Travelling the world with a wheelchair (Part 2)

By Julie Halvorsen

Travelling the world with a wheelchair has equipped my husband, Anders, and me with more resilience and resourcefulness than I thought possible. I previously wrote of our travel journeys through the years; however, our trip to Norway in 2019 was the most memorable and deserved a tale of its own.

What can go wrong when we ask all the questions, obtain photos of roll-in showers and ensure all bookings confirmed are accessible? Well, as it turns out, quite a bit!

We began our journey in Gold Coast Airport with the discovery that the allotted seats on our first flight had been changed. We didn’t mind being seated apart, especially as I find myself next to an Instagram adventurer who regales me with stories of remote and unpronounceable destinations.

Once in Sydney, the transfer from Domestic to International is relatively uneventful, apart from an ugly collision with my foot, Anders’ smart-drive and the shuttle ramp. Once we arrive at the gate, however, we’re told that our booking has changed as Anders can ‘apparently’ walk to his seat, so a lift is not booked, nor available! Eventually, staff find a catering lift, boarding us last instead of first.

Bound for Hong Kong, we soon discover that the opening into the seat module provides an unexpected challenge for Anders' tall frame. With the assistance of extra staff, myself, my bruised foot and an audience of passengers, we pull and push until my husband is finally seated, relieved our inflight plan for toileting does not involve having to get him in and out of the module!

To our delight, customs and immigration assistance at all airports is excellent, even if the 'pat downs' for Anders are thorough and a tad intimate at times. After a rather cramped drive to our accommodation, which includes me nursing our big suitcase and one of the wheels after our failed efforts or find a wheelchair taxi, we’re told the cabbie only takes cash—HK currency. In my haste to get to the hotel reception for help, I jam my finger so badly assembling the wheelchair that I need help to get it out. Paying the cabbie, we make it to the room to find, you guessed it, a bath! No roll-in shower as promised.

Exhaustion, jet lag and pain in my foot and finger hit me at once, and I let myself cry. By morning, after a sleep, we form a plan together. He will stay on the toilet, and I will reach with the shower hose to shower him. It will not be the only time on the trip we resort to this, and many towels will be used to stop flooding rooms!

After a 2 day stopover, we are booked to fly to Oslo via Copenhagen. SAS, our carrier, is rumoured to be experiencing a pilot strike, but we’re assured our flight is still scheduled and on time. However, arriving at the departure counter, the news is very different. The flight is indeed cancelled, and we will be put up at the Airport Hotel as many nights necessary until resolved. Our real nightmare in HK has only just begun.

The room is weird; we face another shower on the toilet, and carefully planned bowel routines need to be reassessed; countless calls to our travel agent are made, racing to secure another carrier. All our carefully tailored travel plans are in jeopardy, including our passage on a coastal voyage from the north of Norway. The drama of negotiating alternative flights with a wheelchair is, seemingly, a complication a new carrier does not want to deal with. We seriously consider abandoning the trip and flying home!

Miraculously, when all seems lost, out of nowhere comes the best news. An SAS plane is in HK having repairs, and a crew will come from Copenhagen to fly it. After hours of negotiating, we are on our way through an almost deserted HK airport to board the repaired plane. There were no frills on this plane: No cabin service, horrid pre-prepared sandwiches, no genuine personal care, A Roho that swells up (memo to self, let some air out the next time), and a flight that will terminate in Copenhagen, but we are finally on our way! Anders has found seats to Oslo from Copenhagen at an exorbitant cost with a rival airline. With EU airport assistance, we make it just in time, arriving finally in Oslo where we stay a night near the airport where yet another unusable stupid shower set up awaits.

Early the following day, we board a wheelchair accessible bus to the airport for our flight to Kirkenes, Northern Norway. We are exhausted but entranced, seeing the snow-capped peaks from the air. When we land, Anders is unloaded the old-fashioned way, and together with family, we hire a car to spend an afternoon exploring this town and surroundings close to the Russian Border.

