2016 Awards

There are so many people that make the Special Olympics Australia community rich, rewarding and welcoming. So, Special Olympics Australia has introduced a range of new annual rewards to say thanks. Meet the terrific finalists for 2016 as nominated by our members!

Athlete of the year


Brooke McGrath, Macarthur (NSW)

Brooke has trained and competed with Special Olympics Australia for over ten years and consistently achieves her personal best in her favourite three sports – athletics, bocce and swimming. At the recent State Games in athletics she won three gold medals all in her best times making her eligible for selection for a third National Games. Brooke is also the athlete representative on the Macarthur club committee. She is dedicated to all her sports and attends every training session. If training is cancelled Brooke will train herself!


Belinda Prince, Hunter Valley (NSW)

Belinda is a veteran of the pool having been swimming for over 16 years. Belinda admits that before swimming she was a bit of a couch potato. Now she’s out training multiple times a week as well as providing swimming lessons for others as an accredited AustSwim coach. One of the highlights of her career was winning two gold and one silver medal in the pool at the inaugural Special Olympics Asia-Pacific Games in 2013 which saw 2,500 athletes from 32 countries compete across 8 sports. The Games were held in Belinda’s neighbourhood of Newcastle and she was also selected as an athlete ambassador for the Games. 

Tahlia Henson, Illawarra (NSW)

Tahlia has played basketball with Special Olympics Australia for eight years and is described as passionate, dedicated and confident with a caring heart. She is also the athlete representative on the club committee which she helped establish by raising money and awareness. She is always seeking input from athletes and talking to them about ways to improve things so she really brings the voice of the athletes to the committee. She regularly promotes Special Olympics Australia by speaking at schools and organisations, including the Police Academy. Tahlia uses her knowledge and skills to assist younger or less experienced athletes and is always cheering on her colleagues.

Ricky Chittleborough, Perth Metro (WA)

At just 18, Ricky has shown leadership beyond his years. Just this year, he has graduated from the Athlete Leadership Program and achieved his coaching accreditation. With his new qualification he has been appointed as Assistant Coach for the Perth Metro basketball team where he is in charge of developing the skills of less experienced athletes. He is a fantastic role model and advocate for inclusion. In his six years with Special Olympics Australia, Ricky has shown he is willing to give anything a go and he treasures his basketball silver medal from the 2014 National Games.

Young athlete of the year (up to 26 years of age)


Koby Banks, Illawarra (NSW)

Since Koby joined Special Olympics Australia in 2010 he has developed confidence and taken on new challenges, including helping to promote the Illawarra club to new athletes. He has attended all competitions hosted by the club, either as an athlete or volunteer. His love of basketball has seen him compete at two National Games and he has since achieved his refereeing qualifications. He started off playing in the lowest division but his commitment to training has seen him rise through the grades to the top division. He’s often out fundraising to get athletes to competitions even when he’s not on the team. On the sporting field, Koby displays great sportsmanship and applauds the efforts of his fellow athletes.


Shane Cooks Reynolds, Mackay (QLD)

Shane has trained with the Special Olympics Mackay club since it was established in 2012. He actively participates in all club activities and strives to achieve success in his sporting, working and personal lives. Shane engages well with everyone and mentors younger athletes. He’s a keen tenpin bowler and basketballer who won gold at the National Games in 2014. Shane often represents his club to sponsors and benefactors and enjoys public speaking. Shane has enrolled in the Community Coaching Course so that he can assist at basketball training. Shane consistently shows courage, promotes teamwork and leads by example.

Josiah Bradshaw, Sunshine Coast (QLD)

Since Josiah joined the Sunshine Coast club he has demonstrated exceptional progress, skill and determination in his chosen sport of golf. Josiah’s leadership skills, positivity and supportive attitude towards others was rewarded when he was selected as the group leader in the weekly program. This leadership attitude is demonstrated in and out of the sporting arena.

Joshua Elliott, Perth Metro (WA)

19-year old Joshua has been competing in tenpin bowling and swimming with the Perth Metro club since he joined Special Olympics Australia in 2012. In that time he has won a gold medal in swimming at the 2014 National Games in Melbourne and three gold and a silver medal at the State of Origin competition in Kalgoorlie. He enjoys assisting younger athletes to develop their skill, leads by example and shows great sportsmanship even when he doesn’t win. He’s particularly proud that he regularly attends training and he has made a commitment to maintain a balanced diet.


