A gift as good as gold

Supporting students with physical disabilities can make an incredible difference.



Story By

Veronica Apap

When Australia’s James Turner crossed the finish line of the 800m T36 sprint event at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, he set a new world record. His time of 2:02.29 was seven seconds ahead of Britain’s Paul Blake.

“To be honest I didn’t know how much of a lead I had, I just focussed on the track in front of me, putting one foot in front of the other,” he said after the race.

James had been training for the event for less than a year before his record-breaking win, making the achievement all the more momentous. It was James’ talent and dedication which drove him to the Paralympics, but one of the reasons he was able to devote more time to his athletics career was a scholarship from the Movement Disorder Foundation. “It took a huge amount of pressure off me,” he said. “It allowed me to not only to focus more on my studies but also gave me more time for athletics.”

“Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

The guiding philosophy of the Movement Disorder Foundation (MDF) was always: “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” It is the spirit of this philosophy which guides the UOW Movement Disorder Foundation Scholarship Fund, established with a $1.35 million gift.

The MDF Scholarship Fund provides five $7000 scholarships biennially to students with a physical disability, empowering them to achieve their educational goals and go on to create change in the world. The MDF Scholarship program was officially launched in 2018 with five new scholarships awarded. It was the first time the scholarships were offered to students studying in any discipline.

James is an engineering student at UOW with cerebral palsy – a neurological condition that affects movement and posture and is commonly associated with seizures. The support from the MDF scholarship provided financial relief for James so that he could focus on his studies and afford the costs of training and travelling to represent his country on the international stage.

UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Joe Chicharo said that the shared vision between the University and MDF was always to transform lives and communities through education.

“The University is committed to shaping the next generation of innovators and creators who will leverage from their opportunity to attend university and go on to contribute to the greater good, influencing social change and becoming leaders in their chosen fields.”

The gift which established the Movement Disorder Foundation Scholarship Fund was inspired by a remarkable Peter Hains, who achieved significant outcomes in his life while living with cerebral palsy. Executive chairman of the Movement Disorder Foundation, Dr Roland Bigg, shared a significant memory of Mr Hains, who was his uncle:  “I will always remember his words to me on being with him one night when he had yet another of the many falls that characterised his life,” Dr Bigg said. “When he recovered he said to me: `You know, small things are big things to those that don’t know what big things really are.”

Now Mr Hains’ inspirational legacy will have an ongoing impact on UOW, students with a physical disability and the world they create.

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