Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja says the PacificAusSports Olympic and Paralympic partnership was set up to provide elite level pathways for both potential Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
“One of the facts about the Pacific is that there is extraordinary sporting talent available and one of the things that Australia has developed over the last few decades is a lot of great coaches and some amazing facilities.
“So to be able to bring those Pacific athletes and give them in many cases for the first time, the opportunity to have that high level coaching and to have access to these higher level facilities is key to the programme. I think we saw some really good outcomes as a result of that with many going on and competing at the Olympics and the Paralympics,” Seselja told PACNEWS in an interview earlier this week.
Seselja has indicated that Australia will extend the PacificAus Sports initiative beyond its current funding cycle, saying it is ‘committed for the long haul’.
“I’m very hopeful that what we’ll see is a continuation into the future of the Pacific, our sports programme. Of course, decisions need to be made by the government in coming years for further funding rounds.
But I think what we are likely to see and what I genuinely hope is that we will build on what I think has been a very, very successful programme so far,” Seselja told PACNEWS.
He said there’s something very special about the Olympics and the Paralympics, is that it lifts the spirits.
“We know that sports like rugby and rugby union and netball, which, of course are either professional or semi-professional, get a lot of attention by the Olympics, which is great, because you get some of the world’s best athletes, but you also get sports that don’t always get a high profile, and people have opportunities to come and compete.
“So I think there is something very special about the Olympics and Paralympics. Certainly in Australia, we know that during this challenging pandemic, we took a lot of pleasure watching our athletes but also with a keen eye on those specific athletes doing great things as well,” he told PACNEWS
Seselja said Australia supported athletes from Pacific nations to go to the Olympics and Paralympics – and it paid off.
“Some amazing performances, I think there was something like five national records from Pacific athletes.
“We saw some extraordinary individual performances. So I think we can all be very pleased that the support of Pacific sports for these pathways for Paralympian’s and Olympians has been a great success. And I hope it’s something that we can continue to work on and continue to build on for future Olympics,” Seselja explained.
As an Australian basketball fan, one of the highlights of the Olympics was watching the Boomers finally get a medal.
“So seeing Patty Mills in the team was just a whole lot of fun but from PNG, who I met, who is a long jumper, and did an extraordinary job really achieved great things.
“I think PNG would be very proud and I now see Bulimairewa, who I also met who was at the Paralympics. He’s from Fiji and he is a Paralympic javelin thrower. He lost his leg and taught himself javelin on YouTube and came to Australia and had some opportunities to be coached for the first time and you know, it was great to see him competing,” he said.
Seselja sees the 2032 Brisbane Olympics as “being at the heart” of Australia’s relationship with Pacific island nations.
“I think it’ll be a showcase for Australia, of course, but also for our family in our near region and the Pacific.
“We see great opportunities coming from the Brisbane Olympics. We know that the ties between Australia and the Pacific are very close, I think they’re particularly keenly felt in places like Brisbane and Queensland.
“Having it in Brisbane, where there is such a strong Pacific presence already, will just highlight to the rest of the world that yes, you are coming to Australia, but you are experiencing these Olympics, which are very much the Olympics for our immediate region,” Seselja told PACNEWS