Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Petrakis, Ms A.

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE (15:37): Last sitting week, I made comment on a local sporting champion, and this week I would like to shed light on another local South Australian who is wearing the green and gold. Today, I would like to recognise a member of the South Australian autistic and autism community whose success on and off the tennis court is nothing short of inspirational.

Andriana first started playing tennis at the age of nine after having a session with an occupational therapist (OT) who recommended Andriana pick up a tennis racquet. From that moment, and with the help of her dad, Petros, she trained and trained and trained. It seemed that the OT was onto something. Andriana was quickly finding that tennis was helping to improve her hand-eye coordination, as well as helping to build her sense of belonging, social skills and positive connections with the community.

Andriana continued to train every Monday and Wednesday morning from 6.30am to 8am and also had private lessons on Fridays. Her training and hard work soon paid off. In 2016, Andriana won her first women's singles title at the Peter Smith Players with an Intellectual Impairment Open at Memorial Drive. But her success has travelled far beyond South Australia. Last year, Andriana travelled to Poland for the European summer games. She won bronze in both the women's event and the mixed doubles.

In June this year, Andriana travelled to France to compete in the Virtus Global Games. For those who do not know, the Virtus Global Games are the world's largest elite sports event for athletes with an intellectual disability, and they take place every four years. I am proud to say that Andriana is ranked number 5 in the world.

Andriana has spoken to me about how proud and humble she felt to wear the Aussie green and gold on the other side of the world. She was so proud to be part of something bigger than herself, to be representing Australia and, on top of that, playing her best tennis, making new friends, team bonding, learning about French culture and trying lots of delicious food. Apparently, ham and cheese baguettes are her new favourite. I remember smiling from ear to ear when hearing of Andriana's success and her sending me a photo of her smiling from ear to ear standing in front of the Eiffel Tower with her hands held almost as wide as her smile as she took the photo.

Now back in South Australia, Andriana is continuing to serve ace after ace. Andriana has been awarded Tennis SA's Most Outstanding Athlete with a Disability and she is currently ranked second in the women's singles in the People with an Intellectual Disability Australian ranking. Andriana is now beginning her latest exciting chapter to become a pillar of knowledge for others also wanting to join in the happiness and sense of belonging that a sport like tennis can bring.

In big news, Andriana is now the assistant tennis coach at Tennis SA in their Pathway Program for players aged over eight who have autism or an intellectual disability. Andriana specifically tailors sessions to support the needs of participants and to provide them an opportunity to play tennis at whatever level they may be, whether they are beginners or an international champion like Andriana.

Andriana has told me that she wants this job to help inspire people to learn new skills, meet new people, play tournaments and make sure that they are applying themselves and having fun at the same time. I would like to close with Andriana's own words and her message to other autistic people, 'to keep following your dreams, stay positive, work very hard, enjoy the moment, and love every success you have in life.' Thank you, Andriana.