Although it’s spring, a massive snowstorm rolls in, and we suddenly find ourselves in a winter wonderland! Norway does not disappoint, and our senses are bombarded with the endless beauty of the coastline and the isolation of small Arctic villages as we cruise for the next six days. In Bergen, we hire a Volvo wagon, and I once again find a new type of “brave” as we negotiate claustrophobic tunnels through snow-capped mountains and cruise along fjords and through quaint towns towards Arendal, the birthplace of Anders' father.

Spring is bursting forth. Flower boxes, bright coloured houses and ancient churches are all presenting a photographic smorgasbord. The warmth of the extended Norwegian family enlarges our hearts, and we truly wonder at times how Anders' grandparents could have left behind such a beautiful country to start their new life in Australia. Then again, it’s spring, not winter but the desire to return is strong. We just have to see those Northern Lights!

In case you missed it, you can check out Julie’s first article here.

Find your space with WheelEasy

Last month was Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which focuses on access and inclusion for people living with disabilities and impairments across the world.

This year, to celebrate GAAD, we profiled the incredible work of WheelEasy. In one mobile-friendly site, WheelEasy provides information on wheelchair-accessible locations around Sydney for you to view easily.

WheelEasy was born from the lived experience of husband-and-wife team Max Burt and Justine O’Brien after Max was involved in an accident that resulted in him living with paraplegia. At its core, the WheelEasy founders believe that leisure activities should be made available to everyone.

Hear from Max on what WheelEasy is and why it’s such an important project:

In our land of the 'fair go', you would think we all have a basic right of access. But many people are still isolated and excluded. They get stuck, give up, and stay in. And it's all their friends and family who get stuck too. Many of them can't lead the life together that lots of people take for granted.

The biggest problem for anyone with mobility needs isn't just physical access but a lack of access information.

The problem? At the moment, 9 out of 10 people find access information hard to find. It's scattered all over the web, it's buried on different sites, it's often not up-to-date, it can be inaccurate, or sometimes it's not available at all. Mobility impaired people and their families and friends can spend hours searching for the information they need, making many phone calls, just to go for a simple day or evening out together.

So we've built the WheelEasy Access Information web app. We launched it in Sydney and now plan to take it Australia wide.

It's a sort of Tripadvisor for access. A one-stop shop that brings together all access information into one place.

No more researching beforehand - it's designed for your mobile, so you can see what's nearby you, be spontaneous and change your mind, just like everyone else.

Most importantly, we'll grow the site by crowdsourcing the information, asking everyone to share what they find out about access, creating a community of people who share the same access needs.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day seems like the perfect time to begin growing our community.

Please share the news about our new web app with everyone you know who might find out helpful.

Head to the WheelEasy website and start researching what’s accessible near you today.

Dreams of an inclusive world

Last month, we introduced you to Shanon Bates, who founded Push the Limit, a program focused on spreading the message of inclusivity and social justice to as many young children and educators as possible. Shanon shared Part One of his story on how Push the Limit started, and today he shares Part Two. Read on to hear about Shanon’s ambitions and dreams for an inclusive world.

By Shanon Bates

Over the last four years, Push the limit has grown from the occasional daycare to something much more consistent. I talk to kids and educators about the topics of disability awareness, bullying, resilience, mental health and goal setting.

My ultimate goal is to lower the bullying rate for all kids in today’s society. I want these children to have friends who have disabilities so they all feel connected and part of a community.

The earlier you educate kids on disability, the more accepting they can become.

I wanted to intervene as early as possible to ensure no child went through what I went through.

So, I try to change their perception of disability. I’ll start by asking if they know what a disability is, which most don’t. Then, I’ll show them pictures of people living with different disabilities and ask questions like: Can a person in a wheelchair:

  • Play basketball
  • Go water skiing
  • Can they go snow skiing
  • Go swimming in the ocean. Just to name a few.

And I show them how a person living with a disability can all kinds of activities.

We then do some simulations together where I’ll put the children in scenarios where they get to experience what life is like for someone with a disability such as using blind folds & wheelchairs to simulate the type of impairment. They get to know the limitations of people with a disability, so they’re a bit more helpful towards someone living with a disability when they’re going through school. I find that they’re often quite responsive because it’s a physical activity.

