Close this search box.
Collaboration Education Disability Latest News

Inclusive schools’ programs visit western New South Wales

5 min read

Broken Hill school children had the chance to try blind cricket earlier this month [November] and learn why it’s important to include people with disability, while Dubbo school children got to experience wheelchair ball sports and learnt how First Nation’s people viewed disability. 

The not-for-profit organisation Social Futures, an NDIS partner in the community, brought the programs to western New South Wales to increase students’ understanding of inclusive communities. 

Champion wheelchair tennis player David Johnson and Ngemba elder, Richard Clarke were in Dubbo and surrounds from October 31 to November 2. Former NSW Blind Cricket Captain School Jones and Maree Jenner, who this year returned from the World Dwarf Games in Germany, visited Broken Hill and surrounding area schools from November 6 to 8. 

Wheelchair ball sports 

David, who won a silver medal, in the Sydney 2000 Paralympics teaches wheelchair sports to school children and is based in northern NSW but had the chance to travel west. 

“Trying sport in a wheelchair gives students a whole new perspective around disability and inclusion and it’s also lots of fun to move at speed on wheels and direct a ball,” David said.  

“I’d describe this Sports Ability program as a good hands-on learning experience for kids, it’s something they’ve never previously had the chance to do.  

“Kids get really engaged, and I love it, and they want more time doing the sports. They’re really open to the idea – and they get comfortable around people with disabilities. I make it fun and we talk lots about accessibility and inclusion for people with all types of disabilities.”  

David lost a leg in a car accident when he was a teenager and went on to represent Australia in the men’s open singles and doubles wheelchair tennis in the Sydney 2000 Paralympics.  

He said that before students get into the wheelchair, he talks to them about their understanding of disability, inclusion and the benefits for people with a disability when they enjoy and play sports.  

“I break it down for them and show them how they can play their part in building an accessible and inclusive community that welcomes everyone,” he said.  

“I cover basic wheelchair skills, and also go over different types of wheelchairs then I begin with basic stuff, like moving in a straight line. Next, we move to manoeuvering around cones, and I remind the students that people in wheelchairs have to learn how to avoid people’s feet and dogs – you can’t run them over! ” 

The Milkiri Inclusion in Culture program 

The Milkiri Inclusion in Culture program was designed by local area coordinator Richard Clarke, a proud Ngemba man from Brewarrina in North Western NSW.   

Richard says when he goes to school, he explains four key perspectives of disability from his culture: everybody is different; everybody has a role to play; we take care of each other; and saying connected to mind, body, spirit and Country helps keep us strong. 

Richard’s grandfather used a wheelchair. This did not stop him from playing a vital role in teaching Richard and others about culture, Country, stories and bush foods.  

“That’s the message I emphasise in schools – we may be different, but everyone is still valued, has a role and is needed by their community,” Richard said. 

The name Milkiri is a Ngemba word meaning ‘ant dance’ and it was given to Richard by his Uncle Roy to use when teaching about culture. Richard explores ideas around disability through dances, demonstrations, songs, and storytelling. He also introduces students to Aboriginal tools and artifacts, including explaining the importance of the digeridoo.  

“I engage students through culture, and after the Acknowledgement of Country, I ask them to think about where they come from, where they are connected to and who their mob is,” he said. 

Since creating Milkiri, Richard has visited more than 30 schools and met with more than 700 students. The children have given the program glowing reviews. One student told ‘Uncle Richard’ that he now understood it was okay not to be the same as everyone else.  

“I always leave schools with a sense of pride because the students have learnt something from me, and I also get to see the Aboriginal students step up and share their culture with their class peers. I witness them explaining, ‘This is how you do that’ and then I again feel so proud. I thank those students for sharing.”  

“I am grateful to have this opportunity to share my culture and demonstrate how it is so inclusive,” he said.  

Blind cricket 

Scott said when children play ‘blind cricket’ they develop an awareness of disability and learn how communities can adapt and be inclusive to all – in this case through sport.  

“The rules of blind cricket are based on standard cricket rules, with a couple of key modifications,” Scott said. 

”The ball is hard plastic and filled with ball bearings to provide audible cues. The wickets are made of metal and have the ability to rattle when shaken to identify their location.” 

He said that before students play, he talks to them about their understanding of disability, inclusion and the benefits for people with a disability when they enjoy and play sports. 

Scott said that the sport is not only inclusive but loads of fun to play.   

Related: Aussie rock legend mentors youth at Social Futures clubhouse

“Every student can take part in this interactive game. When I visit school, I also have a short chat about disability awareness and inclusive sports,” he said.   

“When playing blind cricket, we use experiential glasses that replicate the experience of vision impairment and when deprived of an essential sense – vision – players are prompted to find new skills as they play.”   

Scott explains that in blind cricket there are 11 players in each team and under competitive blind cricket rules there must be at least four players who are totally blind and seven partially blind players. That seven includes a minimum of three players with less than 5% vision and a minimum of three players with less than 10% vision.   

“Other differences to blind cricket are that verbal signals are widely used both by umpires and players,” he said.  

“The bowler must ask the batsman if he is ready and shout ‘Play!’ as he bowls the ball, and they must bounce at least twice when bowling to a completely blind batsman but only once to someone with partial sight.  

‘Different on the Outside, Same on the Inside’ program 

‘Different on the Outside, Same on the Inside’ is a free program for primary and high schools aimed at breaking down misconceptions and social barriers and encouraging awareness and inclusion for people with disability. 

This program is delivered by, Maree Jenner, who travelled to Germany in August to support the Australian team. 

As a person of short stature or dwarfism, Maree speaks to her own experience of difference and the challenges faced by ‘growing up little’’ in a world built for average-height people. 

“I am so passionate about this program,” Maree said.  

“It is such a good opportunity to go in and talk to children, because they notice things, they are learning. And the earlier you talk to young people, the better. Young people have questions about disability, they are curious about difference. They want to know why that is, and to understand.” 

“Having contact with me and becoming familiar with disability helps to remove awkwardness. Through this program, we support young people to feel comfortable with difference and open avenues toward understanding and respect.  

“Sadly, bullying happens frequently in our country. But bullying occurs often as a result of ignorance and misunderstanding, and this program is rectifying that.” 

Post school visits 

After the programs have visited the schools, teachers say that students are more mindful of being inclusive and start talking about inclusive ideas for their schools. 

Students and teachers provide feedback after the program – a past comment from a teacher was, “I liked that a couple of the students happily spoke about their disabilities during the session. Afterwards, students and staff discussed access issues to the bathrooms in our school which we hadn’t observed before. At lunchtime afterwards, I noticed the school yard conversation was all about disability and wheelchairs, also identifying barriers in school grounds.”   

Website | + posts

Menchie Khairuddin is a writer Deputy Content Manager at Akolade and content producer for Third Sector News. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.


You Might also Like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Stories

Next Up