OUR SAY A familiar voice raised to push along an important cause

Kurt Fearnley has risen to become one of our nation’s best-known and most-respected citizens, achieving an enormous amount as a professional athlete.

But as his profile has grown so has his voice as an advocate for those whose lives must necessarily be lived with a disability.

In his latest comments, Mr Fearnley has hit out at the Turnbull government's decision to scrap a $8 billion increase to the Medicare levy designed to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), predicting the move would face vocal community opposition.

"We continue to play politics and kick the can down the road,” Mr Fearnley said on Thursday morning.

“This move will not go quietly.”

No one who has known Mr Fearnley since his early days in Carcoar would expect him to be anything approaching quiet when an issue is close to his heart.

Born in 1981 with a congenital condition that left him without much of his lower spine, Fearnley is quick to credit others – his parents, his high school sporting teacher and his long-time coach among them – for his success, but the seeds of Fearnley’s prowess come from within.

His achievements are nothing less than extraordinary.

The growing attention to “para-sports” in recent years has meant that many young people with disabilities have been able to find a path through life that takes them beyond the limitations that they otherwise would have faced.

Mr Fearnley is an athlete whose public profile extends beyond his chosen sport.

The same dint of personality that made him the person he is today – the man who crawled the Kokoda Track on his hands and knees – has led him to become a fearless advocate for the rights of the disabled.

In an Australia Day speech in 2013, Fearnley gave a rare insight into how he felt about the cards that life had dealt him, describing his wheelchair as “my life ... my independence”.

Praising the then-new NDIS as a much-needed change, Fearnley looked forward to a time when Australia would “lead the world” in supporting a group of people who were often “marginalised by ... invisibility”.

Kurt Fearnley is many things, but it’s impossible to imagine him ever being invisible.

And there’s plenty of people whose lives are better for it.

Comments