Basketball Victoria would like to extend its condolences to the friends and family of Horsham icon Gary Bird who passed away this weekend.
Gary Bird, one of Horsham’s most recognisable personalities passed away on Saturday surrounded by his family. We’ll never forget Gary, Horsham’s community-minded man with a big heart and a booming voice.
Gary moved to Horsham in 1972 from the small community of Neuarpurr, 120 kilometres west of Horsham and quickly became a part the Horsham community, serving on many committees across multiple sports, but had a passion for cricket and basketball.
Gary served as a Rural City of Horsham councillor for 10 years and was the Mayor during that time. During Gary’s time as a Councillor the Wimmera district was experiencing horrific droughts and this tested all within the community.
In a Wimmera Mail Times interview in July 2019, Gary commented that “sport is my life… it is the single thing I’ve dedicated the most time to and it’s a vital part of the community.”
Whilst Gary was a participant early on, his best work came off the court and he became a tireless volunteer.
In basketball, Gary’s contribution was enormous, a former Horsham Amateur Basketball Association president was also inducted as a Life Member of the association. One focus in particular would leave his name enshrined for ever. Gary created a Victoria Country team for people with an intellectual disability in the late 1990s.
“I’m the type of person that is pretty pig-headed – if I want to do something, it will happen. I’ll put the work in for it,” he said in 2019.
Gary initially ran camps and started training every weekend in Ballarat, he had significant numbers involved and he achieved what he set out to with a Victoria Country Team attending the Australian Junior Champioships
For taking the initiative and creating a side that still exists today, Basketball Victoria Country created the annual Gary Bird Award, for outstanding contribution to diversity and inclusion. The impact of creating a side for people with a disability reached far beyond awards.
In 2019, Gary said. “There was a girl who used to train with us who passed away last year. Her father came up to me after the funeral and told me how much being involved with the team had improved her life. Just for her to be a part of it and a part of the team.”
Bird said there was joy in providing an outlet for people with a disability. He intimately understood the positive impact sport could have in people’s lives and wanted to provide that to an underrepresented part of the community.
Beyond the Victoria Country team, Bird also spent a countless amount of hours assisting domestic associations and encouraging them to install a program for people of all abilities.
Gary filled every position from coach, to program manager, to State Team Manager and was acknowledged for his contribution to ID basketball by Basketball Australia receiving a National Award.
Gary also served on the Basketball Victoria Country Council for six years and represented the Wimmera area, but also assisted in the development of Victorian Country Basketball from the community level through to the elite levels.
Gary had been a player and volunteer for over 50 years and was enjoying watching his grandchildren play sport. Gary signed off his 2019 interview with the words; “Sport keeps communities together … and volunteers keep sport running.”
Basketball Victoria extends our condolences to wife Karen, daughters Rebecca and Sammi and the entire extended Bird family.