Kurt Fearnley appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia

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(AAP: Dan Peled) ABC Newcastle

By

Dan Cox

Posted

June 11, 2018 06:11:02

Photo:
Flagbearer and Paralympian Kurt Fearnley enters the stadium before the start of the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April.
(REUTERS: David Gray)
The 37-year-old has been to five Paralympic Games, three Commonwealth Games, two Olympics and a handful of World Championships.He has 13 Paralympic medals, including three gold, multiple world titles, as well as gold and silver medals from the Commonwealth Games.He said his family is constantly surprised by his achievements.”I don’t think I’ll be enforcing the ‘Daddy AO’ to my kids,” he said.”It has more to do with driving me to try and assist change within this community, than it does affect me as a dad, or a husband, or a brother, or a son.”I’m that person no matter what — no matter what honour comes, no matter what event takes place.”I’m the same kid that was crawling around [my hometown of] Carcoar, and I’m the same husband and father and son.”‘We nailed’ the Commonwealth GamesFearnley said this year’s Commonwealth Games will forever be a career highlight.”I finished the green and gold,” he said.”I finished that part of my career knowing that I’ve got nothing left to give it — nothing at all.”So now, a few months out from finishing that run, I just feel grateful that I was given the opportunity, and grateful for all the doors that were open for me to participate to the level that I did. Three-time Paralympic gold medallist Kurt Fearnley might have pulled on the ‘green and gold’ for the last time, but he says his advocacy work is far from over.He was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia or OAM in 2005 after winning a gold medal at the Athens Paralympic Games, and today he has received an even higher honour — he has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia or AO.”It makes me think I should watch my Ps and Qs a little bit more,” Fearnley said.Fearnley is receiving the Queen’s Birthday Honour for distinguished service to people with a disability, for his fundraising efforts when it comes to Indigenous athletics and charitable organisations, as well as his achievements as a Paralympic athlete.”It just makes me reflect and … it kind of gives you a bit of a kick along to what’s next as well,” he said.”The idea that I did this thing that I’ve loved for a couple of decades, that I’ve been able to bring a big bunch of community with me — that I’ve been able to have conversations that seem to be pretty meaningful for our community, and that people would see that’s reflected in an award or a title or an honour like today then I just feel grateful, surprised and humbled.”I think being named as an Officer of the Order, well that’s something that will drive me on to deserve it.”Whenever you get these sort of things you don’t understand, you don’t feel like you deserve that recognition, but you feel like you want to make it worthwhile.”

Photo:
Kurt Fearnley celebrates his T54 marathon gold medal with his family at the Commonwealth Games in April 2018. (AAP: Dean Lewins)
“Honestly, the Gold Coast — I couldn’t ask for a better final memory in that comp, in those colours — it was a fierce race and my family was there, and every part of me was tied up in that result.”Para-athletes have been competing at the Commonwealth Games since 1990 but Fearnley said, that 2018 represented the first time that people with a disability were part of the DNA of the event.”What we haven’t done, we haven’t brought community along with us as well as what we did in the Gold Coast,” he said.”They were there from the get go, and for the whole way through — the organising committee, the games itself, the staff, the crowds — we just nailed it, we nailed it in those games.”‘Disability is a conversation'”The main part of that conversation is how far are we willing to allow people with disabilities into our community?” Fearnley asked.”And how far are we willing, and how much are we willing to pay, or how much is the community willing to work for us?”When I when I’ve first started to realise that I had a disability … the answer to that question of how far are we willing was that I was to be ‘special-schooled’.”If my family couldn’t afford to travel then I was to be institutionalised — that’s the answer to that question back in 1985.”Now the answer to the question about how far is the community willing to let us into the sporting world? Right to the top.”The answer is that the guy in a wheelchair, the guy with a disability can captain a combined abled and para sport team, he or she can carry the flag into the closing ceremony.”Hopefully we can progress that conversation into the real world.”

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Fearnley has won three gold Paralympic medals representing Australia. (Supplied: Australian Paralympic Committee)
‘I’m going to run forever’Fearnley said that people with disabilities have health issues that sport and exercise can help tackle.”So, for me, to walk away from sport, that would almost be irresponsible,” he said.”I’m going to run forever — running is a part of who I am.”Getting in my chair and being part of the marathon community makes me feel good.”I know that for my own mental health I’ll continue to run until they bury me.” Photo:
Alexander Dupont of Canada (R) and Kurt Fearnley cross the finish line after winning the gold and silver medals during the Men’s T54 1500m Final at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
Kurt Fearnley to pull on green and gold for last time at Comm Games
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