When it was revealed that Australia’s Paralympic athletes received no medal cash bonus and that, in contrast, Olympic gold medallists received a cash bonus of $20,000, Australians sat up and took notice. With the Paralympic Games now in full swing, to deny these athletes financial support is to ignore the countless sacrifices they have made to get to the biggest stage on the international sporting calendar, not to mention the obstacles overcome to participate. The Olympic and Paralympic Games are touted as an event that unites the world, yet the disparity in funding suggests otherwise. As Australians demanded justice for our Paralympic stars, the government has since acknowledged the work these athletes do is of national significance. As a result, Paralympic athletes will now receive the same funding as their able-bodied counterparts.
The federal government has announced that it is committed to providing financial support after it was revealed there was no similar bonus scheme for Paralympians due largely to the fact that peak sports bodies didn’t receive the same funding. Australia’s Olympic silver and bronze medallists were also awarded $15,000 and $10,000 respectively, but as The Guardian notes, “Paralympics Australia does not have the financial resources to invest in such reward schemes, as its available funding goes towards preparing and sending teams to the Summer and Winter Games.”
When the news went viral, Olympic rugby sevens champion and AFLW player Chloe Dalton was quick to launch a campaign to fund bonuses for Paralympians and close the gap of financial disparity. The GoFund Me campaign established by Dalton was quick to garner widespread support, raising more than $50,000 in just three days. With a target of $100,000, the fund now sits close to $75,000. Speaking to The Guardian about the support, Dalton expressed: “It’s so incredible to see that people coming together to highlight issues of inequality can create meaningful change.” She added, “I’m quite emotional and so happy for these amazing athletes who will now be rewarded equally.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, aware of the achievements of Australia’s Paralympians who have since claimed 60 medals so far in Tokyo, 13 of which are gold, has recognised that these are acts of national significance and should be recognised as such.
In a recent press conference, Morrison explained that he was intent on sharing “Australia’s joy and pride” in its para-athletes. “I’m very pleased to announce that the government will provide additional support to Paralympics Australia to ensure our Paralympic medallists will receive equivalent payments to our Olympic medallists,” said the PM.
He added, “There are still three more wonderful days ahead and we are so, so proud of our team. They have shown discipline, focus, determination, dogged persistence, a great sense of humour, a great sense of the Australian spirit on display. We have witnessed the essence of what sport is all about being the best you possibly can be…You have inspired us and we are grateful that you’re one of us as Australians.”
While it’s certainly an announcement to be celebrated, the fact remains that more funding needs to be directed towards Paralympic sport which continues to receive far less funding than other sporting bodies for able-bodied athletes. As Geoff Trappett, a three-time Paralympic medallist and disability advocate suggests, our focus should not be so narrow as to only reward exceptional performances. Rather, more funding should be released in advance of future Games. “Medal bonuses are only one part of the funding equation for Paralympics. They’re short term and they’re for the 1%,” explained Trappett.
“Sustainable grassroots funding of sporting pathways and breaking down the extra barriers that exist for involvement of disabled people in sport and recreation at any level has to be the bigger prize we aim for.”