The national organisation of Wheelchair Sports in Australia was formed in the late 1950’s. Its inaugural name was Australian Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Sports Federation (AQPSF) and it was a member of the International Wheelchair Sports Federation (IWSF). In 1956, IWSF put forward a bid to the International Olympic Committee for people with a disability to compete in the 1960 Olympic Games being held in Rome. The bid was successful and the first disabled games were held that are today known as the Paralympic Games. It was 50 years in September 2010, since the very first Australian pioneer Paralympians competed in those Games in Rome in 1960.
The members of the APQSF, later known as Australian Wheelchair Sports Federation (AWSF), were the states of Australia, with the founding members being NSW, VIC, WA and SA, with the others to join in later years. The AWSF Board was made up of a delegate from each state to form a constitution and establish a committee. AWSF became the governing body of Wheelchair Sport in Australia. Its roles were to:
· Coordinate wheelchair sports in Australia,
· To liaise with the Federal Government for support and funding for the development of sport for people with a disability.
· Select teams to represent Australia internationally e.g. Stoke Mandeville Games and Paralympic Games 1960-1984.
· To coordinate the hosting and running of competitions in Australia e.g. National Wheelchair Games every 2 years 1960-1994 and Junior Games held every 2 years since 1981.
In the late 1980’s the roles of AWSF changed. The company was dissolved and a new entity was created called Australian Wheelchair Athletes Limited and constituted on 9 June 1992.
In 1990, the Australian Paralympic Committee was formed to represent all disabilities as a member of the International Paralympic Committee. The National Sports Organisation for people with a Disability (NSOD) members are AUSRAPID (Integration Difficulties), Cerebral Palsy Australian Sport and Recreation Federation (CPASRF), Blind Sports Australia, Australian Sports Organisation for the Disabled (ASOD) and Wheelchair Sports Australia (WSA). WSA was no longer responsible for the selection of Paralympic athletes.
On 25 January 1999, the company changed its name to Wheelchair Sports Australia (WSA), as it is known today. More changes came in 2000; the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) undertook a review of disability sport in Australia with the result being that they would only fund one identity, thus the formation of Australian Athletes with a Disability (AAWD) in 2003.
Since then, the WSA Board has operated independently of AAWD but both Boards have been in close liaison as required.
Wheelchair Sports Australia Board of Directors
Esme Bowen (President)
State Member Associations of WSA