03 November 2022
The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) is mourning the passing of the Hon Robert James Ellicott AC KC, whose vision of an athletic centre of excellence laid the foundation of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).
As the Minister for Home Affairs and the ACT under Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser in the 1970s, Mr Ellicott devised a concept for a national high performance sporting facility.
Since officially opening in 1981 in Canberra, the AIS has influenced the professionalism of Australian sport for more than 40 years, with athlete performance coupled with athlete mental health, wellbeing and community engagement, and innovation, including research and analysis.
ASC CEO Kieren Perkins OAM paid tribute to Mr Ellicott.
“On behalf of the ASC, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to Mr Ellicott’s family and friends and acknowledge his tremendous service to Australian sport,” Mr Perkins said.
“Mr Ellicott’s vision was revolutionary, with the one-of-a-kind AIS still renowned across the world.
“From its beginnings in 1981 with 150 athletes in eight sports, the modern AIS is now a leader of Australia’s National Institute Network and positively influences thousands of Australian athletes, all across the country.”
Speaking at the AIS in 2013, Mr Ellicott revealed the AIS was one of his proudest achievements.
“I had a vision of a place where our athletes who are pursuing excellence could come, and have the best coaches, the best facilities and be able to enjoy not only the development of their capacity as athletes but also be able to pursue qualifications for life after sport,” Mr Ellicott said.
“And what a lot of experience we established in coaching, in sporting administration, and particularly in medical and physical science areas.
“How amazing it is, it all worked. Gradually it took off in full flight like a 747 on its first flight. By the end of the 80s, there it was …That is one of the great privileges of my life.”
It has been a sad period for the AIS, with another pioneer of the AIS, Professor John Bloomfield passing away in October.
Mr Ellicott had credited Professor Bloomfield for his strategy and development of sports and recreation reports in the lead-up to the opening of the AIS.