An Australian Paralympic athlete was prevented from boarding Queensland Rail’s long-distance passenger rail service, The Spirit of Queensland, because he was not accompanied by a carer. Richard Cordukes, represented Australia at the 1988 Seoul Paralympics where he won a silver medal in the men’s 4×100 metre relay and bronze in the men’s 4×200 relay.
The 66-year old intended traveling by train to Bundaberg from Townsville this month for a wedding, but due to not having a carer accompany him on the journey, railway staff prevented Cordukes from travelling.
“It all started when I booked my ticket,” Cordukes told F2L. “They said I needed a carer, but I managed to convince them I didn’t. What do I need a carer for? I’m getting on a wheelchair accessible train. I’ve travelled all over the world by myself since the 70s.”
After arriving at the Townsville station Cordukes managed to board the train. However, he was then made to demonstrate his physical abilities to staff (getting in and out of his seat) in front of other passengers to prove his independence. Despite the demonstration, Cordukes was forced off the train and left on the platform as the train departed. He never made it to the wedding.
Following the incident, Cordukes contacted Channel 7 to share his story and on September 7 lodged a complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland. “Why would I not take this a step further on behalf of everyone in a wheelchair,” he told Channel 7.
Cordukes described the experience to F2L as extraordinary and said the one thing he would like to see as a result of the incident is change. “One word says it all,” he said. “Change. Inclusion. To include all, is diversity. That’s exactly what you want. Anyone who thinks that picking a number of people with the same attitude is power is wrong. It’s weak. Inclusion is what it’s all about.”
In response, Queensland Rail CEO, Nick Easy told F2L the incident was being investigated as a priority. “ I apologise unreservedly that Mr Cordukes was unable to travel on this occasion,” he said.