These Australians are pushing to get our Paralympic medallists equal cash prizes

After reading a report by SBS News on the gap in prize money available to Olympians and Paralympians, several Australians have launched fundraisers and awareness campaigns to try and level the playing field.

Rio 2016 Olympic gold medal winner and AFLW star Chloe Dalton

Rio 2016 Olympic gold medal winner and AFLW star Chloe Dalton Source: Supplied

Like many Australians, Olympic gold medalist Chloe Dalton was shocked to learn last week via an SBS News report that our Paralympians don't receive a medal bonus after their exploits at the Games.

Unlike Olympians, who are rewarded by the Australian Olympic Committee with prizes of up to $20,000 for reaching a podium, para-athletes don't get anything from Paralympics Australia, which doesn't have the funds to give out bonuses.

“I had just assumed there was parity between Olympians and Paralympians, maybe less, but zero?” said Dalton, who also plays in the AFLW for the Greater Western Sydney Giants.

Now, she's among a number of Australians to launch initiatives to close the bonus gap.

A fundraising page set up by the 28-year-old has already raised more than $32,000. She hopes the money raised, which will be split evenly across among Australia’s medal winners at the Paralympics in Tokyo, will hit the $100,000 mark.

Hundreds of t-shirts with the word ‘equal' on them have also been sold, adding thousands of extra dollars to the pool.

“This fundraiser is about a community of Aussies who are passionate about seeing equality and giving them something practical and actionable that they can do,” Dalton said.

While some para-athletes may receive medal bonuses from individual sponsors or the governing body within their sport, a general medal bonus from the national Paralympic body can’t be accommodated.

Paralympics Australia says this is something it is striving towards.

“Paralympics Australia absolutely agrees that our Paralympians deserve equity of recognition,” said chief executive Lynne Anderson.

“PA has never had a funding program for Paralympic Games medallists as we just don’t have this funding available from grants or sponsorship. This is something we will look at again after the Tokyo Games.”

Paralympics Australia received $3 million from the federal government this year to support 13 Paralympic high-performance programs.

But the organisation's latest annual report showed it brought in just over $13 million during the last financial year, whereas the AOC reported about $26.5 million.

While Dalton’s fundraising efforts offer a “short-term” boost, she hopes increased public awareness will see other corporate bodies offer greater support to Paralympics Australia. 

Sharing the same sentiment is 24-year-old Melburnian Ebony Corlass, who has started a petition to keep the push for equal bonuses going.

Thousands of people have signed the petition, which is addressed to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Sports Minister Richard Colbeck, and the national Olympic and Paralympic committees. 

Corlass said she was in “disbelief” when she saw SBS News' story on social media.

“I was outraged. I assumed Paralympians would also come home to the same amount. But also, I thought how come no one knows about it?” she said.

“There’s so much upsetting news these days I thought why don’t I actually do something this time?”

Ebony Corlass
Source: Supplied

Australian Paralympic sprinter Scott Reardon said last week a lack of a medal bonus spoke to a wider issue of inadequate funding in para-sport.

"I know a lot of Paralympic gold medallists who do not have a sponsor, who do not have a commercial agreement with any company, and I think that needs to change," he said. “At the moment, for anyone in the corporate space who thinks this is not good enough, we almost need someone to step up." 

Corlass said she hopes her petition will get noticed by bigger stakeholders and sponsors.

“If there’s money for one [set of athletes], why isn’t there money for both?” she said.

Former Australian Paralympic swimmer Jessica Smith competed in the 2004 Athen Games. She said she was frustrated more progression hasn't been made in the financial space.

"If we are concerned that Paralympic athletes don’t get the recognition they deserve, then we need to ask ourselves why," said Smith.

"I think the response we have seen this week from the Australian community outraged by the blatant inequality, shows us that the important conversations simply are not happening when and where they need to be.

"If more Australians were aware of the financial discrepancies then I have no doubt the Aussie spirit would kick in and we would see more Australians rolling up their sleeves to pitch in."

Published 31 August 2021 at 12:40pm, updated 31 August 2021 at 12:43pm
By Michelle Elias