Australian Paralympic medal winners are to receive the same financial reward as Olympians for the first time.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told parliament the government would “provide additional support to Paralympics Australia” to make sure athletes who win medals at the Tokyo Paralympics would get “equivalent payments to our Olympics medallists”.
The discrepancy between payments for Olympic medal winners and Paralympic winners has come to light again during Australia’s successful campaign in Tokyo.
“Australia’s para-athletes have represented our nation with great distinction and pride in Tokyo, delivering performances that have buoyed millions during what is a difficult time for the nation,” Morrison said.
Australia’s Paralympic team has won 13 gold medals, 23 silver and 24 bronze. Australia won 17 gold, seven silver and 22 bronze medals during last month’s Olympic Games.
“Like their Olympic counterparts, Paralympians often have to make major sacrifices in their lives, foregoing family and work to train and compete nationally and internationally,” a statement from the Prime Minister and Sports Minister Richard Colbeck read.
“The Morrison government is committed to working with Paralympics Australia and other national sporting bodies to grow corporate sponsorship for para-sports.
“This additional commercial revenue could ensure Paralympics Australia can sustainably make medal bonus payments to athletes at future Paralympics.”
Australia’s Olympic Committee offers a medal bonus cash prize of $20,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 to bronze medal winners.
In contrast, Paralympics Australia does not offer cash for medals, although there is avenue to funding through a medal pool.
Team USA is one of the few countries with bonus parity, giving Olympic and Paralympic gold medallists $52,000 each.
“Paralympics Australia absolutely agrees that our Paralympians deserve equity of recognition,” said its chief executive Lynne Anderson.
“PA has never had a funding program for Paralympic Games medallists as we just don’t have this funding available from grants or sponsorship. This is something we will look at again after the Tokyo Games.”
The issue has been a hot topic on social media during these games and Ebony Corlass, a 24-year-old from Melbourne started a petition that was addressed to Morrison and garnered thousands of signatures, according to SBS,
Corlass said she was in “disbelief”.
“I was outraged. I assumed Paralympians would also come home to the same amount. But also, I thought how come no one knows about it?” she said.
“There’s so much upsetting news these days I thought why don’t I actually do something this time? If there’s money for one [set of athletes], why isn’t there money for both?”
Australian Paralympic sprinter Scott Reardon said a lack of a medal bonus spoke to a wider issue of inadequate funding in para-sport.
“I know a lot of Paralympic gold medallists who do not have a sponsor, who do not have a commercial agreement with any company, and I think that needs to change,” he said.
“At the moment, for anyone in the corporate space who thinks this is not good enough, we almost need someone to step up.”