In 2017 Kardinya Bowling Club ran the State All-Ability Bowls Championship (previously known as the Multi-Disability Championships).
Kardinya was chosen as the event host because of our successful history of running bowling competitions for people with disabilities. Since 2011 we have run the BowlAbility program, which caters for participants with a range of neurological and intellectual challenges.
BowlAbility stemmed from work done by Bowls WA Inclusion Officer Denise McMillan, who learned that non-mainstream players wanted recognition in their own right.
This led not only to creation of Kardinya’s BowlAbility program, but also the state championship.
The championship is open to bowlers of all non-mainstream abilities and currently has four categories: deaf players, players with an intellectual disability, players with a physical disability, and vision-impaired players. In 2018 a fifth category will be introduced—bowling arm players.
Players compete in their own categories where possible, and if numbers are low, play among other categories willingly and with great sportsmanship.
Denise was approached in 2011 by an organisation that ran social programs for their clients who were interested in a regular bowls program run undercover. Not an easy request at the time with only two bowling clubs in the state fully under cover, one being too far a distance to consider, and an additional club with shade-cloth covers.
Approaches were made and Kardinya Bowling Club, with the shade-cloth covers, was the most amendable to hosting a year-round program for players on their green who were guaranteed to not meet national requirements for wheelchairs, walkers and playing ability.
From there on Kardinya, and specific club members, worked alongside Denise to run and promote the program and that eventually led to a request to host the State All Ability Championships in its inaugural year of 2015.
While Denise was not originally a member of Kardinya, after seeing Kardinya’s community ethics and working side-by-side members for four years, when it came time for Denise to move clubs she selected Kardinya hands down as a club where she felt the values for players and community was at a high level and fit with her interests.
Other clubs are beginning to investigate inclusive programs and many clubs have disability main stream bowlers within their ranks playing Pennants for six months of the year. Kardinya in the meantime has become the hub for inclusive bowls in metropolitan WA.
The number of participants in the state championships has grown around 25 per cent each year since the event’s inception in 2015.
The surge in interest after 2015 led to a new category—vision impaired—being added to the championship format in 2016. Organisers anticipate additional participant numbers in 2018 when a new bowling arm playing category is introduced.
Such has been the success of Kardinya’s hosting of the championships, that we have now been elected to host a national event—the 2018 National Multi-bowl Championships (physical players). This is a pathway competition for the International Bowlers with a Disability Games.