Peer & Family Support Team
Compassionate support when you need it most
Peer and Family Support Manager
Rob became an incomplete T1-T5 paraplegic after the surgical removal of a spinal cord tumour in 2008. Through sheer determination (and lots and lots of physiotherapy), he was able to get back on his feet and, with the aid of electronic orthotics and a pair of crutches, he is now able to stand and walk again.
He has a passion for swimming and aims to get in the water every week, in between driving his kids to and from school and enjoying lots of other typical fatherly duties.
Rob leads the Peer and Family Support team, nationally, and sees his role as a way to give back after his rehabilitation; to thank those who helped him during his recovery.
He loves Star Wars and travelling. In the last few years he’s travelled around the USA, most recently visiting Hawaii.
Team Leader – New South Wales
Dan sustained his injury in 2008 after a fall left him a C5/6 quadriplegic. He’s been a key part of the SCIA Peer Support team since 2013, offering his honest and sincere wealth of knowledge to a great many patients, helping them find a new way forward.
Dan is a keen member of the NSW GIO Gladiators Wheelchair rugby team, and has a strong passion for all sports, live music and traveling the world.
Every week you can catch Dan and his trusty sidekick and assistance dog, Charlie, as they do the rounds of many of Sydney’s spinal wards.
New South Wales
In 2000, Jess sustained an incomplete C6-T3 walking quad injury after a motor vehicle accident with her sister.
Since her injury, Jess has become a silver medallist whilst competing for the Australia Junior World Championships for wheelchair basketball. She’s also enjoyed playing at senior level.
Jess loves to travel, and recently spent a month in Los Angeles, enjoying a Disneyland and California adventure which included a visit to Universal Studios.
On weekends, Jess loves having brunch in one of the many hipster coffee shops in her neighbourhood and playing basketball with an LGBT-friendly stand up crew!
New South Wales
Branka sustained a T10 incomplete SCI as a pillion passenger on a motorbike more than 25 years ago. Not letting it stop her one bit, immediately after her injury Branka graduated from a Bachelor of Commerce and later completed a Graduate Diploma in Counselling. Before commencing work with SCIA, she gained valuable experience working in SCI prevention, as well as dealing with “at risk” youth through her work in health services.
Branka has a real passion for sport and was delighted to be a part of the Australian side during the World Team Cup Champions in 1999. She also won a silver medal in the women’s double tennis at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics.
Her greatest joy has been becoming a mother to young Xavier, now aged five and a half.
New South Wales
Ben sustained his SCI from a car accident in 2013, leaving him a C6 complete quadriplegic. He grew up and lives on the Central Coast, NSW.
He appreciated the help that the Peer Support team gave him while in rehab. They helped him regain his independence and introduced him to the sport of Wheelchair Rugby. Their work inspired him to go into public speaking and facilitation work for programs at hospitals and schools. As Ben did this, he was also training hard at rugby and earnt a spot on the NSW Gladiators team in 2016. The following year, he was elevated to the Australian Steelers squad. He got a taste for the game at a national level, which allowed him to do a lot of domestic and international travel, which he enjoyed.
After a year on the national squad, he was put back to the state level but continued to develop for NSW. In the next couple of years, Ben started to explore different hobbies, including adapted surfing, swimming and going to live music/sports events. These hobbies kept him busy while doing public speaking and training. After returning from a month-long USA trip with friends in 2019, Ben was aware of a spot available for application to join the Peer Support team. He jumped at the opportunity as he knew it would be a very fulfilling role and remembered how much they helped him in the past.
Ben has loved it since starting and continues to diversify his role by taking on new responsibilities, such as becoming a Facilitator of The Engage program. He still plays rugby for NSW and was recently elevated to the Australian Development squad. He also enjoys going to the gym, playing the electronic drums, walking his assistant dog Lucy, watching NRL/NFL/UFC and travelling.
New South Wales
Jason sustained an incomplete T12 injury in 2001 from an MVA. At the time, he was the sole parent to his 10-year-old daughter. She has grown into a successful businesswoman and gifted Jason with two gorgeous granddaughters.
Jason provides Peer and Family Support throughout the Sydney-based Spinal Injury Units, Newcastle and Hunter regions. He finds it rewarding to help clients reach their goals and encourages them to become as independent as possible, drawing from his lived experience.
In his spare time, he enjoys the time with his family and participating in the Sailability program. Jason also loves fishing, rugby league and cricket.
