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Project Connect Website

We are delighted to announce that Riding for the Disabled Association of Australia (RDAA) and the Australian Pony Club Council (APCC) have been awarded funding for the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) and the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) through Project Connect. Project Connect stands for Creating Opportunities Nationally through Networks in Education, Classification and Training. Funding will be used for both organisations to work together to develop pathways and opportunities for riders with a disability within their sports at all levels.

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Download Action Plan (Word)

Project Connect is an ASC initiative focused on assisting sports nationally to plan for inclusion of people with disability to take part in sport and how to manage participant involvement from a practical point of view through the development of a Disability Action Plan.  The ASC is aiming this new initiative at Sports rather than organisations within sports encouraging organisations within sports to come together and submit a combined Disability Action Plan.

Specific focus areas for Project Connect are:

Disability education – the delivery of sport specific disability education and training modules at the local level.

Accreditation – The training of accredited sport specific coaches and officials.

Classification – The establishment of a sport specific classifier recognition program.

Athlete support – The provision of administrative and technical support for the classified athlete.


Download a copy of this file as a Word document

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On the 19th of August 2004 Gillian Thompson-Rogers from RDAA and Stephen Coffey PCA attended a workshop on Project Connect.   At the completion of the meeting the ASC made several encouraging comments about RDA's and PCA's commitment to work together on this project. 

During the workshop Stephen Coffey asked if it was an expectation of the ASC that organisations within sports would integrate.   Following discussion Gillian Thompson-Rogers responded that her interpretation was not that RDA would look to become pony club or that pony club would look to provide the service currently being provided by RDA.  Rather it was that both organisations would 'hold hands' to develop a relevant and simple disability action plan that would allow people with disability to participate in the programme that was best suited to their needs.  It was recognised that some participants may start riding with RDA, move to pony club and then back to RDA to compete at a National or International level.  This view point was accepted by all in attendance.

Project Connect is focused on inclusion of participants with disability right across the spectrum of sporting activities. Project Connect provides funding for a two year programme however emphasis in on long term sustainability of introduced initiatives.

There is a 3 Staged process to develop a Disability Action Plan.

Preparation Sports will be in the box seat for inclusion into the Project Connect programme. Only National Sporting Organisations can lodge a submission.

Bronze start up level

To obtain bronze status, NEO's are required to conduct an audit to assess where the sport is currently in terms of provision of services for people with disability in regard to systems and programmes.

The other requirement is the commitment from NSO CEOS through a public launch statement regarding the organisations commitment towards inclusion of people with disability.       

Project Connect Case Managers will assist NSO's to develop Disability Action Plan for submission.  Disability action plans are then submitted to the sports commission.  Once approved, $40,000 in funding is released to the sport.

The ASC recommends that sports keep the plan simple and doable.

Focus on do less and do it properly.


Build on the base line set up in the first year and set up Sustainable action plan

Submit action plan to a National Panel external to the Sports Commission, who then make a recommendation to the Sports Commission.

$60,000.00 funding is released to the sport on approval.


Is awarded at the end of the second year when sports have achieved the objectives of the disability action plan. After this point the sports commission backs away and the sport takes on the responsibility of managing the plan going forward.

Each sport is reassessed each two years to establish that the sport is continuing successfully managing the action plan and is still worthy of the Gold Standard insignia.  The main Focus of the ASC is on sustainability.  Once gold status has been achieved the Disability Action Plan will be lodged with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

We would be looking to put forward the joint submission between PCA and RDA for inclusion in the project at bronze level from the 1/7/05. This allows sufficient time for representatives from RDA and PCA to meet with a Project Connect Case Manager and develop a relevant and achievable Disability Action Plan.

Importantly the ASC outlined that it was their expectation that National bodies would do their best to be inclusive of all member States, however recognised that changes should not be enforced, but rather encouraged.

Available Support Resources

Preparation Sports are provided with a Project Connect Case Manager provided to assist the sport to work towards gold standard.

The ASC DEP (Disability Education Programme) supports Project Connect and the development of a disability action plan.  The DEP is used as a development tool for each sport. The DEP recognises the Importance of quality presenters.  Each sport can identify and train people who can present DEP material, or utilise the skilled presenters from the DEP.

Within the ASC programme the DEP offers 6 core modules

Module 3 Opening doors.   

Is aimed at Sports Administrators and focuses on attracting and retaining people with disabilities.

It also includes principles of good club development.

Modules 5 & 6 specifically targets coaches.

Each workshops runs for 3 hours and can be run independently for organisations. 

Cost of attending.  Range of funding options.  

Coach Education Cost $385 per module, or $33 per person. 

It was noted that Development and trial of suitable training resources was an important KPI to include within the Disability Action Plan.

Further discussion followed regarding current issues in our sport.

The Top ten issues facing Equestrian Sport (PCA & RDA) were identified as:

  • Horse ownership including cost of purchase and maintenance.
  • Increasing urban sprawl resulting in less space to keep a horse.
  • Public perception that ours is an exclusive sport
  • Turnover of volunteers & the effect this has on Coaching Competency
  • Litigious society
  • Politics
  • Attitudes toward disability including parental expectation & rider expectation and acceptance regarding moving between programmes.
  • Overcoming distance and meeting face to face
  • Organisations within the Equestrian Sport having different goals and objectives
  • Buy in from States when you introduce a National Programme.

Lodging a successful Submission

Organisations within sports lodging joint submissions will be looked upon favourably.

Successful Disability Action Plan submissions need to meet the following requirements.

Be sustainable long term.

Meet a perceived need

Include a Relevant Fee Structure for both Participants and the organisation.

(Don't undervalue what your provide)

Be supported by a strong Volunteer structure.

Demonstrate clear communication pathways & linking in of appropriate partners

to promote Cross Organisational Awareness throughout the sport.

Demonstrate Leadership Authority and promote ownership by and involvement of Key People.

Facilitation and Support of members at all levels.

Ongoing Evaluation

Ongoing Education

Strong Clubs/Club Structure

Good mix in marketing images including people with disability in Newsletter/Brochures/Webpages.

Recognition of existing programmes already in operation within your sport that support the inclusion of people with a disability.  In the case of Equestrian Sport we are really fortunate in that we have an Existing organisation within the Sport which focuses on providing a service specifically designed to meet the needs of people with disability.


Sport Education Victoria & in other States Coach Education Departments


State Representatives

Disability Education Programme

Participants within your sport & outside your sport

State Sport & Rec

School Sport

Local Council Triple A programme

Consultation within and outside of your sport

Types of communication you use and when you introduce the information.

Each other (other Project Connect participants)


To date our joint submission will include both RDA and PCA, however I will also be attempting to include the Adult Riding Club organisation.