One of the most important topics I talk about in Push the Limit is Accountability. You know, in my last article, I spoke a lot about being bullied as a child and how that severely impacted me growing up. The effects of bullying don’t just stop when you finish school; they can last a lifetime.

When I was 22, I was at the pub with some mates, and this guy walked up behind me; I didn’t even see him coming. He tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘I’m sorry’ and then kept walking. When I turned to look at him, I realised it was the ringleader of the bullies from primary school. He was the guy that had caused me so much grief, and there he was, in the same bar as me.

He said sorry, but at 22, I was angry, and I felt that I wanted some kind of revenge. I was bigger and stronger, and I tried to find him and show him that the tables had turned. But when I went looking for him, I couldn’t find him. In the end, It was meant to be.

No amount of physical hurt that I can give him will ever make up for what he did to me. He has to live with what he did to me every day. So, I’m glad that I didn’t find him that night because, knowing what I know today, I wouldn’t be any better than him. And I never want to put myself in that situation or be that person to someone.

They say as you get older, you get more mature. I don’t want kids going through life and regret what they did because of peer pressure. You can say sorry, but that will never erase the things that you do to someone else. If a child takes his or her life and you were a part of that bullying process, you have to live with that forever. And that’s what my bully has to live with every day. That, in my opinion, is worse than anything I could have done to him that night.

So, that’s why accountability in my presentation is so important. It’s tough for kids to understand, but we’re changing how we’re teaching and parenting children. I was speaking to these year 6’s not that long ago, and one weekend I saw one of the young girls from the class. She was nudging her parents and pointing me out. Her mum ended up pulling me aside and chatting with me. She said that her daughter had come home and spoke so highly of my presentation, and she’d never done that about any other presentation before.

She said that I had given this young girl the confidence to go home and talk to her parents about issues that she had been having at school, a lot of which they hadn’t known about. This mum looked at me, and she told me that I had potentially saved her daughter’s life. I still get emotional now whenever I talk about it because I know how hard it must have been for that girl. I resonate back to when I was in school, and I hate to think of anyone else going through anything like that. But for me, I had the physical presence of bruises and whatnot that made my situation well known. Living in a digital age, it can be difficult to see, physically, the results of bullying.

I wish her and her daughter the very best, and I’m so glad that she had the confidence to speak up. I didn’t save her life; she saved her own because she had the confidence to say something. It was a really powerful moment. I felt that I had come full circle since I was her age in school, being pushed out of my chair & physically harmed and it became so obvious why I do what I do and why I started Push the Limit.

I honestly want to work on Push the Limit forever; I want it to become bigger than anything I could have ever imagine.

For inquiries about Push the Limit, please reach out to Shanon through or through his website

If you don’t try, you’ll never know

In 2015, Shanon Bates founded a program called Push the Limit. His program is focused on spreading the message of inclusivity and social justice to as many young children and educators as possible. Shanon is an incredibly driven and inspiring person, and today he shares Part One of his story on how Push the Limit started.

By Shanon Bates

To understand where ‘Push the limit’ came from, I think it’s essential to go back to my personal story.

I was born in 1977 with Spina Bifida and was initially paralysed from the neck down. The doctors sat my parent’s down and told them there was a 95 percent chance I wouldn’t survive the day. My parents were given two options: operate in an attempt to increase my quality of life, or don’t operate and let nature take its course. With the chance of survival the same, my parents chose to operate.

My parents have always said: ‘If we don’t try, we’ll never know’.

That surgery was a success, because 95 operations later, here I am. Thanks to that operation and all of my rehab, I was able to gather more movement and walk with the help of callipers & crutches for the first ten years of my life.

It’s important to note that my parents never raised me as a child with a disability. They always accepted that I had a disability but didn’t ever wrap me in cotton wool. For this reason, they enrolled me in the local soccer club, where I played along with able-bodied kids my age. I loved it. I played a season, and when I came back to re-enrol the following year, the St. George Federation president told me I had been barred from the club. Apparently, the other parents had thought that their kids were unsafe on the field with me because of my crutches. I was only six. After that, I turned to wheelchair racing.

