Inspirational Ila's disability-defying dream

7 July 2017

Jonathan Ila has defied his MS diagnosis to become a leading AFL figure in PNG. Credit: ABC, Aaron Kearney
Jonathan Ila has defied his MS diagnosis to become a leading AFL figure in PNG. Credit: ABC, Aaron Kearney

A multiple sclerosis diagnosis in childhood robbed Jonathan Ila of the chance to become an elite player, but he has just been named national coach of the PNG Flames ahead of the AFL International Cup.

Jonathan Ila remembers being told he had multiple sclerosis at age seven, but couldn't comprehend the implications of the diagnosis.

Born into one of Papua New Guinea's greatest sporting families, Jonathan spent his childhood following his father around at Australian rules football (AFL) games and watching his mother at netball, a sport she played at international level. His siblings also grew up be world-class sportspeople, however Jonathan soon required a wheelchair.

At 15 Jonathan decided he would channel his love and knowledge of sport into coaching. Now 22, and with premierships for junior teams under his belt, Jonathan now works with senior men's and women's teams, and with the support of Australian Aid he recently earned his Level 1 coaching accreditation.

Sport is a globally recognised - and increasingly utilised - vehicle to achieve development outcomes in areas such as health, social cohesion, gender equality and disability inclusion. The Australian Government strongly supports these outcomes through its targeted sport for development programs in the Asia-Pacific region.

Sport helps improve the quality of life for people with disability by fostering inclusion and social interaction. This inclusion challenges negative community attitudes and self-perceptions of people with disability.

Jonathan was born into one of PNG's best sporting families. Credit: ABC, Aaron Kearney
Jonathan was born into one of PNG's best sporting families. Credit: ABC, Aaron Kearney
Last Updated: 7 July 2017