Australia’s Paralympians will receive the same cash bonus as their able-bodied counterparts after the federal government committed to providing financial support.
Olympics gold medal winners in Tokyo received a $20,000 reward from the Australian Olympic Committee, but there was no similar bonus scheme for Paralympians owing to a disparity in funding for the peak sports bodies.
Australia’s Olympic silver medallists and bronze medallists are also rewarded with $15,000 and $10,000 respectively, but Paralympics Australia does not have the financial resources to invest in such reward schemes, as its available funding goes towards preparing and sending teams to the Summer and Winter Games.
The discrepancy had been highlighted to a wider audience during these Games after the Olympic rugby sevens champion and AFLW player Chloe Dalton launched a campaign to fund bonuses and provide parity for Paralympians.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, said the achievements of Australia’s Paralympians – who had won 60 medals so far, including 13 gold – were of national significance and should be recognised in the same way as the Olympians.
Speaking before question time on Thursday, Morrison said he wanted to share “Australia’s joy and pride” in its para-athletes.
“I’m very pleased to announce that the government will provided additional support to Paralympics Australia to ensure our Paralympic medallists will receive equivalent payments to our Olympic medallists,” Morrison said.
“There are still three more wonderful days ahead and we are so, so proud of our team. They have shown discipline, focus, determination, dogged persistence, a great sense of humour, a great sense of the Australian spirit on display.
“We have witnessed the essence of what sport is all about being the best you possibly can be … You have inspired us and we are grateful that you’re one of us as Australians.”
The move brings Australia into line with other nations, such as the US, which rewards its gold medallists of each team with the same $52,000 bonus. 2020 Games host country Japan offers gold-winning Olympians about $63,000 and Paralympians the significantly smaller sum of $38,000.
A Go Fund Me campaign set up by Dalton to raise money to reward Paralympic medallists had raised more than $50,000 in its first three days; the fund had reached nearly $75,000 of its $100,000 target by the time Thursday afternoon’s announcement was made.
“It’s so incredible to see that people coming together to highlight issues of inequality can create meaningful change,” Dalton said. “I’m quite emotional and so happy for these amazing athletes who will now be rewarded equally.”
In a further joint statement, Morrison and minister for sport Richard Colbeck acknowledged the major sacrifices made by Paralympians to put themselves in contention to win medals, and said the government would work 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,” the statement said.
But Geoff Trappett, a three-time Paralympic medallist and disability advocate, warned of the narrow focus of Thursday’s move. Trappett, who won gold and silver at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and another silver in Athens four years later, called for more widely available funding to be released in advance of future Games – and not just rewards for exceptional performances.
“This is good news and Scott Morrison should be congratulated, but it’s not the whole puzzle,” he tweeted. “Medal bonuses are only one part of the funding equation for Paralympics. They’re short term and they’re for the 1%.
“Sustainable grassroots funding of sporting pathways and breaking down the extra barriers that exist for involvement of disabled people in sport and recreation at any level has to be the bigger prize we aim for.”
Three-time Olympic champion Kurt Fearnley welcomed the move and called for more support to help the Paralympics become a sustainable event.
“That can happen by your continued support of the Paralympic movement,” he tweeted. “The more people watch, the more commercial Australia will follow, the more financial independence Paralympics Australia have to lock these payment in.”
In its statement, the government said it had provided $88.8m for para-athlete high performance programs in the five years leading up to the Tokyo Games, and that Commonwealth Government Paralympic high performance funding has increased by 40% since 2012.