When I was in year 4, my parents decided to move me to a mainstream school and out of the school for children with disabilities. I’ll be honest; it was quite a struggle but l knew it was a positive move. I was the only child with a disability within the school, and I was a clear outcast. During my first year, the kids didn’t pay much attention to me.

Then the bullying started.

As time went on, some kids started to abuse me physically. The bullying got worse and worse, to the point where my parents wanted to take me out. I was adamant, however, that I would stick it out at this school. I remember talking to them and saying, ‘No, mum, we’ve come this far. Where else am I going to go?’

I never wanted to be seen as that person with a disability.

If I had left my primary school, I would have just gone back to the school for kids with a disability. My parents fought tooth and nail to give me my education, and I didn’t want to let these bullies dictate what kind of life I would lead.

I’m not saying it was easy. There was a time where I was gang-bashed and another when my wheelchair was thrown into oncoming traffic. But through it all, I tried to think of my parents.

You see, when I was born, my parents could have put me in the corner and let me pass with natural causes, or they could fight. They fought. They fought for me, and now I fight for me. I’m forever grateful for the decision they made.

So, I stuck it out until high school. That was probably the best move of my life; my high school years were the best of my life as a student. I started to create this new identity for myself. I had represented Australia in wheelchair racing, and kids in the school were beginning to see my abilities and not my disabilities.

It was really nice to feel recognised, welcomed and accepted. 

Leaving school, however, and getting into the workforce was a little tough. I had this idea in the back of my mind my whole life:

How am I going to educate society if society never knows.

That was my thought process back then, so I focussed on getting jobs that made me visible. That’s why I loved hospitality so much. People would walk into wherever I was working and think, ‘here’s a guy; a security guard/ doorman/ concierge, checking me in or checking my ID, and he’s using a wheelchair.’

It was nice to be the face of a company. I felt that I was subtly changing people's perceptions of me and others with a disability just by being visible and doing my job. People don’t always expect someone in my situation to be in that kind of role.

In my last role at PWC, I inducted new employees and partners into the business. These incredibly high-powered people would come into PWC, and I was the one who was talking about our structure, our vision, our inclusion model. It was really empowering to be in that role; hanging out with those partners and professionals gave me the power to work for myself.

This is basically where Push The Limit started full-time.

Be sure to read June's edition to discover Part Two of Shanon's journey. 

Meet Scott Hoare, a recent ParaQuad scholarship winner

This month we sat down with Scott Hoare, a ParaQuad member and one of this year’s scholarship winners. We spoke about Scott's studies and staying motivated through challenges. 

Can you tell me a little about what you’re studying at the moment and what your ParaQuad scholarship went towards?

Of course, so broadly, it’s going towards my bachelor of psychology. It’s a six-year degree split over three parts; there’s the undergrad, your honours and then your masters. I’m currently doing my final year of my undergrad, but I hope to continue my studies and eventually specialise in organisational psychology. This is essentially the psychology of the workplace and is applied in all sorts of situations, particularly in high-stress workplaces. Right now, I’m researching resilience in the military. 

What was it that drove you to look specifically into the military?

So, It all started from a class I took in my first year where one of my professors talked about a grant she’d received from the Australian Government to research resilience and organisational psychology within the military. I was really drawn to the high-stress, high-performance environment and ended up going to another one of her seminars in Canberra, at the Australian Defence Force Academy. It was phenomenal. I approached her and asked if I could be her research assistant; she said yes, and the rest is history. Last week, I was told that I’d be a co-author on my first paper, which is a huge deal.

That’s amazing; congratulations! How are you finding your study this year?

So, you’ve got to average a high distinction across your degree if you want to get into the Master’s program because it’s so competitive. This is something that the scholarship helped with because I’ve been able to work with a tutor to help me with my written work, which was an area I recognised I needed help in. She helped me understand how to write within psychology because it’s very specific, and I’ve been able to flip my grades around. Now my writing is one of my strongest points. You know, these academic hurdles are really high, and I don’t think I’d be at this point and co-authoring this paper if I couldn’t get that bit of help.

Yeah, I can imagine there would be a lot of pressure to keep up your grades while also working.

