Maddie’s passion for inclusion

Vibrant Maddie makes every minute count, whether she is studying, cooking, walking, listening to music or spending time with friends.

Packing a lot into each day, this 19-year-old lives with cerebral palsy.

It was her observations about inclusiveness in school sport that led Maddie on her journey to becoming a winner in ABC’s Heywire competition, a move that was strongly encouraged by her Aunt.

“In my submission I wrote about growing up disabled in a sport-passionate town and how I felt excluded,” Maddie says.

“Going to a primary school and a high school that prided themselves on team sports like football, soccer and rowing, I just felt like there was no option for me to participate in.”

Maddie did somewhat find inclusiveness in lawn bowls however.

“It was only offered to senior students but they let me join as a junior and I played lawn bowls from Year 7 to 11 and that was really fun,” Maddie says.

“I was also lucky enough in primary school to go further than school sports and compete with Team Victoria as a para athlete for shotput.

“I was fortunate in those ways but I definitely felt like I missed out on the comradery and teamwork aspect, and creating connections with people that a lot of my other friends got to do through team sports like netball and footy.”

Since entering the Heywire competition, Maddie has been very busy with activities that raise awareness of the challenges of people with disability and accessibility.

This includes becoming involved with a chronic illness and disability group in Mount Gambier and also securing the keynote speaker spot at the Ballarat Council’s International Women’s Day Breakfast in March 2020.

She has also been approached by the Barwon Council in Geelong, to be part of the Barwon Inclusion Working Group.

“The Working Group is in its preliminary stages at the moment,” Maddie says.

“We are going to discuss mobility issues and how the Barwon Council can better accommodate people with disability so I’m looking forward to that when it goes ahead.”

Maddie is also gearing up for International Day of People with Disability this year, when she will take to social media to share her thoughts about the day and why it’s so important.

“It means a lot to me that we have a day to celebrate the achievements of people with disability,” Maddie says.

“I think that disability is still quite taboo, particularly in Australian society.

“It’s really important to break down those barriers and have open, honest conversations about disability – and how we can improve in making people with disability feel more connected with the rest of society.

“Inclusion to me means community and connectedness. To have a strong sense of community you have to include everyone.”

For more information about International Day of people with Disability visit

To check out Maddie’s Heywire story head to the ABC’s website.

Heywire is an annual storytelling competition run by the ABC in partnership with the Australian Government. The competition encourages young people aged 16-22 living in regional or rural Australia to share their story and experiences. To learn more, visit