Courage, comradery and empowerment – wheelchair rugby at its best

By Ryley Batt

The Australian Steelers were very excited to arrive in New Zealand last month to compete at the Asia Oceania Wheelchair Rugby Championships in Auckland, and there were so many things we looked forward to during this important trip.

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Australian Steelers, led by captain Ryley Batt.

The Steelers had worked hard to keep up our momentum since winning the Paralympic title for the second time in a row. But away from being on the court with the other strong teams in attendace, I knew myself and the guys were really looking forward to seeing the competition come together, and continuing our collective work to grow wheelchair rugby on a global scale.

I know most people would think the rivalry between Australia and NZ would be fierce and all about results – a bit like it is with the Wallabies and All Blacks. But things work a little differently for us.

As teams, we love any opportunity to compete together, particularly outside of a Paralympic Games or World Championships, and particularly enjoy the chance to work with other countries to strengthen our sport. And that’s what I love about all Para-sport in general.

As wheelchair rugby continues to evolve and build a following, I really look forward to seeing sports fans around the world really embrace this too. Wheelchair rugby and Para-sport is most definitely about the best of the best competing in fair, tough competition, but it’s also about so much more.

Winning another gold medal at the Paralympics in Rio last year was no doubt one of the highlights of my career, but what I loved most was talking to people watching at home and seeing what they got out of it.

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I loved hearing about how noticeable it was that each team co-operated with each other, staff, coaches and officials and how things worked smoothly. I loved hearing comments about how each team pumped each other up and were proud of each other’s achievements on and off the court.

Para-sport, and wheelchair rugby specifically, is about getting out there and being courageous. Putting everything in for your team and for everyone at home.  I know all of us in the Steelers get so much out of surprising our friends, family and fans out there with what we can do. We’re always so determined to do that.

Being able to do that, with athletes from other countries who are also up there with the best, most definitely has an effect on the wider community – whether we’re motivating them personally or whether we’re breaking down misconceptions about disability.

And that’s what I was most looking forward to about being in New Zealand.

To the sports fans in Auckland, and even the ones following their teams from home, I hope these matches empowered and excited you. Beyond the thrill of the metal on metal clash, I hope that you left the stadium inspired, motivated and pumped up to see more from us – more of our ability in our sports, rather than our disabilities.

As expected, the big guns were firing in Auckland, with teams from New Zealand, Japan, South Korean and Australia giving their all.

It was great to have so much support behind us, seeing. I can’t wait to hear what you came away with.

I’m looking forward to next year’s World Championship in Sydney  which will be an exciting opportunity to further promote disability sport in Australia, New Zealand and around the world.

Ryley

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Ryley Batt is the captain of the Australian wheelchair rugby team and a four-time Paralympian. Regarded as one of the best wheelchair rugby athletes in the world, he has helped lead the Australia to two Paralympic gold medals and one world championship.

Behind the scenes on a State Visit

 

by Alanna Mackay, First Secretary at the Australian High Commission in Wellington 
Originally posted at blog.dfat.gov.au.

State Visits are usually very formal affairs, with lots of gilt and glitter.  Every country has their own traditions, but a State Visit will more often than not involve a formal welcome, a black tie lunch or dinner, a wreath laying at an important memorial, and a series of cultural events. The host country wants to put on a show; the guests are on their best behaviour.  Behind the scenes, officials will have worked out every single detail to make sure the visit goes off without a hitch.

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eResearch New Zealand – Shaping the Digital Future; Opportunities for Australia & NZ Science Communities

By Ian Duncan

As Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics and a smart Kiwi, once said: “We haven’t got the money, so we’ll have to think”.

The principles behind Rutherford’s quote, while relevant globally, relate particularly well with Australia and New Zealand’s strategies and plans for competing and excelling in the increasingly resource hungry research sphere.  This was reinforced at the recent annual eResearch New Zealand Conference in Queenstown, which brought together 171 researchers, infrastructure operators, developers, and strategists.

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Australia’s nuclear and arms policy

By Peter Woolcott AO

I have recently responded to correspondence asking why Australia has decided not to participate in recent negotiations towards a nuclear ban treaty.  Given that this is an important policy position – and one where Australia’s position differs to that taken by New Zealand – I thought it would be useful to share my response more widely. I have also addressed comments regarding Australia’s support for progressing the Arms Trade Treaty. 

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Diplomacy on the Netball Court

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The New Zealand Parliamentary Netball Team, The Australia Federal Parliamentary Netball Team and the New South Wales Parliamentary Netball Team pose for a photo with former Silver Fern Irene van Dyk at the 2017 Diggeress Cup Tournament.

Remembering back to the origins of Anzac Day New Zealanders and Australians have long enjoyed a special camaraderie or ‘mateship’ and a friendly rivalry in the true spirit of the Anzac soldiers from long ago. Whether it be heated debate over which country invented Pavlova or who has the best sports team, we’ve always enjoyed our iconic rivalry and our friendship. Our special relationship is no more so when it comes to sport, in particular our national games – rugby and netball.

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Zoo’s Strangely Beautiful Australia celebrates our wildlife

By Jonathan Wilcken

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Auckland Zoo opened its new $3.2m ‘Strangely Beautiful Australia’ development in late December and we proudly describe it as home to more than 20 of our Trans-Tasman neighbours’ weirdest and most wonderful wildlife

Weird is good, and we do think wonderful – and I think my Australian roots and first-hand experience of Aussie wildlife, entitle me to describe it so.

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Why Prime Ministerial Visits Matter

Peter Woolcott

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New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Queenstown for the annual Leaders Meeting.

As the Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand the event you look forward to most each year is the annual Leaders Meeting.

While invariably short, these visits can accomplish a huge amount for a bilateral relationship.  They set the direction for work that will continue long after the PM’s plane leaves, and they build the foundations of mutual respect and trust between leaders which is so important in maintaining strong relationships between countries. It is also a chance to cut through bureaucratic thickets and get decisions made.

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Beyond Belief – how we find meaning, with or without religion

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Hugh Mackay
Hugh Mackay recently spoke at Victoria University of Wellington as part of a tour to promote his new book Beyond Belief.

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Globally, religion is on the rise. Almost three-quarters of the world’s population identify with Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism, and the graph is pointing upwards: by the middle of this century, 80 percent of the world’s population will identify with one of the four major religions.

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Joining forces to attract infrastructure investment

Brendan Headshot 11102016.jpgBrendan Lyon is the Chief Executive of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia

Australia and New Zealand have a great relationship, because we’ve got a lot of shared experience and a huge amount of mutual regard and trust.

That’s why the Closer Economic Relations treaty was possible – an agreement to integrate two national economies which remains a world-class example more than 30 years on.

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Australia lends a hand in Kaikoura

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After the earthquakes in Kaikoura last week, the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Darwin, Commanding Officer CMDR Phillip Henry and her crew were sent to support the response to the emergency.

As Lieutenant Brett Schulz said, in the Navy you have to “remain rubbery” – flexible and ready for change.

“One minute you might be ironing your whites in preparation for a Fleet Review, the next minute you’re in a sea boat heading ashore to render assistance to an earthquake affected town.”

LSET Vinnie Carrol and LSA Dan Colbert have shared their experiences helping the people of Kaikoura.

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