Yeah, and being a quadriplegic, you know, that takes a lot of effort every day. But I don’t feel the pressure that much because I don’t even see not achieving it as an option. It may sound strange, but I really just focus on what I need to do to get to where I want to be. And that’s how things like the tutor came about. The scholarship alleviated a lot of stress and opened a few doors for me. 

I’ve also just upgraded a lot of my technical equipment at home, which has been helpful. So, I have everything I need set up at home to write during lectures and meetings efficiently. It’s pretty exciting because I just got a microphone and a trackball mouse, so I can listen to my lectures in my headphones and talk into my microphone to take notes. Now, I don’t have to keep pausing the lecture to take my notes, and I can be much more efficient. Hopefully, I’ve got years of study ahead of me because I’m enjoying it so much, and I feel like I’ve found a great opportunity here.

How do you find motivation for all of your study? 

When you have an accident like I had, considering a fruitful life ahead of you can be difficult, and it’s easy to lose hope. It’s easy to imagine a life with many physical challenges, and it’s hard to think beyond that. So, every time I’m mentally challenged by an assignment or find something hard, I switch my thinking and then find it rewarding because I didn’t think I’d even have that again. 

This is what keeps me motivated; knowing that I’m continuously learning and growing. Also, my wife and I are trying to start a family, so it’s easier for me to stay motivated in my studies and work towards the life I want to lead. Things like this scholarship help take off that extra pressure and focus on doing what I need to do to succeed academically and chase the profession I want. 

Mothers in the spotlight

To celebrate Mother’s Day, we spoke to some of our incredible mothers who are members of ParaQuad. Read their stories of motherhood below. 

Simone Stanford:

Becoming a mum has really been a highlight in my life. I'm a c5/6 quadriplegic and, against strong advice from my spinal doctors, became pregnant with my daughter, Beth, in 1986, just six years after my injury. By the time she was only 12 months old, she'd learned to climb from the floor onto my lap like a little koala grabbing onto whatever she could to pull herself up while I just focused on not overbalancing or falling because I didn't want to discourage her. 

Now 34 years down the track, I'm blessed to have two little grandsons that my husband and I love to spend as much time with as we can. Whilst my eldest grandson initially always went to my husband asking to be lifted onto "Nannie's" lap, my second grandson has been like my daughter and is already starting to pull himself up onto my footplates, grabbing at my clothes and desperately trying to get up on his own. I absolutely love having them both on my lap for loves and cuddles, songs, and stories; it's the most precious time for me. They don't know any different than having Nannie in a wheelchair, and they don't see any of my limitations. 

I'm incredibly close to my daughter and very proud of the fabulous little mum she's now become. Still, I never thought I'd live long enough to experience being a grandmother, so I feel incredibly lucky and cherish this time. Parenting and grandparenting from a wheelchair have their challenges, but I'd go through them all again in a heartbeat. I'm now just hoping to be around long enough to see both my beautiful boys grow into gorgeous young men.

Chloe Kennedy:

Being a first-time mum in a wheelchair, I have no experience of what it’s like to have a baby as an able-bodied mum. In the beginning, I was so nervous; all those ‘new mum worries’ were overwhelming. I felt that I didn’t have the confidence that I think I would have felt if I weren’t using a wheelchair. 

At first, there were certain things that I told myself I couldn’t do. I asked for a lot of help, but looking back now, I don’t think I needed as much help as I was getting. I had family and friends regularly visiting to help me out, but then COVID came around, and those friends couldn’t be around me as much. So I had to learn, in that time, to be confident in myself as a mother. and I became incredibly resourceful. 

A few times, I was alone longer than I ever would have been if my family and friends could come over to help. And I just had to figure things out, and I became incredibly resourceful. 

For example, I got to a point where I wanted to join my daughter on the floor when she was playing instead of simply watching. So, I ended up pulling over the machine that helps transfer me into the bath, and I put it in the living room between the couch and some draws. Now, I could get up and down off the floor safely by myself and play with my daughter.

