Leon Burwell OAM

A tribute to the legendary volunteer known as 'Mr Special Olympics'

The Loss of a Leader

"The best way to change any negative misconceptions about people with intellectual disabilities is to focus on the positive. If you pursue happiness it will elude you. If you take an interest in others and do your best it will find you."

The Special Olympics Australia community was devastated recently with news of the passing of a pioneer – Mr Leon Burwell OAM – otherwise known as “Mr Special Olympics” in Australia.

Leon Burwell at the Bicentennial Games in Narrabeen, Sydney in 1988.Leon is well known and respected across the Newcastle/Hunter Valley area having established the thriving Special Olympics Hunter Valley club. But his influence extends right across the globe. Leon has led teams to international competition and played significant roles at club, state, national and international level.

Leon was the first National Director of Sport and Training at Special Olympics Australia and spent much time travelling across the country and Asia Pacific region hosting workshops, teaching the principles of Special Olympics and conducting coach education sessions.

Special Olympics Australia recognised Leon in 2002 when he was inducted into our Hall of Fame and in 2006 he was awarded an OAM and an honourary degree of Doctor of Education from the University of Newcastle. His full list of awards and accolades is enormous.

Leon is a legend who made athletes his number one priority, alongside his precious family. The outpouring of grief from Special Olympics Australia athletes speaks volumes of Leon's integrity, enthusiasm and absolute dedication. Thank you Leon for being a gentleman, mentor and inspiration. You have left a lasting legacy and we all want to continue your great work and follow your example.

Click here to see a photo gallery of Leon's dedication to Special Olympics Australia.