Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Ku-ring-gai Chase Fun Run or Walk

People on a road participating in a fun run/walk

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai—Minister for Skills and Training, and Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology) (19:28): No matter our age, sex or ability, all people deserve the opportunity to participate in sport. For over 40 years, Special Olympics Australia has guaranteed that opportunity for thousands of children and adults with an intellectual disability, helping them flourish into successful athletes and prove that disability is no barrier to success. Along the way, these talented athletes not only honed their sporting skills but formed lifelong friendships in an inclusive and supportive environment. I am proud to support the Ku‑ring‑gai Chase Fun Run and Walk each year, which is our community's annual fundraising event for the Special Olympics Sydney Upper North Shore club.

Early in the morning on 29 May this year, I joined residents at Claude Cameron Grove for the walk through the leafy, tree‑lined streetscapes of Wahroonga. Official ambassador and roving emcee Vic Lorusso launched the event. In past years, he has generously offered exclusive helicopter rides for silent auction in support. It was great to catch up with Vic prior to the start of the race. At 9.00 a.m., the brilliant 10K runners headed for the starting line. Many of them were keen for a competitive run, which has been so difficult to do in the past two years. Once the horn sounded, all their enthusiasm was on show as the runners took off with determination and excitement in their eyes. The 5K runners and walkers followed suit at the starting line, awaiting their turn.

I had the privilege of giving a welcome speech before sounding the horn to start the next race, the 5K run. I then encouraged the 5K walkers, like myself, not to be afraid and to show a bit of form—a little bit like Kel fromKath & Kim—as we took off on our walk. As we made our way through the course, it was inspiring to see mothers with prams taking part in the event. In accordance with event tradition, students from Knox Grammar School also ran or walked with the Special Olympics athletes as buddies and support teams. With the students, Special Olympics athletes, families and children, the turnout was an absolutely wonderful reflection of the camaraderie found in all parts of our Ku-ring-gai community.

Once the race was completed, we headed to the oval for the presentation of medals to those athletes who placed first, second and third. I congratulate the winners of the 10K and 5K races, including Martin Smellie, Doug Goulding, Andrew Heyden, Amelia Gorman, Lara Cumming, Megan Zalloua, Charlie Bradford, Michael Tozer, Anthony Slaven, Georgie Farrar, Imogen Robertson and Janna Robertson. I also got to catch up with Nathan Whitty, who placed first in the 10K run last year and who came second this year. In my view, all the participants made remarkable achievements in supporting such a worthwhile cause and helping to raise funds for Special Olympics Upper North Shore.

I congratulate the event sponsors, including Knox Grammar, Poolwerx Turramurra, Differently Abled People Association, Like Family, Unisson Disability, Hireup, and Ku-ring-gai Fitness and Aquatic Centre. Funds raised from the event will ensure that, looking forward, the Special Olympics program will continue across the North Shore community, where over 200 athletes and their families will establish connections through involvement in sport. The challenge to restart the program in a COVID-safe way across 11 sports and 40 locations has been significant. Since the pandemic, some sports, like softball, have had to be stopped. We understand the impact this must have on so many people.

With the support of individuals, volunteers and organisations, the Ku-ring-gai Fun Run and Special Olympics Upper North Shore will continue to thrive and prevail against all challenges. There are currently over 200 million people in the world with an intellectual disability, and 5½ million in the Special Olympics program. The goal is to reach out to each and every one of them and their families. With that special knowledge in mind, I would say that the transformative power of the Special Olympics in the lives of millions of people is a truly worthwhile cause that deserves our community's ongoing support. It has been a particularly difficult time with the disruption to special sports generally, and I spoke to some of the athletes and their families about the impact that has had upon them. Certainly, it is the community and the engagement which they enjoy so much—and the volunteer coaches also absolutely love working with the athletes. It has been another great year of the Ku-ring‑gai Chase Fun Run or Walk. We look forward to next year's run and walk as well.