Media reports – 2011

Surf’s up for annual Convention
(From: Sunshine Coast Daily (Queensland)  3rd October 2011)

THEY may be small in size, but they are big on balance.

Laura Mladenovic, 11 (left), and Lachlan Volling-Geoghegan, 13 (right), had never experienced a Sunshine Coast beach let alone a surfing lesson when they took to the waves at Alexandra Headland on Saturday morning.

Yet they picked it up like a couple of naturals with Robbie Sherwell’s XL Surfing Academy.

The two are here with their parents for the Short Statured People of Australia’s national convention.

Up to 90 members ranging in age from toddlers to the elderly from around Australia and even New Zealand have gathered at the Alexandra Park Conference Centre for the annual event.

It kicked off Friday and will end Thursday.

Laura, from rural Alligator Creek, west of Mackay, yesterday called Saturday’s surfing lesson the highlight of the convention to date.

“I already want to visit the beach again,” she said.

“The weather was beautiful. I want to surf in Hawaii now.

“That first wave I caught was something I’ve always wanted to do.

“It was hard but awesome. I never get to go to the beach back home.”

Besides education, motivational and health sessions that have been planned for members, the itinerary for the six-day convention has a long list of Sunshine Coast attractions.

Yesterday included a day trip to Australia Zoo, as well as a talent show and fashion parade in the evening.

Today they will visit UnderWater World and tomorrow will end with a “glitz and glamour” themed dinner dance at the Maroochydore RSL.

SSPA member and one of the conference organisers Rod Shannen said the trip to the Coast was touch and go for a while due to financial reasons.

“It’s quite a struggle for people to get here. We didn’t have a lot of time to organise things,” he said.

“Our numbers are down a bit this year. This convention is an important thing for us to have.

“It’s the only time of year many of the members get a chance to see each other. Long-term relationships and friendships are made here.

“Once a year they can get together and meet people with similar conditions to themselves.”

Mr Shannen said he wanted to make the annual event a permanent fixture on the Coast, and eventually expand it to become an international attraction.

“I’ve just gotten back from the Little Persons America convention, and they had 4500 people attend from all over the world, from as far away as Europe and India,” he said.

“I’d like to see our event become an international convention.

“Alexandra Headland is the perfect place to hold it.

“Hopefully we can make it happen in the next three to five years. We’d need sponsorship to make it happen though.

Even the World Dwarf Games, which will be held in America in two years’ time, were reportedly looking to come to Australia in the future, Mr Shannen said.

“I’d like to see Queensland get support to host it, but who knows.

“It would be brilliant if it could happen here.”

The short-statured gather for conference

by Janet Shorthouse

(from ABC Sunshine Coast – 5th October 2011)

A National Conference for the Short Statured People of Australia is currently being held at Alexandra Headlands on the Sunshine Coast.

An annual event, this year one-hundred-and-forty people are attending the six-day conference where participants take part in educational, motivational and health sessions.

Founding member of the Association for Short Statured People of Australia (S.S.P.A), Rosemary Hobbs says being short statured “is to be the same as everyone else but just in a smaller package”.

“Obviously there are things that are quite difficult for us to do… but we always find most of time a way around to cope,” says Rosemary.

Any person whose height at maturity does not exceed the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 1.45 metres (4ft 10in) is a short-statured person. Known as dwarfism, there have been more than one hundred conditions identified that can cause dwarfism.

“My condition of dwarfism is called Achondroplasia… it’s the most common form of dwarfism and comes in around every 10 000 births,” says Rosemary.

Now in full swing, Rosemary says the conference has been a mix of “business and pleasure”.

“We’ve had a medical day where we had some of the top medical professionals in the field of dwarfism present – this is really valuable especially for new members and new mums and dads -they’re like sponges they can’t soak up enough information to find out what their children are going to be like when they grow up”.

Although changes to anti-discrimination laws have improved employment opportunities, Rosemary says short statured people still feel they are not fully accepted.

“You might remember when dwarf throwing was big a few years ago, that had a terrible affect on other short statured people. I’d get comments in the street like, ‘how about we give you a throw today’ things like that,” says Rosemary.

16-year-old Jarrod Wells of Tasmania agrees.

“People staring at you… it can be hard. Just respect us… I try to ignore it,” says Jarrod.

14-year-old Anna Sidnum of Coffs Harbour agrees, “If I see people looking I just look away or if they come close to me I just walk away, but I’d just like them to know that if they see us try not to look – look but just try not to stare,” says Anna.

14-year-old Nathan Nass of Townsville says he’d like people to know that “a short statured person is a person who just won’t grow as tall as other people… but we can do the same things as other people, and our body works the same”.

Jarrod, Anna and Nathan all agree the conference is a great way to connect with friends who experience similar difficulties.

“It’s just really comforting having everyone around, when we go out I don’t even notice (people looking) because everyone is around,” says Anna.

“It feels like we belong here, I feel better because we’re all together and we’re all the same,” says Nathan.

The S.S.P.A plan to make a bid for the World Dwarf Games to be held in Australia in 2017.

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