12-year-old's Pararoos plea nets a form response from Tony Abbott: POLL

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

When 12-year-old Claire Falls heard Australia's Paralympic football team had been stripped of its entire $175,000 in Commonwealth funding, she went straight to the top.

Penning a letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the vision-impaired young footballer wrote of her shock and disappointment at the Australian Sports Commission's decision.

"It makes me feel angry to think that football should ever be about winning medals or to read that funding was cut off because of the [Pararoos'] ranking," she wrote.

The Pararoos are ranked 12th in the world but have not qualified for the Paralympic Games since 2000, the major factor in the commission's decision to pull funding. Its 2014-15 budget was released in June and also cut funding to high-performance squash, tennis, cricket and Paralympic powerlifting.

In her letter, Claire asked the PM how young players could aspire to success without the Pararoos as role models. "What hope is there for us kids? What do we have to aim for? How is that promoting encouragement, respect or inclusion?" she wrote.

She also challenged Sports Minister Peter Dutton to match dollar-for-dollar the $175,000 she hopes to raise from supporters.

But Claire soon butted up against the cold machinery of a large bureaucracy, receiving only a stock-standard form response from Mr Abbott.

"I congratulate you on taking an interest in your system of government," the PM wrote.

"We are a great country and a great people. One day it will be the responsibility of you and your generation to lead our country."

Red card for PM's reply: Claire Falls said she was offended by Tony Abbott's response to her plea for Pararoos funding. Photo: Supplied

Red card for PM's reply: Claire Falls said she was offended by Tony Abbott's response to her plea for Pararoos funding. Photo: Supplied

Claire said she was thankful to receive the reply but angry that Mr Abbott did not respond to her arguments.

"I think it’s rude that Peter Dutton hasn’t answered his mail from me, it has been almost two weeks. I also think it’s rude that our Prime Minister Tony Abbott answered his mail to me by talking about democracy and how positive I must be," she said.

"Isn’t democracy supposed to be about equality and social justice and being able to have a say about things that important to you? The PM couldn’t even be bothered to answer any of my questions.”

The ASC cut all $175,000 from Paralympic football because the sport was deemed to have come up short against targets set by the commission's "Winning Edge" policy. The Football Federation of Australia's pitch for Pararoos funding was also "under-developed", according to Matthew Favier, an ASC executive and director of the Australian Institute of Sport.

Mr Dutton said the government provided $13 million for Paralympic sports in 2014-15 but the allocation decisions were a matter for the independent sports commission.

Claire's mother, Shari Maguire, told Fairfax Media her daughter had also written to opposition leader Bill Shorten and would continue to lobby Mr Dutton by email while he is in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games.

"I don’t think Mr Abbott or Mr Dutton are quite aware of the type of kid they’re dealing with," Ms Maguire said.

"There is no grey in Claire’s world and certainly not when it comes to issues of equality."

It is understood Mr Dutton will respond to Claire's letter upon his return from Glasgow.

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