14 Sep 2022
One of the most well-loved names in para sports will today announce his retirement at the University of the Sunshine Coast, while launching a sporting legacy for athletes to come.
Professor Brendan Burkett OAM is announcing the UniSC Para Sports Hub, which recognises the existing facilities, expertise, quality coaching and athletic strength at the university, and formalises it in the build-up to the Paralympic and Olympic Games in 2032.
The hub has been endorsed by senior representatives at Paralympics Australia, Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association, and the Queensland Academy of Sport.
“UniSC has been excelling in para sport excellence for more than a decade. We have the knowledge, the staff, the skills and desire to make it succeed,” said Professor Burkett, who is also stepping down as UniSC’s High Performance Sport Director.
“Today we are formalising our commitment at UniSC to create a national one-stop-shop for athlete development, where athletes gain the support, facilities, mentorship, expertise and services they need to succeed.”
“Accessibility has been a cornerstone of UniSC. But it’s important to remember that creating the right environment is more than installing elevators and operable doors.”
Professor Burkett said the hub would further strengthen the university’s research and teaching in the field of adaptive sports, plus form a key engagement tool with the International Paralympic Committee, with the 2032 Paralympics around the corner.
High Performance Director of Paralympics Australia’s Wheelchair Rugby program Paul Kiteley said UniSC had long been highly regarded for fostering excellence in athletes with disabilities.
“UniSC has a successful history of supporting para-athletes and teams,” Mr Kiteley said.
“This hub will provide an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the sports peak bodies, the University of the Sunshine Coast, and the para sport community.”
“It’s about having the soft skills and experience to engage and communicate with athletes and other stakeholders in a specialised field and having connections to make things happen. UniSC ticks all boxes.”
UniSC Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Helen Bartlett said Professor Burkett was leaving an incredible legacy.
“A former national Paralympics captain, flag-bearer and veteran of four Paralympic Games, he has dedicated his career to improving the lives of impaired athletes and everyday citizens,” Professor Bartlett said.
“Brendan’s commitment is to being the best person he can be and encouraging others to do likewise.”
“He has formed this hub to not only serve the immediate community which needs it, but to inspire athletes everywhere.”
Two-time Paralympic Gold medallist Chris Bond, who bases himself at the hub, said such inspiration would allow Professor Burkett’s legacy to live on.
“Let’s put aside high-performance sports and remember that anything that encourages anybody into sports – whether as an impaired athlete or otherwise – is the ultimate goal,” Bond said.
“Sport is a special driver in our community. It changes the way people feel about themselves and others and helps them meet people they never would have otherwise.”
Professor Burkett also paid homage to the people who had shaped the opportunities at UniSC’s Para Hub, in particular Dr Bridie Kean, Kristy Munroe, Tania Stevenson, Professor Mark Sayers, Nathan Gordon, Luke Hogarth, Aaron Turner, and Dr Mark McKean, along with the PhD students, para-athletes and support staff.
He is in his 25th year as a professor with UniSC, holds qualifications in Biomechanics and Engineering, and has been Head Coach of the Australian Paralympic swim team since 2018, a role that will continue for the 2023 World Championships and the 2024 Paris Games.
Though he is retiring as director, he will continue with some research projects at UniSC.
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