Bredette Koen: Special Olympics
When Bredette accepted her new role with Special Olympics Australia for the upcoming games in Tasmania, she also found a new place to call home
Bredette Koen’s expertise in large-scale event management has taken her all over the world from working with the FIFA World Cup in South Africa to roles across international rugby, soccer, netball and working with teams including Manchester United. Her latest contract has landed her in Launceston, Tasmania.
Bredette doesn’t shy away when a big task is at hand – in fact, she enjoys the challenge. Taking up the task as Director for the 2014 and 2018 Special Olympics hosted in Melbourne and Adelaide respectively, she has recommitted to undertake the next round of flagship events – this time in Launceston.
Special Olympics Australia is part of a global inclusion movement using sport, health, education and leadership programs every day around the world to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities.
In a matter of weeks, Bredette had her bags packed and was on her way to a new Tasmanian life. She and her partner bought an off-grid home just outside of Launceston, complete with their own bee hive and are settling into island life well. While her partner continues to travel interstate for locum work in emergency departments, both are enjoying a healthy work-life balance.
“Our weekends used to be about champagne breakfasts and shopping. Now, they’re about dodging bees, chopping wood and trying to work out how our off-grid home works,” laughs Bredette. “Everyone has been so incredibly welcoming. We have never had such willingness from absolute strangers to make sure we feel settled. Tasmanians are just so friendly. I’ve lived in five states in six years and it’s the first place where I walked in and I felt ‘I’m home.’ Everybody knows Tasmania is beautiful but it’s the community – the genuine, neighbourly feeling that I’ve received both from a work perspective and personally.”
The next two Special Olympic events will be hosted in Launceston – the Junior National Games in 2020 and the National Games in 2022. With 600 athletes aged 8-15 due to compete in the 2020 games and a further 1 200 athletes in 2022, the games require much preparation. A further 400 support staff are required for the junior games and 500 for the 2022 games as well as over 1 000 volunteers. That’s a lot of individuals descending on northern Tasmania!
“We are a volunteer-driven organisation and I can guarantee the quality of volunteers here in Tasmania will be the type with the can-do attitude. We are super excited about being here – from a partnership point of view; Tourism Northern Tasmania have been wonderful as have the sporting organisations, accommodation providers, caterers, transport companies and local community.”
Bredette’s days currently are spent focused on risk assessments – ranging from financial, operational and delegation risk. Her budget alone is 53 pages in length. She will then move into a public relations (PR) and marketing phase, as well as attracting support of major partners, inviting volunteers into the fold and committing time to the opening and closing ceremonies. Securing services, logistics and working with Tasmanians on the ground has proven fruitful from the moment Bredette touched down.
The South African born games manager feels optimistic about the upcoming events. The junior event is a solid dress rehearsal for the 2022 games, covering two days of competition across four sports (athletics, basketball, soccer and swimming) versus the week long National Games with more than 11 sports including sailing and equestrian events. Bredette is busy gathering her support crew and rates the equestrian facility as among “the most beautiful facilities I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“The unsung heroes are our volunteers – week in and out giving up hours of their time for the athletes,” says Bredette. “They’re breaking down stereotypes and providing a real understanding of what Special Olympics is all about. Our games are a wonderful opportunity to break down barriers and encourage the empathy and understanding every person deserves. Studies show that people with intellectual disabilities who are competitive athletes are four times more likely to gain employment so we’re proud of the impact we have on that front.”
For now, Bredette is enjoying her new rural Tasmanian life and is delighted that “for the first time in my life, I don’t care if my ute is dirty! I love it here.”
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