Bathurst Giant our Disability Inclusion Volunteer of the Year

Liz Symes is AFL NSW/ACT Disability Inclusion Volunteer of the Year for 2021.

Liz is the Bathurst Giants’ treasurer and 2021 she developed and ran a Kickability program for the club. Kickability is a program similar to Auskick for people with disability.

Liz, who works in disability services, said: “We were a little afraid. When we met with the local area coordinators [for people with disability], they asked us what’s going to be our cut-off point for numbers. We laughed: ‘we’re not going to have a cut-off point.’ We only expected to get about six kids.”

That estimate was way off. Kickability at the Bathurst Giants grew each week as more people found out about the program, with around 20 kids attending the Wednesday evening sessions. (This is a terrific effort as the Bathurst winter is bitingly cold, and this year was particularly wet. 2022’s program will be run in autumn.)

It seemed like everyone in Bathurst wanted to be part of Kickability. Participants were keen, but so were volunteers. “There were times when we had more volunteers than players,” Liz said. “It was interesting because sometimes it’s really hard to get people to volunteer. But I had people that had nothing to do with the club ring me and say, ‘I heard you’re doing this and I want to get involved,’.”

Here’s Liz Symes’ summary of Kickability Bathurst’s presentation day: “I get so much satisfaction and enjoyment from seeing these kids achieve. The smiles on the faces of the kids on presentation day, and the excitement of getting a medal for sport, and wearing the jersey and getting a little AFL ball. It’s just amazing. I’ll be honest, I cried.”

As for winning the Award, Liz said: “Winning this award was so special to me. I felt honoured to be nominated and to receive recognition for what was really so much fun to do!

“The most rewarding aspect of this program is what it means to the players that turn out every week in their Giants Jumpers, feeling like part of a team and having so much fun kicking around a footy. The smiles and laughs are the most precious things to me.

“It needs to be acknowledged that this would not have been possible without all of the parents, care givers and community and club members that turned up each week to help out and support these kids to achieve. They all have my eternal thanks and gratitude!”

Congratulations and thank you for all you’ve done for your community and those with disability, Liz.