The Australian Paralympic Team has become one of the country’s iconic multi-sport teams, but the history of the Paralympic movement in Australia is largely unrecorded.
Possibly unique among Australian sporting movements, there are still a small number of people alive who attended the first Paralympic Games in September 1960. Those thirteen athletes and nine officials, who raised their own funds to compete in Rome, were there at the birth of a sport movement which has a significant impact on Australian sport and, in particular, sport for people with a disability.
There are also many people who played influential roles in all aspects of the development of Paralympic sport in Australia since 1960, whose stories are compelling and can provide a narrative to the development of the Paralympic movement. The growth of Paralympic sport, and disability sport more generally, in Australia over the past 50 years parallels developments in health care and disability rights, as well as revealing the value of the power of sport to transform the lives of participants.
In 2009, the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) established the Australian Centre for Paralympic Studies to retain historical, sport and business information to preserve its heritage, build its knowledge base and respond to requests for information about Paralympians and Paralympic sport.
In 2010 the APC, signed an agreement with the National Library of Australia to record the oral histories of a number of the people who were responsible for the growth and success of Paralympic sport in Australia. This oral history project will underpin a broader Australian Centre for Paralympic Studies project to capture and preserve the history of Paralympic sport.
To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Paralympic Games in September 2010, the first priority has been to record the oral histories of Australia’s first Paralympians.