New South Wales
In 2016, Kate sustained multiple injuries when the horse she was riding at Warwick Farm was hit head-on by a rider-less horse, ending her decade long career in horse racing.
Kate’s own experiences enable her to give so much back to clients and she knows only too well what it feels like to be told “you will never walk again.”
She says that being part of the team and working for SCIA at the Royal Rehab hospital is extremely rewarding.
“I work hard to try to ensure that no one else ever feels the despair that I felt in those early days. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my experiences with the people who are scared of what is ahead & show them that life can still be great.”
Australian Capital Territory
Patrick is our Community Peer and Family Support Team Leader in Canberra.
His experience with spinal cord injury is slightly different to the other members of the Peer and Family Support Team. He was born with Spina Bifida, a neural tube defect, 29 years ago, which presents as a L4-L5 incomplete paraplegic injury, and has been using a manual wheelchair full time for 18 years.
He has a passion for assistive technology and helping people with a disability, and prior to joining SCIA he worked for five years in the AT industry in Canberra as a scripted product specialist. He has future plans to study Occupational Therapy to further this passion.
He was born and raised in Canberra, and thinks that it’s the best city in the world. He loves spending time taking his dog Missy for a walk around the leafy suburbs, visiting cafés, pubs and restaurants with friends, and particularly loves pub trivia!
Patrick is a diehard Sydney Swans supporter and loves an eclectic range of music. His favourite artists are Bruce Springsteen, who he’s seen live four times, Hank Williams (Trivia fact: Hank also had spina bifida), and The Dropkick Murphys, but you’ll just as easily find him listening to classical music or Lady Gaga.
As a result of an accident at the beach in October 2013, I sustained a C4 spinal cord injury. The following 12 months I spent in the hospital, doing my acute rehab, and once I was 18, I received funding to come home. In the few years following, my goal was to understand my body better and build my physical strength and independence, which I did through SCIA’s NeuroMoves program.
In that period, when I was coming back into society, I was hanging out with my friends who had started uni and started working. I was doing little with myself outside of the structure I gave myself to NeuroMoves. I had no outlets for my energy, apart from spending much time with my friends and watching many sports and TV shows.
When I was offered the position now to join SCIA, helping out with the Choices program and with peer support, I jumped at the opportunity. It’s an incredible opportunity to support people who have similar experiences to me in the early days of a spinal cord injury, as I was supported by the Peer Support Team. Not only could I add value to the lives of the people around me who were going through stages I’d been through, but it also added a structure to my life that I hadn’t had in years.
Gaining meaningful employment has added vast amounts of benefits to my life. I wake up and can fill my day with purposeful activities. And I have responsibilities such as team meetings and meetings with clients, which I have to structure my life around. I have obligations and KPIs to meet, which affect the other staff around me, making me liable for other people’s performances. This interdependence has allowed me to grow as a person.
As well as all this, it has given me renewed confidence and ambition, which I did not have before employment with SCIA. With this confidence, I have taken it upon myself to do tertiary education. I am doing a diploma in counselling, which will maximize my abilities within my role of peer support. The ambition results from the self-confidence from being employed and confidence instilled in me by the management and fellow employees in SCIA.
Hello, my name is Anne, and I’m one of the Peer and Family Support Coordinators in Perth, WA.
I was very heavily into my Physical fitness, having been an avid road cyclist for a few yrs. I was training for the Half Ironman Triathlon in 2007 when I had a bike accident resulting in a C6/7 Tetraplegia. I spent the required six mths in Rehab in Perth, learning how to adjust to this new life change.
I was determined not to leave behind my enjoyment of physical exercise and searched on the website for places I could attend. NeuroMoves, the Physical Therapy program brought to Australia by David Prast at SCIA, had been established in Sydney and was opening up its first Therapy program in Perth. I booked in and was ready to go!
10 yrs later, I haven’t looked back. I’ve also participated in a few Neurophysical research studies here in Perth. SCIA decided to obtain a home in Perth for people requiring STA-accessible accommodation. I help to maintain the home and provide any Peer Support requirements of the clients staying at the property. An advantageous position, offering lived experience assistance to those in need.
I travelled to Israel, Germany and Switzerland over the yrs visiting family and enjoying all the sights that are accessible. I enjoy movies at the cinemas or streaming a good detective series from Scandinavia on TV. I also love to eat out with my husband and find new places to visit in Perth. And I have a Border Collie that keeps me busy, requiring her attention more often than not.