With the Marie Little Shield (MLS) heading to Queensland for the first time, we caught up with Sport Inclusion Australia CEO Robyn Smith to remember the woman the shield is fittingly named after.
The Marie Little Shield OAM (MLS) is a netball championship and opportunity for women with an intellectual disability to compete at a national level.
Little travelled to Sweden in the early eighties to attend an international forum on normalisation, it was here she was inspired and wanted to bring inclusion to sport in Australia.
“Marie was totally inspired to focus on a person’s worth and ability while providing them with an opportunity to be a valued and integrated member into mainstream community life,’ said Smith.
“She remained strong with her belief that sport was ultimately responsible for all of their players and lobbied hard to have successful examples of integration showcased. Her vision and foresight has seen many National Sporting Organisation’s work towards opening their doors to all Australians, regardless of ability.”
Little founded AUSRAPID, now known as Sports Inclusion Australia in 1985 and was President until her retirement in 2011. The national sporting organisation aims to assist the inclusion of people with an intellectual disability into the mainstream community using sport as the medium.
Smith felt honoured to work under Little describing her as a great mentor and leader.
“Marie advocated very strongly for people with an intellectual impairment who may have had a quiet or unheard voice,” said Smith.
“She never took no for an answer, ensuring that when sports were developing programs, that those programs were reflective of the whole community.”
With the shield now into its sixth year, Smith is thrilled to see people watching and experience how powerful it can be to see people enjoying sport and playing to the best of their ability.
Awarded an order of Australia medal in 2006, Little was also the first female president of the Australian Paralympic Committee and the first female member elected to the International Paralympic Committee.
“She was an influential person and a pioneer in inclusion in sport and it’s only fitting that the competition is called the Marie Little Shield.” Said Smith.
All six Australian states have competed against each other in the Marie Little Shield OAM (MLS) from the 5-7 October, at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, with the Grand Final being staged just ahead of the Samsung Australian Diamond and New Zealand Silver Ferns game.