Training programs to help physiotherapists and other health professionals support adults with disabilities identify and participate in sporting activities, will be boosted by a Menzies Alumni Community Leadership Grant.

Disability Sports Australia and 2005 Menzies Research Scholar in the Allied Health Sciences, Dr Leanne Hassett, have been awarded a grant to run two pilot training programs in NSW and develop new electronic resources to increase the knowledge of health professionals about how to determine appropriate sporting options.

Leanne also wants to explore how best to deliver these courses and resources to health professionals, educators and staff working in disability services across Australia.

The small grants program, which encourages Menzies scholars to pursue their community leadership and volunteering activities, has been launched by the Menzies Foundation and its alumni.

When Menzies Scholars are awarded their scholarship, it is based not only on leadership and academic excellence but also on their interest and experience in the service of others.

Disability Sports Australia helps people with a physical disability develop and engage with the community through sports and recreational opportunities.

Of the four million Australians living with disabilities, only 24 per cent report regular sports participation; well below the national average of 40 per cent. Recognising the wide ranging health benefits of sports participation, Leanne was keen to get involved and help improve these stats.

“As a physiotherapist at the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit at Liverpool Hospital in Sydney, I worked with numerous people who had sustained traumatic brain injuries,” Leanne said.

“Many of them were interested in participating in sport but had difficulties finding appropriate opportunities.”

Through her current work at the George Institute, Leanne started some research work with Disability Sports Australia, but soon found herself running pro bono paediatric physiotherapy training workshops. She also contributes financially and has further plans to develop fundraising activities for the organisation.

Dr Leanne Hassett and Menzies Foundation CEO Sarah HardyLeanne accepted the grant at the Menzies Foundation’s annual scholarship presentation night on behalf of Disability Sports Australia.

Menzies Foundation CEO, Sarah Hardy (pictured above with Leanne), congratulated Leanne and Disability Sports Australia for their commitment to helping adults with disabilities participate in sport and physical activity more regularly.

“The combination of Leanne’s expertise and her commitment to her voluntary work with Disability Sports Australia is precisely the kind of leadership we look for in Menzies Scholars. These grants have been designed to support our scholars who are also interested in pursuing their community leadership opportunities.

“The great thing is also seeing how this work might benefit people from around Australia.”