The donation was facilitated by five-time Paralympian and Paralympics Australia Board member Kurt Fearnley ©Paralympics Australia

Paralympics Australia has welcomed its first major corporate donation to its new Para-sport Equipment Fund.

The AUD$100,000 (£55,000/$71,000/€63,000) contribution has been made by Newman’s Own Foundation, established by the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman.

Following Sport Australia’s AUD$1 million (£547,000/$711,000/€632,000) investment to launch the fund last year, Paralympics Australia challenged the corporate sector to join its fight to create more opportunities for Australians with a disability to access the equipment required to participate in Paralympic sport.

The donation was made by Newman’s Own Foundation as part of a sport-based grant initiative, whereby influential Australian sporting heroes are given the opportunity to nominate an Australian not-for-profit organisation to receive the amount. 

It was facilitated by five-time Paralympian and Paralympics Australia Board member Kurt Fearnley.

Paralympics Australia chief executive Lynne Anderson said the donation was not only generous, but would make an impact on the Australian sporting community for people with disabilities at both a grassroots and elite level.

"We’re incredibly grateful that both Kurt and the Newman’s Own Foundation have recognised our Para-sport Equipment Fund and its unique ability to change the lives of Australians living with a disability by providing more opportunities to participate and compete in Para-sport," she said.

"Research suggests that almost 20 per cent of people in Australia live with a disability but only one in four of these participate in sport. 

"Seventy-five per cent of those with a disability want to take part in sport but feel there are limited opportunities and we know this is largely due to the costs associated with Para-sport.

"With a standard wheelchair rugby chair costing upwards of AUD$16,000 (£9,000/$11,000/€10,000) or a basic racing chair worth AUD$10,000 (£5,000/$7,000/€6,000), this money will go really far in helping our next generation of Para-sport stars reach the next level and will even help our Paralympians achieve even greater heights at the next Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

"We’d like to encourage other corporates and not-for-profit foundations to follow suit and help Australians with disabilities achieve equity in the sporting space, as we know the physical and social benefits of participating in sport are endless."

Newman’s Own Foundation President and chief executive Robert Forrester, also a long-time friend of Newman, said Fearnley had demonstrated his commitment to giving back and empowering others.

He also stated Fearnley's dedication in promoting awareness of the challenges affecting people with disabilities highlighted the importance of Paralympics Australia receiving this grant.

"While Paul Newman was best known as a movie star, he was also a passionate and successful championship racing car driver," Forrester said.

"His other passion was philanthropy and he believed everyone has the power to make a difference. 

"We’re pleased to recognise the commitment [of Fearnley] to giving back and influencing others to do the same."

Paralympics Australia continues to pursue financial contributions to the fund through corporate sponsorship, donations, direct response appeals and more.

The high costs of equipment used in Paralympic sport is leading to higher injury risks, according to a Paralympics Australia survey conducted alongside Victoria University.

The research suggested that 45 per cent of surveyed participants found additional sport injury risks in Para sport due to poor or limited choice of appropriate equipment.

Eligible applicants can apply for funds to help acquire sport-specific wheelchairs, prosthetics, adapted or modified seating and handcycles.