Thursday May 24, 2018, was an exciting evening for Sydneysiders, who either live with disability or require support, with the launch of Alliance Community. Held at the Mercure Sydney hotel, the event kicked-off with a speech from Sue Cudmore, National Manager, highlighting Alliance Community’s holistic approach to community support followed by famous Australian DJ, Tom ‘Hookie’ Nash.
The launch showstopper, undoubtedly, was guest speaker Tom ‘Hookie’ Nash. Tom is all too familiar with the need for community support services after losing all four limbs, one kidney, half of his liver, and suffering scarring to over 80% of his body after contracting meningococcal septicaemia in 2001. Tom took life head-on after his trauma; he went back to university, finished his degree, and became one of Australia’s most recognised internationally touring DJs.
With confidence Tom picked up the microphone with the hook of his artificial hand and, in his straightforward and tongue-in-cheek manner, told stories of frank determination and how he got to understanding the social constructs that surround people living with disability.
“I always admire kids' approach to disabled people... they always come up to me and, with no filter, ask if I’m a pirate or what’s happened. But, what annoys me isn’t the kids asking what’s happened, it’s the parents saying ‘leave him alone, don’t ask the man that, you shouldn’t ask people what’s happened to them.’ It made me think, what’s wrong with enquiry? Since when did it become so taboo to ask what’s happened to someone?”
Tom highlighted the still prevalent and unspoken communication divide between people living with disability and those who don’t. “When Americans approach me they nearly always assume I’m a VET— I'm never sure whether to disappoint them with my boring non-militant disease story or not.”
Tom’s stories, interwoven with anecdotes and quips, at first seemed almost irreverent. He and a group of fellow patients, during their long stint in rehabilitation, got drunk together and participated in humours and harmless misdemeanours, and had experiences that saw their disabilities turn into unique abilities...
“I learnt how to problem solve and use lateral thinking in ways that would help me out in my career later down the track. I started to see the advantages in my, and others, disabilities. One guy was able to ram down a door [that was stuck] with his wheelchair…I moved broken glass with my prosthetic feet so that others wouldn’t get injured when they were barefoot.
“The most important part of your day isn't how you get dressed in the morning or whether you need someone to help you do that— it's what you achieve once you're dressed.”
Tom’s stories were both hilarious and tender and a long way from irreverent. They encouraged people to think and perceive things differently and urged those who face adversity, or require support, to turn it into a uniqueness that doesn’t clearly define their physical or mental boundaries.
If you are interested in hearing about the support Alliance Community can offer you or a loved one, or if you are interested in becoming a Support Star, contact one of our local staff today on 1300 769 155.