Coach of the year


Liz Ewen, Brisbane (QLD)

Liz has been delivering quality swim coaching and heading up aquatics teams for over 22 years at club, state, national and international levels. She is an advocate for all her swimmers, making sure they are treated fairly and have the best opportunity to do their best.

She also encourages and mentors older athletes to become leaders. Liz is a great supporter of families, old and new and gives many hours of patient teaching and dedication to ensure that children are safe in the water. Liz is always conscious of developing young athletes and ensuring a healthy stream of “new talent” flows into Special Olympics Australia. Liz has a huge list of accolades. Last year she was Head Coach of the swimming team at the Special Olympics World Summer Games and this year she was a winner of the Stafford Queensland Day Community Awards.


Leanne Secomb, Illawarra (NSW)

Leanne got a taste of Special Olympics Australia at the age of 8 when she would join her brother Peter at training. In 2006, at the age of x, she became a volunteer and has shown great passion and commitment to everything Special Olympics ever since. Leanne believes that people with an intellectual disability are capable of greatness and deserve opportunities and respect. In 2015, she was Head Coach of the men’s basketball team who won gold in the highest division at the Special Olympics World Summer Games. She has coached at all levels, served on committees, been a ball girl at tennis, a lane supervisor at bowling, a timekeeper at swimming, a referee at soccer and even dressed up as Santa for Christmas. Leanne displays innovative, progressive and safe coaching practices, and always acts in the best interest of athletes.

Kirsty Brunsdon, North West New England (NSW)

Kirsty is the quiet achiever behind the planning, promoting and implementing of the sports calendar at the North West New England club where she has been actively involved for ten years. She is passionate about sport and community awareness, and is described as a “doer” with a high standard of service delivery. Kirsty has been instrumental in increasing athlete participation and creating more sporting opportunities for athletes with intellectual disability in the local community. She is also a powerful motivator who adapts her coaching techniques to suit athletes of all abilities.

Helen Dixon, Redlands (QLD)

Helen established the Redlands swimming program four years ago when her son Jack and some of his friends couldn’t find a suitable club to meet their needs. Now Special Olympics Redlands supports more than 40 swimmers. Helen is always encouraging her swimmers to reach for the next level. The regional meet hosted by Redlands each year is put together solely by Helen who also does the fundraising. Helen is a wonderful advocate for swimmers with a disability and she has been instrumental in encouraging the community to welcome and engage with them at local venues.

Young coach of the year (up to 26 years of age)


Melinda Ney, Hunter Valley (NSW)

At just 18 years old, Melinda already has four years under her belt as a volunteer and swimming coach. She is currently mentoring two young volunteers who will become accredited later in 2016. Her enthusiasm and encouragement is amazing and most recently she was NSW Team Assistant at the Trans Tasman Games Tournament in New Zealand. She is respected by all for her passion and positivity and this year she was named as a finalist in the Young Official of the Year and Young Coach of the Year categories at the NSW Sports Awards.

Volunteer of the year


Melda and Terry McMahon, Melbourne Inner East (VIC)

Together, Mel and Terry have given exceptional support to the Melbourne Inner East club for over 20 years. As part of the fabric of the club they have held a variety of positions, but their favourites is playing the role of sports coordinators of tenpin bowling where they manage the largest group of bowlers (120) in any Special Olympics Australia club. Terry served as Chairman of the club for four years in the early days of the club, one of the oldest clubs in Australia and Mel is still on the club committee. Health issues saw them try and retire in 2012 but they couldn’t give up their dedication to their tenpin bowlers. Until recently, they also arranged the annual regional competition as well as helping with State Games.


Debra Banks, Illawarra (NSW)

Debra has been a member of the Illawarra club committee since the club was established in 2010. She is now the driving force behind the club. Debra is committed to running high-quality regional competitions that are applauded by other clubs who attend. She also delivers detailed reports on all sports because she is in constant contact with coaches, athletes, families and committee members. She encourages volunteers to improve their skills and has built many valuable relationships within the local community which has increased opportunities for athletes. She also promotes competition pathways and encourages athletes to aspire to higher levels of competition.

Julie Daskal, Mid North Coast (NSW)

Julie has been a volunteer with the Mid North Coast club since 2010 when her son Jason joined the tenpin bowling program, despite the 150km round-trip to get to training! Since then she has tirelessly promoted special Olympics in the Forster area where she regularly organises Bunnings BBQ's and other fundraising activities as well as running a new tenpin bowling league for 15-20 young athletes. She is also the organiser of the Christmas party which is regularly attended by the mayor.

