The Red Dust Heelers Community Engagement Program

Red Dust Heeler

The Red Dust Heelers (RDH) are Outback Academy Australia’s community engagement team. Since 2013 RDH programs have led the charge for greater inclusion, opportunity, pathways and advocacy for Aboriginal and other young people with disability across Australia. RDH members are Aboriginal and other Australians with disability, some are Paralympians.

The RDH call to action happened when young Aboriginal people at Roelands Village in a pre-employment program asked visiting Paralympians “Where are all the blackfellas at the Paralympics?” quickly followed by “Can we play wheelchair basketball?”

Co-founders Brad Ness OAM, Paralympian and Rio Paralympics flag bearer; Kathleen O’Kelly-Kennedy – Paralympian; Ryan Morich – Aboriginal athlete and NAIDOC Sportsperson of the Year 2015; and Rob Pike – Australian para-athlete immediately formed the Red Dust Heelers community engagement programs. Ambassadors Darryl Kickett, Syd Jackson and Evonne Goolagong-Cawley and Red Dust Healing Founder Tom Powell.

What do the Red Dust Heelers do?

The RDH team works in collaboration with Aboriginal community-controlled organisations hosts and other stakeholders. They use all abilities sports as a bridge to communities and to showcase the benefits of healthy, active and positive lifestyles. Community engagement programs run between 2-4 days and are tailored to meet the needs of each community.

Programs include:

  • Awareness raising sessions about the abilities, rights and interests of people with disability led by the RDH team and using their stories
  • Workforce development for those supporting people with disability, including through NDIS, mainstream and community-controlled organisations
  • Awareness raising about pathways and opportunities for sports, education and employment – including direct work with potential employer groups
  • Disability awareness raising with business, government and services overseeing programs targeting people with disability
  • Whole community events such as Round Robin tournaments, that provide an opportunity for connections between community members, local services and stakeholders in disability (See the Red Dust Heelers in Port Hedland and Shepparton)

The Heelers also run ‘Have a Go’ at sports sessions with children and young people, with and without disability, including wheelchair basketball and tennis, goal ball 

The intent is to provide all children and young people with awareness about Paralympic and grassroots opportunities for sport, and to foster greater inclusion of children and young people with disability in their schools and communities.

The RDH also run professional development sessions with Sports Associations and Peak bodies to be more inclusive of Aboriginal and other young people with disability.

Contact the Red Dust Heelers at: