Monday, 03 December 2012
At just 24 years of age ECU student Katrina Porter OAM has competed in three Paralympics, won a gold medal in the 100m backstroke in Beijing, broken a world record in the same event and been made a member of the Order of Australia.
She’s also made it to her third year of a Bachelor of Business at ECU.
Addressing ECU staff and students as part of International Day for People with Disability (IDPwD) Katrina never saw her disability as a barrier to her succeeding.
Born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a condition which reduces muscle growth and causes joint stiffness, Katrina’s parents were told it was unlikely she would ever walk soon after her birth.
Her father immediately bought a three story house, adamant that his daughter would learn to walk.
It’s an attitude he obviously passed on to his daughter who, after terrorising the household rolling around on a skateboard for several years, was crawling up stairs by three and walking by five.
Katrina said she had always wanted to be included in everything going on at home and at school and it wasn’t until she was ten years old that she came up against a barrier to her inclusion when she was told by a school sports coach she was not allowed to try out for the netball team.
In typical fashion Katrina went out and got herself a netball ring and ball and played her own matches on Saturday mornings while the rest of the team was out playing for the school.
Just three years later that competitive streak drove Katrina to break her first world record and another two years and she was competing at her first Paralympics in Athens.
Four years later she won a gold medal in Beijing.
“I’ve travelled overseas to compete for my country, it’s the greatest honour I’ve ever been able to achieve,” Katrina said.
“Because I’ve had a disability I’ve been able to go and do that and I’m trying to pass that onto children with disabilities now.”
In keeping with the theme of this year’s IDPwD, Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all, Katrina said it was important for people like her to show other people with disabilities and the wider community that anyone can make a valuable contribution to the world.
And while she said the world had come a long way in the time she had been alive there was plenty more which could be done.
She said there was a huge awareness for people with disabilities now, an awareness which was illustrated to her while sightseeing in London during this year’s Paralympics when a woman ran up to Katrina asking for a photo with her.
“She said ‘You’re a paralympian!’ She didn’t know who I was or what sport I competed in but she wanted a photo,” Katrina said.
Katrina said she has now taken a step back from competing to focus on her final year of study at ECU.
She is looking forward to completing her degree and taking on new challenges, including wheelchair basketball.
She hopes that her story can act as an inspiration to others.
“If people can hear my story and in some small way it changes their attitude towards people with disabilities, then it’s all worth it.”
For more information on International Day of People with Disability visit www.idpwd.com.au