injury andoperate like Medicare, funded through premiums from insurance policies, state, territory and federal governments.

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About the Author

Rob Evers is the CEO of the Wesley Mission Victoria.

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