From an early age, Michael’s goal in life was to never be unemployed and to always be able to provide for his family. A firm believer in continuous education, Michael spent many years of his life investing in his personal learning and development.
He fought to be the top of his field in whatever he set his mind to and his qualifications allowed him to travel extensively, whilst providing a good quality of life for those who were closest to him.
Michael had the world at his feet, until one moment changed his life forever. As Michael was commuting to work on his motorcycle one morning, a truck pulled out in front of him and he went right into the side of it. Michael describes the accident as “a disaster” with the impact crushing his “hands, arms, legs, shoulders, knees, feet and toes.” The next four years would see Michael in the fight of his life. During this period, Michael was in and out of hospital, and as he recalls had “well over 50 general anesthetic surgeries” to put him back together again.
“At the time, there was no NDIS, there was nothing like that. I went to the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Centre to see if they would help me get better so I could be employable again, but they refused to help me because there was ongoing surgery. So, their stance was come back and see us when the surgeries are finished, and the surgery is still going on today. That was in 1999.”
Michael continued to explore avenues to become employable again, but with multiple surgeon reports stating ‘home duties only’, he had no luck in finding a job provider to help him. After exhausting all options, Michael took it upon himself to find a job, on his own. Despite receiving multiple interviews, Michael couldn’t pass any of the medical exams, which put him back at square one. The next few years would see Michael’s family breaking down, and despite receiving a payout from the Government, his “lawyers and Centrelink ended up taking almost half of it”. After the payout, Michael was put on a 10 year preclusion period which prevented him from claiming any expenses or benefits through the government, which complicated matters further, as he had two children to raise.
“I managed to scrape through with only a few hundred dollars left to my name. By the end of the ten year period, I had nothing left. I went nowhere. I did nothing. I missed out on a lot of things and my mental health declined dramatically. I went to many places seeking help, but couldn’t get any assistance, as there was no funding.”
“Fortunately, the NDIS came on the scene, and I distinctly remember Julia Gillard standing up and saying “No Australian should have to live a lesser quality of life because of a disability, no matter how they acquired that disability” and I was actually applauding her, that was an amazing statement for me. It took some time to get it up and running, and there were a lot of teething problems as you could well imagine and the reason being that you cannot put disabled people in categories… as every person has a separate disability from the next person.”
Prior to moving his NDIS package to Rural Lifestyle Options Australia, Michael had trialed two other NDIS providers, but felt they couldn’t offer him the “choice and control” the NDIS had promised. “They would change carers almost every single day. Nobody cares about your dignity; they just don’t worry about it. Through no fault of your own, you have lost control of your life. So, eventually I bailed from them and went to RLOA. They were actually quite amazing to begin with. I couldn’t believe the speed at which they worked at. I got to see Vicki and it took her two days to organise everything. I was in tears; I was just stunned.”
“There have been a few carers I’ve had which have just been astounding… Knock, knock, knock on the door and the first thing he does is give you a massive smile. He greets you and shakes your hand before asking “What would you like to do first? What would you like to do today? What can I help you with?””
Over the course of Michael’s journey, he has stayed true to his goal of continuous education. Recently, Michael completed his studies to become a Justice of the Peace and is looking forward to working in practice to give back to the local community.
For the past five years, Michael has been the Manager of the Body Corporate Committee, in the building in which he resides. These days, Michael’s fight looks much different, as he fights to achieve the best outcomes for the residents in his complex. I’ve made massive changes. All for the better. I’ve managed to drop our expenditure by over $50,000 a year. I’m delighted with that. And as a result of this, the body corporate fees have never risen.”
Change has always been welcomed by Michael, who has overcome a lot of adversity in his life. “People are so frightened of change. Nothing… Nothing… can improve unless you embrace change. Change needs to be embraced. Change is the most amazing thing you can find. Everybody can benefit from change.”
As an organisation, we are proud to support Michael in achieving his goals, and hope he continues to go from strength to strength. Today, Michael has rediscovered love. He has an “incredible relationship with his two children” and is still very passionate about personal learning and development.
“I keep on putting myself in the deep end, and just keep learning.”
Rural Lifestyle Options Australia offer our sincere gratitude to Michael for taking the time to share his story.