Jon Haggarty, Bendigo (VIC)

John is a valued member of the Bendigo club where he has fulfilled many roles over the past 10 years, including vice-chair, secretary and registrar. He has also been a tenpin bowling coach and sometimes the bus driver. In fact, John would do anything for the athletes of Special Olympics Australia and volunteers to do many tasks within the club. He is a positive role model who is always helping others.

Young volunteer of the year (up to 26 years of age)

No nominations

EKS Award

EKS Award

The EKS Award is presented annually to an athlete who has shown great leadership skills, both on and off the sporting field. The award is open to all Special Olympics Australia athletes and is presented on Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day, which is celebrated on the fourth Saturday of September each year.

This award honours Special Olympics founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Australian volunteer, Dr John Day inspired this award when he donated the medal he received from Mrs Shriver in 1976 to mark the beginning of Special Olympics in Australia.

Honour Roll

2016 | Martin Smith (QLD)
             Nicole Bartley (QLD)
2015 | Liam O'Donnell (ACT)
2014 | Joshua Frost (NSW)
2013 | Mel Eustace (NSW)
2012 | Steven White (VIC)
             Russell Nelligan (WA)
2011 | Andrew Williams (VIC)
2010 | John Faulkner (QLD)
2009 | Saxon Graham (NSW)
2008 | Gabrielle Clark (NSW)
             Kelly Wren (NSW)
2007 | Christopher Farmer (SA)

EKS Award Winners 2016!

Martin Smith, Moreton North, Queensland

Martin has been training and competing with Special Olympics Australia for over 22 years. He is an all-round sportsperson who currently participates in swimming, basketball, golf, athletics and gymnastics. In his time at Special Olympics Australia, Martin has always dreamt of representing Australia at the World Games and in 2015 his dream finally came true when he returned home from LA with seven medals including gold for best overall gymnast. He is also a registered swimming coach and can be found on the pool deck twice a week coaching mainstream athletes, and he also assists with Special Olympics Australia athletes. He also sits on the Sports Working Group where he acts as the voice for Queensland athletes. Outside of Special Olympics Australia, Martin has a second Dan black belt in Go Kan Ryu Karate and is now a Sensei who can instruct others. 

Nicole Bartley, Brisbane, Queensland

Nicole has been training and competing with Special Olympics Australia for over 17 years and in that time she has represented Australia four times each in a different sport: Alpine skiing, basketball, tennis and swimming. She is very passionate about Special Olympics Australia and her community and you will often find her coaching the up-and-coming swimmers of tomorrow. Nicole is a great advocate for Special Olympics Australia and is willing to spread the word to all who will listen. She is often praised for her humanity, positivity and passion and last year at the World Games in Los Angeles she swam alongside legendary Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps.

EKS Award 2016 Nominees: Stuart Sutton, Melbourne Inner East (VIC) | Martin Bankier, Melbourne Southern (VIC) | Sharon Himan, South Coast (NSW) | Josef Bandera, South West (WA), Will Brunsdon, North West New England (NSW), Mitchell Duncan, Sydney Hills (NSW), Allister Peek, Canberra (ACT)

Hall of Fame Award

Hall of Fame

Each year Special Olympics Australia recognises a volunteer (or volunteers) who has shown dedication to our mission and long-standing commitment to our athletes by inducting them into the Hall of Fame. Nominations are sort from the Special Olympics Australia community and the National Selection Committee select the winner.

2016 Hall of Fame Nominations Are Now Closed

Honour Roll

2014 | Moira Ryde (VIC)
2013 | Albert Green, OAM (ACT)
2012 | Norm Maroney APM, OAM (NSW)
2011 | Robyn Cook OAM (VIC)
2010 | Susan Grealy (QLD)
2009 | Rex Langthorne AM (NSW)
2008 | Alan Burke (VIC)
2007 | Eric Jones OAM (VIC)
             Kurt Kraushofer OAM (VIC)
2006 | Barry Easy OAM (NSW)
             Marian York (QLD)
2005 | Robyn Hanson OAM (TAS)
2004 | Anna-Louise Kassulke (QLD)
2003 | Jan Sharp OAM (VIC)
2002 | Leon Burwell OAM (NSW)
2001 | Carol Tanner OAM (TAS)
2000 | Des Renford MBE, OHC (NSW)