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Honouring Zoe’s legacy of inclusion: The Story behind Zoe’s Chair

Updated: Feb 21, 2022

[Image ID: The stage of the Victorian Disability Sport and Recreation Awards 2021. Zoe's chair is on the left, next to the Disability Sport & Recreation banner. At the podium is Tom and Liz, looking at each other adoringly.]

Disability Sport & Recreation (DSR) would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to the Tomlin/Morris family who late last year coordinated the donation of a junior sports chair to our Victorian Wheelchair Rugby program in memory of their daughter Zoe who sadly passed away in 2019, aged 13.

To honour her, and her passion for inclusion, her family worked with retired rugby players from Melbourne Rugby Union Football Club and friends to donate the money for a brand-new sports chair to DSR. This will enable other wheelchair users to have the opportunity to get active, try a new sport and be part of a team environment.

At our most recent Victorian Disability Sport Awards ceremony Zoe’s father Tom presented DSR with the brand new sports chair and bravely provided the audience with an insight into the kindness of his beloved daughter.

[Image ID: A group of people huddled together and posing for a photo at the Disability Sport & Recreation Awards. In the middle of the group is Zoe's chair.]

“Zoe was passionate about inclusion. It was her thing. On and off the court she made sure there were smiles and that everybody felt part of the team. Despite not being here with us today, Zoe’s passion for play and inclusion lives on. On the morning of 9th December 2019, we lost our beautiful daughter Zoe, she was just 13 and died as a consequence of an epileptic episode, just the 5th time she had fitted over a 7-year period. Zoe was a twin to her brother Tom and was a special sister to big brother Max. From a very early age Zoe was always extraordinarily compassionate and kind to anybody she found to be vulnerable or ‘different’ through any form of physical or mental disability. In kindergarten, pre-school and junior school Zoe always knew which of the other kids needed her bounce, enthusiasm, and confidence to make them part of the group, the team, the break time gang. Zoe’s thing was inclusion. Everybody got a go irrespective of their ability or capacity in teams Zoe picked as house captain. It never mattered that ‘our team’ never won anything just so long as everybody was able to have a go and had fun doing it. Zoe led teams off pitches and courts that had been thoroughly trounced, all smiling and laughing, having all been there together, as part of the team, together. It’s fitting then for Zoe to have a physical legacy, donated in her memory that in just a tiny way can extend the opportunity for her ‘people, her special people’ to take part, to play and be part of a team. The Victorian Wheelchair Rugby Program run by Disability Sports & Recreation is therefore a perfect match in every way to make this donation to. That opportunity is denied to kids that just want to have a go but lack the appropriate equipment would undoubtedly have seen feisty Zoe miffed and propelled into action. The gift of this chair in Zoe’s name is made by an unlikely bunch of mostly older overweight ex-rugby players. We now play golf badly while discussing the ills of the world, almost always to no avail other than working up a good honest thirst. What we do still have is the unique bond of having been at the bottom of a ruck on a cold and wet day knowing our teammates, our friends, our special people were on their way to help and support us. To play in a ‘team’ is what and why we were there. Now, we hope to afford the opportunity to children who might not otherwise have this privilege. We hereby name this chair Zoe and may any child that plants their bum here feel a tiny extra push knowing Zoe is cheering you on. May it be fun, and may you stick at it when you grow as an athlete, a true sportsperson and the best thing of all, a team member”.

Disability Sport & Recreation CEO, Richard Amon expressed his thanks to Tom, the Melbourne Rugby Union Football Club and the Orrong Park Golf Club members (all ex players) who’s support made this wonderful initiative possible:

"We’re so grateful to receive this donation and the opportunity to honour Zoe’s legacy in the best way possible, by giving people the opportunity to be included and become active".

With restrictions easing, you’ll soon be able to see Zoe’s chair in action. We hope that you have been encouraged by Zoe to play, try something new and strive for a more inclusive future. If you would like to know more about our Wheelchair Rugby Programs or have a go yourself, visit our Wheelchair Rugby page or get in contact via email at or via phone at (03) 9473 0133.

[Image ID: The first recipient of Zoe's Chair, a teenage boy sits in the wheelchair holding a white Wheelchair Rugby ball smiling at the  camera
[Image ID: The first recipient of Zoe's Chair, a teenage boy sits in the wheelchair holding a white Wheelchair Rugby ball smiling at the camera

[Image ID: a picture of Zoe's on a stage at the VDSR Awards. The chair is yellow with black seating. Behind it there are three flags, including the Torres Strait Islander flag, Aboriginal flag and the Australian flag.]

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