Two state stars for disability

Melissa Hale. 193019 Picture: ROB CAREW

By Casey Neill

A Lilydale mum and a Mount Evelyn project picked up state prizes for their disability work.

The Access All Terrain Program at the Mount Evelyn YMCA camp won the Initiative of the Year Award at the Victorian Disability Sport and Recreation Awards, announced on Wednesday 22 May.

Melissa Hale from Lilydale was awarded Volunteer of the Year.

She is a champion for female participation in deaf cricket.

“I suppose all I can say is it’s a great honour to be recognised among a group of amazing past winners over the past 10 years of these awards,” she said.

“None of this would have been possible without the support of my husband James and my family, and my amazing team of deaf women who were willing to step outside their comfort zones and give this a go.

“It really doesn’t feel like work, when it’s something that is so close to your heart.”

Ms Hale developed a love for deaf cricket when she joined the Melbourne Deaf Cricket Club committee about 13 years ago as a temporary secretary.

“I joined to simply help out because I was good at paper work and knew absolutely nothing about cricket, and didn’t even like the game,” she said.

“I came to realise that deaf cricket was so much more than just a cricket club or a cricket game to the players who attended.

“It was a second family – often a family that many felt they didn’t have due to lack of communication within their own families.”

Melbourne Deaf cricket Club is the oldest deaf sports club in the world, at 139 years old – but deaf cricket clubs had never had women’s teams before.

She set out to change this and established the first ever deaf women’s cricket team for Flemington Colts Cricket Club in the past 12 months.

As a result, Melbourne Deaf Cricket Club will have its first ever deaf women’s cricket team.

She was also instrumental in working with Deaf Cricket Australia and Cricket Australia in organising the first deaf women’s cricket exhibition matches at the recent National Cricket

Inclusion Championships – a world-first and Australian-first.

YMCA Victoria delivers the Access All Terrain Program program in partnership with Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Parks Victoria.

The camping and outdoor adventure program helps people with physical disabilities increase their skills and confidence to be more active in all-terrain outdoor environments.

Participants learn manual wheelchair skills to use in all-terrain outdoor environments and about specialised adaptive recreation equipment.

They create a social network with others also interested in exploring the outdoors, and volunteer mentors and expert trainers are also people with disabilities.

Yarra Ranges Council won the Inclusive Sport, Recreation or Open Space Infrastructure Award for the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail chicanes.