VVRS pointed me in the right direction
An accidental set-back
I was delivering my motorbike to the railway station because I was about to go on a posting from Brisbane to Sydney…but I never made it to the railway station. I woke up in the hospital in Brisbane 3 days later. I don’t remember a thing. I remember riding towards the station but I don’t remember stopping at the intersection, or taking off. My sons at the time were very young – one and three years old. I died three times that day both at the accident and at the hospital.
A few days after I woke up there was a guy next to me in the hospital bed and we got talking. He had the exact same accident I did but he was paralysed from the waist down, so I can’t complain. There were a lot of people in that hospital a lot worse off than me and I think it’s a case of where you have got to accept the cards that are dealt to you. If you can do that, you’ll go forward.
The motorbike accident affected my whole life really, because there were a lot of things that I couldn’t do. My friends have accepted it and I’ve moved forward. My wife has been my pillar. She knows what I’ve gone through, and she has been great. Family support is one of the main things that helps you through difficult times.
20 years of service
When I joined the Royal Australian Army on 30 January 1973, my first job was in infantry. I completed my 20 years of service in January 1993 as the Chief Clerk of DSU (District Support Unit) in Liverpool. At the time of my discharge, I was being posted to Melbourne from Sydney and, having two young kids in high school, I didn’t want to move to Melbourne.
Where to next?
It took a little while to accept in my brain that I was a civilian. After 20 years in uniform, for the first couple of weeks after I left the Army I’d get in the car to go somewhere and I would automatically start driving to work. I realised that I was in cruise control, so it took me a little while to adjust. I still miss it to this day, you miss the comradeship. That’s the biggest thing; the mateship.
Getting the right support
At the time I got out of the Army there was nothing in terms of rehabilitation. Later on when I spoke with someone about the Veterans’ Vocational Rehabilitation Scheme (VVRS), I realised that it was available to me and I applied. VVRS helped point me in the right direction, advising me how I should go about things in order to return to work and assisting me with what I needed to do. They helped me do a resume, prepared me for interviews and assisted me greatly with getting my job. VVRS is definitely a good idea, I just wish I found out about it sooner.
Returning to work
I now work full-time in Security at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra. By going back into the workforce, I’m meeting a lot more people. For instance, working at the AIS allows me to interact with a lot of people, in particular many sports people. I’m a big football fan and a lot of ex-Socerroos come through for coaching courses and the like, so getting to meet heroes of mine is also a great perk of the job. It’s great getting out and meeting people, not just sport stars, but the people I get to talk with everyday.
When I went to do the Security Licence course the instructor asked if anybody had any experience with radio procedure. Myself and another guy put our hands up and the instructor asked where we learned that experience and we both said in the Military. The instructor said he’d get us to take two groups and show them procedure, so I actually got to use my Army experience with radio procedure and trained other staff which was a good experience.
Other things I have taken with me is the pedantic nature of military life where you make sure things are done. I believe that when you have procedures in place you should do things as they are intended to be done. I’m also the only person who wears a tie to work. I know it’s an optional part of the uniform but to me it looks a lot more professional and, whether you like it or not, people are judging you by the way you present yourself. That is why I make sure I’m well dressed and courteous.
If I can help one or two people to get where I am today I’ll be happy because it really has given me another lease of life. I didn’t realise how much it was going to change my life by doing it. I’m a lot happier now within myself. I just feel lighter, I feel better and I don’t go to the doctor as much as I used to. I used to suffer from migraines a lot before I started work and I thought I would suffer them more when I went back to work but I’m finding they are actually less frequent now.
I’ve lived in quite a few places but when both my sons moved to Canberra, my wife and I decided we wanted to be with the grandkids so we moved to Canberra. It’s certainly a new lease of life for me. The grandkids know Poppy can’t chase them around but I can still kick a football with them occasionally which is fun. I’m very thankful for that.
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