Sebastian Egen is clearly passionate about his work with the PNG Rugby Union’s Inclusion Impact program, and the empowerment he brings to people who are deaf or hard of hearing to reach their full potential through Rugby Union.
The PNG Rugby Union Inclusion Impact program is delivered in partnership with the PNG Deaf Association, Oceania Rugby, and Rugby Australia, and supported by the Australian Government’s Sport for Development program Team Up, which uses sport to bring people together, champion inclusion and create opportunity.
Commencing in 2021, the PNG Rugby Union Inclusion Impact Program is a Sport for Development initiative focused on rapid and high-quality growth and inclusion of women and girls, and those who are hard of hearing or deaf, in all aspects of rugby union.
Egen is the Deaf Rugby Development Officer for the PNG Rugby Union Inclusion Impact Program, and he himself is a deaf/hard of hearing person.
How important is it that the PNG Rugby Inclusion Impact Program employs people with a disability?
“It is very important that this program employs people with disability, like me, as it gives power and courage, and shows that people have the right to be employed, ensuring that every individual realises their full potential despite living with a disability. For myself, as a deaf/hard of hearing individual, I am empowered, especially now that I am employed to lead the deaf/hard of hearing community to be part of sport like all able hearing people. I realise that nothing is impossible, and sky is the limit, there is no barrier that can stop me from performing my tasks."
You have been involved in rugby for a while now, can you please share with us how you first got involved in the sport.
“Prior Rugby Union, I participated in a number of sports through school sports programs. I went from the special education centre (Red Cross) into a mainstream school (Bavaroko Primary) in Port Moresby. I played cricket, athletics, rugby league, taekwando and soft ball among able hearing people – that is bonus for me. And then, I met Sailosi (PNG RU Staff) and Druma (Board Member), who introduced me to the sport of Rugby Union. I joined Deaf Rugby Union when it was first established in 2018 under NCD Rugby Union. I had the chance of being with the deaf community and I was glad we could all relate well. Season in Season out, we grew in numbers and I realised I was not the only deaf in the community, I was so happy to meet other deaf individuals, especially through PNG Deaf Association and NCD Rugby Union.”
As part of your role as the Deaf Rugby Development Officer you are coaching teams made up of deaf players, can you share what that experience has been like for you.
“I must admit I am challenged at times, because we all know, as coaches, we have to be smart and make good and fair decisions in favour of all our players. As a coach, I encourage myself to be punctual, be ready and prepared for my team and most especially getting the little things right. Most of all be a role model for participants and players in the deaf community or for every individual for that matter.”
You are a qualified Rugby Coach. When coaching rugby what other messages do you provide as a role model to others to help them?
“Living up to the five values of rugby; in my speech and in my actions – how I conduct myself; always keeping in mind my worth by displaying the values; Discipline, Respect, Integrity, Passion and Solidarity
“Building good and positive relationships and networking.
“Being a responsible citizen and leading by example
“Prioritizing and to always remember that FAMILY is everything to love God and to Love one another."
Obviously being involved in sport has changed you in many ways. How has it changed those around you including your children and family?
“When they realised that I am now capable and somewhat independent, they have been extra supportive in seeing me through this. I am proud to say that being involved in sport has changed the mindset of people; and especially a role that nobody thought would be over-seen by a person with a disability; I am experiencing and living in a different world – And I am grateful for the support that everyone involved is giving me.”
There seems to be more focus on inclusion in sport these days. Are you seeing that in your country and sports? What else do we need to do to ensure that inclusion for people with disability improves in sport, and in all other areas of life?
Inclusion in sport seem to have more focus. I am glad I am part of it and taking care of a program for the deaf in the inclusion impact program. Inclusion and Diversity will improve in sport when able hearing people can do away with stigma and discrimination. In all walks of life, Inclusion and diversity are a great big part of humanity and interpersonal skills count in everyday life – attitude should be mannered, and respect should always be around. Include all individuals, despite race, gender, status and off course disability.
What does International Day for People with a Disability mean to you? And how do you plan to celebrate the day?
International Day for People with Disability means a lot to me. This day commemorates and appreciates these people; and I am one of them. I believe that when the whole world celebrates this day, I am respected and not neglected; I am appreciated without stigma and discrimination. I am free and have the right as a human being the same as all able hearing people. I have planned to celebrate International Day for People with Disability at home with my family; however, I am going to celebrate the day with Deaf Rugby Association in Wewak, East Sepik Province. I feel it will be a good day with all my deaf community.