Former Paralympian switches sport for performing arts

Former Paralympian switches sport for performing arts
Sean Car

CBD resident Matthew Hearne is one talented human being.

Originally from Wollongong, Matthew swapped the world of elite sports for the pursuit of a career in musical theatre having moved to Melbourne to study at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA).

Born with cerebral palsy, Matthew represented Australia in both soccer and swimming at the Paralympics, and while since leaving the world of competitive sport behind, still plays a leading advocacy role for people living with a disability.

Whether that be on-stage or the sports field, Matthew said “representation” and “visibility” were some of the most crucial tools in helping “move the needle and push the boundaries” for the disability community.

And that’s exactly what Matthew has always done under the two different hats of athlete and artist, continuing to inspire others and make the world a more equitable place.

Matthew told CBD News that while professional sports was the first passion pursued professionally, the world of the arts had always been a feature at home and school from a young age in Woolongong.

“I was very fortunate to attend a performing arts high school,” Matthew said. “I would say Dad in particular was a creative influence; he was a little bit older than Mum and grew up in a time where like people still listened to musicals recreationally.”

“All throughout high school I was swimming competitively five days a week, Monday to Friday. I’d be swimming at around 4:30 in the morning and then going to school, then swimming a couple of afternoons a week and going to soccer training, school musical rehearsals and singing lessons. So, I was very busy!”

Going on to represent Australia across multiple sports at the Paralympics, Matthew has held many national records and titles in swimming and has travelled the world with the Australian Paralympic soccer team, “The Pararoos”, featuring in their self-titled documentary, and taking part in fundraising events and campaigns for the team and the broader disabled community.

But with Paralympians who represent Australia still unpaid, Matthew said professional sport begun to take its toll for many in the team, which was the point when the long-held desire to switch to a career in performing arts was pursued.

Since moving to Melbourne, Matthew was apart of the final VCA foundation musical theatre course and also graduated from Andrew Hallsworth’s musical theatre course at Patrick School of Arts in Windsor, performing the role of Sky Masterson in its production of Guys & Dolls.

Matt has also performed as Tom Watson in Parade, Alan in I Can Jump Puddles, Matterson in The Hello Girls, and has even sung the National Anthem at a Socceroos game against Ecuador.

In May, Matt also finished up a role as Grinpayne in The Grinning Man at Alex Theatre in St Kilda, a character whose story involves overcoming a physical disability to find themselves on the stage.


“In regard to playing young Grinpayne, his struggle to come to terms with the reality of his condition is something that I can relate to in regards to my initial diagnosis with cerebral palsy and the uncertainties I had surrounding that at the time,” Matthew said.


Now living out the childhood dream here in Melbourne, Matthew said life in the city immersed among one of the world’s largest Arts Precincts was “inspiring”.

“There’s so much opportunity for growth and development and expression as an artist in Melbourne. I just think it’s absolutely wonderful,” Matthew said.

“I absolutely adore the fact that I can just walk down any side street on any given day and discover something that I’ve never seen before.”

“I’m a barista when I’m not I’m not doing shows, so I love my coffee and I love going exploring different places. But as for coffee and hospitality, within the city there are some of the best operators in the world, as well as some of the best art in the world. I certainly find it very inspiring.” •

Buy our Journalists a coffee

Support our dedicated journalists with a donation to help us continue delivering high-quality, reliable news

Buy our Journalists a coffee

Buy our Journalists a coffee

Like us on Facebook