After being permanently sidelined due to acquiring a spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia while playing as a tighthead prop in a rugby match for the Clovelly Junior Rugby Union Club while on an end of season tour of New Zealand in the late 1970s, I have tried to remain as independent as possible and participate in society as an active citizen. I contribute by working part-time and participating as a volunteer on a number of community, local and state government committees in the areas of access, assistive technology, home modifications and maintenance, transport, the arts, community and disability support services such as community transport, in-home respite, social support and food services.
I live in Sydney with the support of my family, and I have always been totally reliant on government funded services and programs to live in the community. The types and levels of support services and programs have a direct impact on a person with disability’s quality of life.
I continue to advocate for an increase in funding and for different types of flexible community and disability services and programs that are client focused, person-centred and meet the needs of people with disability, their family and carers. My community work was acknowledged with being selected as a torch bearer for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, I was nominated and chosen as one of the 4 finalists (although not the winner) for the 2008 National Disability Awards, and was the winner of the NSW Government’s inaugural 2012 NSW Disability Innovation Award for Lifelong Achievement.
Apart from following the rugby, I’m interested in other sports and the performing arts, and always looking for opportunities to expand my knowledge and interest, so in late 2013, I participated in the MYSCI creative photography workshop, a new arts program for people with a spinal cord injury. It is now called Imagine Me and was created by Sue Murray, a professional photographer and lecturer. Imagine Me includes an introduction to photography and using Photoshop computer software, with the main focus that each person produces a creative self-portrait that portrays any personal aspect or the impact of spinal cord injury. Details about the Imagine Me workshops are available at: www.imagineme.com.au.
Finally, I support the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which was launched on July 1, 2013, which is a no-fault scheme that aims to provide people with disability with appropriate levels of support that will enable them to have choice, flexibility and control of service delivery of which will help them reach their goals. Although the NDIS aims to provide support that is deemed “reasonable and necessary” the NDIS won’t provide everything, and people with disability may still need the generous support from charitable organisations. As an injured rugby player, I greatly appreciate the ongoing support and assistance given by Hearts in Union, its Directors and Ambassadors, as well as the Australian Rugby Union, that have provided me with a variety of much-needed items that have enhanced my quality of life.
After acquiring a spinal cord injury many years ago resulting in quadriplegia, I have needed to advocate to address various issues that are negatively impacting on the quality of lifeof people with a spinal cord injury (and people with physical disability in general). As bad attitudes towards people with disability can be the cause of many other barriers, I wanted my image to portray the ‘domino effect’ of removing or changing bad attitudes which can lead to removing discrimination, inequity and barriers etc.