DREW Duggan credits his mate Kurt Fearnley with helping him realise that his Newcastle gyms were a perfect fit for National Disability Insurance Scheme clients.
Duggan met the Paralympic champion in Bathurst, where was studying Human Movement, specialising in exercise physiology and strength and conditioning. When Fearnley returned from the 2012 Olympics, he began training with Duggan before retiring, and still attends Duggan's WellFit gyms.
"My dealings with Kurt made me set the studios up so I have good equipment for disabled athletes but also set up for disabled people who aren't athletes," Duggan says. "With Kurt, I learnt the NDIS is really about integration."
When the COVID-19 lockdown closed his Broadmeadow and Warners Bay gyms, Duggan put his head down to gather paperwork to become a registered NDIS provider. It took half a year.
"I wanted to bullet-proof the business because the fitness industry was treated contemptuously: I know the government was doing their best but at one point it was us and strip clubs and brothels that weren't allowed to open," says Duggan.
Specialising in personal training by appointment, WellFit was opened in 2011 by Dugan and a business partner. It expanded to four locations before Duggan bought out the partner and streamlined to two locations.
He sees the gym's expansion into exercise physiology and the NDIS as a natural fit.
"We help people with all different health/fitness goals come and our businesses were so well established, I knew it would only add to us," he says.
Duggan says his gyms are inclusive, "a place I'd want my mum or sister to train".
In remission from testicular cancer diagnosed in 2019, he already has NDIS clients on his books and says the benefits to all are clear.
"It gives perspective to people who might complain about minor things when they see others with cards stacked against them, giving it their all and not complaining," he says.
"From a NDIS client perspective, integration is essential: it's about them living as normal existence as possible and having a sense of control over their life."