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Tristan Knowles

2013 Young Alumni Award

Paraplanner, Commonwealth Bank and President, Tristan Knowles Kids Cancer Foundation

Bachelor of Commerce, 2005


“There is no shortcut to any place worth going. Basically if you want to achieve anything worthwhile, there’s going to be a whole lot of hard work and sacrifice involved.”

Tristan Knowles offered this insight in an interview recently published in the Illawarra Mercury. Now 30 years old, this elite sportsman and entrepreneur has not expected or been given easy shortcuts; he has found his own way to excel. Tristan’s life shines with the qualities that this University wishes for all its graduates: he is passionate, engaged, and he challenges boundaries. Tristan Knowles is an inspiration.

Tristan was diagnosed with aggressive bone cancer when he was nine years old. He lost his left leg and part of his lung and was given a poor chance of survival. Tristan did survive but his dream of playing AFL for Hawthorn faded. He has reflected that: “I wasn’t sure if I could play sport again. For a few years afterwards my mission was about me finding a new passion, and when you find that passion it creates a level of confidence within yourself and direction.” At 15, he was a given a sports wheelchair and found a way to realise his mission.

With fierce determination and skill, Tristan has reached the highest levels in his sport. He has played professional wheelchair basketball in Australia, Spain and Italy and, until recently, in Turkey as a member of the current world champion team. This year, after eight years in Europe, Tristan returns home to join the Australian Wheelchair Basketball Team in preparing for and contesting its World Championship defence in July 2014.

Tristan Knowles was named New South Wales Wheelchair Basketballer of the Year in 2002 and, on 26 January 2009, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to sport. An Olympian in so many senses, Tristan was a member of the Australian men’s team who won silver at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, gold at the 2008 Beijing Games and silver again last year in London.

These extraordinary sporting achievements do not stand alone. Tristan appeared several times on the Dean’s Merit List during his studies at this University. He graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in 2006 and went on to establish a career in financial planning. He has used this expertise to create and direct a project that sits close to his heart and shares his vision. The Tristan Knowles Kids Cancer Foundation aims to build a capital fund and provide scholarships for the 600 children diagnosed with cancer each year in Australia. The Foundation states that its ‘Chance To Achieve’ Scholarships aim to restore confidence back to the child, to kick-start and inspire the child’s motivation to achieve. Tristan is passing on to children, very like he once was himself, his own guiding mantra - inspiration, confidence, achievement.

Tristan Knowles has made a difference in his own life and in the lives of others. In the words the poet Tennyson gave to another leader who faced adversity, he shows our alumni how to remain “strong in will... to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

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