Netball says farewell to passionate supporter

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Australian netball community this week mourned the passing of Marie Little OAM, a leading sports administrator who dedicated her life to improving the lives of people with a disability.

Little passed away on Sunday night after a battle with cancer, hours after some of the best netballers with an intellectual disability from Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia took part in a tournament named in her honor.

The founder of Ausrapid was a passionate advocate in making Australian sport include all participants based on their ability and choice.

Netball Australia will ensure that her legacy lives on through the Marie Little OAM Shield.

Marie Little Shield 2014Netball Victoria’s All Abilities side retained the Shield, having won the inaugural event in Sydney in 2013, with a thrilling one-goal win over New South Wales in the final played at Melbourne’s Waverley Netball Centre on Sunday afternoon.

Ausrapid Chief Executive Officer Robyn Smith said Little had made a major contribution to sport and society in general through her tireless work.

“The entire Ausrapid movement was founded by her and was based initially on netball,” Smith said.

“Netball was the shining light demonstrating how easily a sport could be inclusive. Ausrapid was then able to showcase this model far more widely to other national sporting organisations with inclusion now more prominent today.

Marie Little Shield 2014“When Netball Australia launched their new inclusion strategy in 2012, Marie could not have been prouder to have her name attached to the inaugural national netball event.”

Little, who was born and raised in country Victoria before moving to Adelaide, founded Ausrapid in 1985 and was President until her retirement in 2011.

“Ausrapid has also established a Marie Little OAM Scholarship to provide support to an athlete each year to reach their potential,” Smith said.

“Marie was involved in establishing the wording behind the criteria and was very comfortable that Ausrapid was in good hands moving forward with Wayne Bird as President and with the calibre of Board Directors.”

Among Little’s other achievements was becoming the first female president of the Australian Paralympic Committee in 1996 and also the first female member elected to the International Paralympic Committee.

In 2006 she was awarded an Order of Australia Medal.

Marie fought for the rights of people with an intellectual disability in every facet of her life, from local to international level and often was the only person prepared to do so,” Smith said.

“The success of Marie’s work is evident throughout Australia and her vision has been a revelation to the development of sport for people with a disability in this country and throughout the world.”

On behalf of Australias netball community, Netball Australia passes on its condolences to the family and friends of Marie Little.