December 3 marked the 23rd International Day of People with a Disability. This special day aims to promote an understanding of people with disability and encourage support for their dignity, rights and wellbeing.
Doncaster Hockey Club could see no better way to be a part in the day’s celebrations than run some hockey clinics at three local schools.
Doncaster ran clinics at Heatherwood, a secondary school for students with a mild intellectual disability, Onemda, a centre for adults with intellectual disability, and Bulleen Heights, a school for children with autism spectrum disorder.
The club has also been working closely with Hockey Victoria as a pilot club for an Access All Abilities program.
As part of that program, Hockey Victoria has been working with Heatherwood to enable ongoing hockey clinics for students in preparation for an inter-school competition to be run in 2015.
Doncaster operations manager Andrea Snow conducted the clinics together with Doncaster Premier League players Meg Pearce and Sarah Down. Snow said the clinics were well received but that they moved the Doncaster players just as much as the participants. “We had a terrific time at each of the three schools,” she said. “We were made feel extremely welcome and every one threw themselves into the sessions. It wasn’t work for us, it was just a great time."
“Hockey Victoria spoke to us about the pilot program with Heatherwood School and we jumped at the opportunity to play a role. The international day last week came out of that and it was outstanding."
“Sport is a great way to bring down all sorts of barriers and if we can include people with disabilities in our sport and make them feel welcome then we won’t hesitate.”
Pearce and Down have represented Victoria for the majority of their junior careers, Pearce playing for Australia at under-23 level, so there was no shortage of skill at the clinics. But, the two elite players enjoyed the sessions as much as anybody.
“Everyone at every session was so enthusiastic, it was great,” Down said. “Running the sessions was straight forward because everyone just had a go and brought a real sparkle to the day.”
Onemda’s Heidi Hobbs said the international day hockey was an huge success. “Andrea, Meg and Sarah did a wonderful job,” she said. “Our people really enjoyed it and got a great deal from the session. We would love to do it again.”
A major focus of the International Day of People with a Disability is to consider how people with disability are excluded from society and how to remove all types of barriers. Last week’s hockey program suggests Doncaster Hockey Club, together with the Heatherwood, Onemda and Bulleen Heights schools, have taken a quantum leap in that direction.
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*Article written by Graeme Down, and published in the Manningham Leader, December 10, 2014
*Photo courtesy of Michelle Kloboucnik