15 November 2023

George is kicking goals with the support of Life Without Barriers support coordinator Nicole Gillie.

Image: George van Dijk, 21, pictured with his coach Shane McClenaghan. George is wearing a yellow shirt, a helmet and is smiling at the camera. Pictures by Paul Scambler.

Saturday marked the first race of George's frame-running career. The Cressy para athlete became the first Northern Tasmanian frame runner in track and field competition on Saturday and just the second in the state.

His first formal race, a 60-metre sprint at the St Leonards track, was the accumulation of years of hard work. It was an experience that fulfilled his dream to go fast and gave him positive energy.

George, who walks with the aid of a walking frame, was born with cerebral palsy and has autism and vision impairment. With the help of his Life Without Barriers' team and a new custom-fitted, three-wheeled frame from Denmark he has achieved one of his lifelong goals.

"I've been wanting to do it for 21 years," he said.

"The thing that motivated me was I got invited to a summit in Canberra this year, and I met a fellow frame runner who gave me some inspiration," George said.

"There's an organisation called Now I Can Run which is setting up bases all around the country and I want to try and extend that."

Image: George van Dijk, 21, with his mum Gillian and coach Shane McClenaghan at St Leonards on Saturday. They are on a track and the sun is out.

Getting to the start line 

Nicole Gillie, George's Life Without Barriers' support coordinator, helped put the wheels in motion.

"George was approaching his NDIS plan review in September 2022, I asked LAC at Baptcare if we could use a portion of George’s unutilised budget to fund a Frame Runner. LAC provided initial approval and agreed it was reasonable and necessary to fund based on George's physiotherapist's recommendations." shared Nicole.

"I contacted Newstead Athletics in October 2022 and this coincided with another 'Come & Try' event the same month in which I registered George for.

"George sent me an email in February this year (2023) sharing that he had completed his first session of frame running and sent me a photo (below)."

"He was excited and likes to update me on his accomplishments." Said Nicole.

Image: George at his first frame running training session.

George had been training for eight months with his coach Shane McClenaghan, but his hard work started much earlier. The para-athlete has worked with physiotherapist Dan Justice for the past decade.

Dan said George got a taste for frame-running at the Tassie Come & Try day Nicole supported.

"He just took to it straight away, he was super excited and just loved the freedom," Dan said.

"George would be a great frame runner and would be able to compete at a high level with the right support. It kick-started the process of getting a frame from Denmark.

"It's quite an expensive piece of kit ... we needed to get funding through the NDIS which we're extremely grateful and lucky to have been able to do that," Dan said.

Nicole added that the athletics clubs were quick to jump on board and learn how to support George to participate.

"They get a real kick out of seeing George shine, which is fantastic! It’s life-changing for George and also for those helping to make it happen!" Nicole said.

Dan also praised Newstead Athletics. "This is brand new ground, Shane has never trained a frame runner before, there's been no coaching at all for someone like George," he said.

Shane and George have bonded over their mutual love of the Hawthorn Football Club and their sense of humour.

As George's father Terry pointed out, his son has loved sport and been competitive from a young age. The youngest of four siblings also plays tenpin bowling at Launceston Lanes once a week. Shane said it had been a big learning curve finding out what George, who has also been supported by ParaQuad Tasmania, was capable of achieving.

"George always rocks up with a really positive attitude, he's always smiling. I'm thankful for Dan for sending him our way because it's been really rewarding," he said.

"I've learned a lot about how far we can go and how long it takes to wear him out. We've got an understanding. He will just roll his eyes and that means 'no I'm cooked now' and he's had enough," he added with a laugh.

Image: George van Dijk, 21, with his mum Gillian.

Nicole added that George is kicking goals all around and is now undertaking work experience with a local employer!

"He has also attended a family wedding in Malaysia a few months ago and also regularly performs with his Studio Space drama group and has plans to travel to Edinburgh to perform next year!" Nicole said.

This story is adapted from the one that appeared in The Examiner.

What is support coordination?

Through the NDIS, you can choose your supports and which providers you work with. While it’s a good thing, it can be challenging – that’s where support coordination comes in.

A support coordinator can help you activate your NDIS plan and access your supports. They’ll connect you with people and services in your community, and help you understand your options.

Connect with a support coordinator near you here.

How can a Support Coordinator help you?

Your Life Without Barriers Support Coordinator can help you:

  • Understand and make the most of your NDIS plan

  • Find providers for the supports you’re funded for

  • Work towards your goals

  • Access healthcare and education services

  • Participate more in your community

  • Look for a job

  • Work through your accommodation needs

  • Develop the confidence to coordinate your own supports, if that’s a goal of yours

Support coordination

Get the most out of your NDIS plan and achieve your goals.

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