There were so many little things like that. I guess being a mum and living with a disability makes you think outside the box. I know that my daughter will grow up with a different outlook on disabilities. My daughter is nearly two, and she already understands so much. If we’re sitting on the couch and she wants to do something else, she’ll pat my wheelchair and call me over, like she’s telling me, ‘Mama, you have to get in your chair because you have to come and do this.’ She knows that I need that, and she’s so patient with me. 

It’s just love, unconditional love that they need. Someone said that to me in the beginning, and it really put everything into perspective. Sometimes I would get a little upset because I couldn’t change her nappy or bathe her or do things I wanted to. But really, she’s not going to remember who changed her nappy, she's going to remember who cuddled her at night, who kissed her every morning, and who said I love you every day. That’s one piece of advice that I carry with me every day and give to any new mum. 

Introducing our Female ambassadors and spokespeople

Earlier this year, we introduced our Ambassador program and profiled some of the men working with ParaQuad. This month, we’re excited to introduce women who have chosen to come on board and share our vision by participating in Q&A’s, live videos and interviews that will take you into their lives and share their incredible achievements.

Introducing our lineup:

Lynda Holt, ambassador:

My name is Lynda Holt, and I am a business owner, former Paralympian (who is currently making a comeback in shot put and discus), a disability advocate and a massive goal setter!

Just over a year ago, I decided to come out of my sporting retirement and get back on the athletics circuit with the dream to represent Australia again at either another Paralympics, World Championships, or Commonwealth Games.  It will take a lot of training and commitment, but I love my sports and enjoy every step I need to take to get to where I need to be.  Additional to my sporting goals, I run my own NDIS business, Choice Consultancy, supporting other people living with a disability in the community, which I love to do.

Working with Paraquad will allow me to help people living with SCI, like myself, know that they can set their own goals and make changes to their own lives. Just because we live with a disability does not mean we cannot contribute to society or create our best life!

Riana Head-Toussant, spokesperson: 

My name is Riana Head-Toussaint, and I am a disabled, interdisciplinary artist who uses a manual wheelchair for mobility. When I say ‘interdisciplinary’, I mean that the work I make often crosses traditional artform boundaries and involves using skills and knowledge from a range of different practice areas. I employ choreography, performance, video, sound design, and immersive installation design to create works (for online and offline spaces) that interrogate entrenched systems, structures and ways of thinking; and advocate for social change. The ongoing concerns across my works are agency, representation, the limits of empathy, and how these impact people across different marginalised intersections.

I am currently preparing for a new new performance work, currently titled ‘Animate Loading’. In this work, a group of people with vastly differently politicised bodies and movement languages are dropped into a location (eg. a car park), and explore, traverse and interact with it. Their movement brings to light the hidden conditions, assumptions and expectations that often hide within public spaces and within the minds of audiences.

I am hoping to have some fellow people with SCI perform in this work! We have so much to offer movement-wise, be it in our wheelchairs, on crutches, etc; and the skills we have around creatively navigating and interacting with public space are so valuable in a choreographic context. I’ll be sharing some info soon on some upcoming workshops I’m running to introduce people to my choreographic style, and would love to see some of you there! Making sure everything is as accessible and comfortable as possible is really important to me, and that will be a core part of the process.

In terms of other info about me, I’m also a qualified solicitor, and so I do a lot of legally-underpinned advocacy work around making arts and cultural spaces more accessible to disabled folks. I also DJ, curate arts events and am about to start radio presenter training at FBi 94.5.

Remembering Fred Kaad

Header photo courtesy Kaad family album

This month, as we approach ANZAC Day, we wanted to take some time to celebrate one of our lifetime members and personal heroes, Fred Kaad. On February 9 this year, we were saddened to hear of Fred’s passing. Aged 100, Fred was a friend to many and an inspiration to all. We’d like to remember Fred by sharing some of his most remarkable achievements over his life.

When he was only 19, Fred, like many Australians, was suddenly faced with the prospect of fighting in a World War. After his parents refused to sign the papers allowing him to be posted overseas, Fred joined the Citizen Military Forces (CMF), known now as the Australian Army Reserve.

After serving two years, Fred was medically discharged from the CMF following a concussion. Bearing his trademark determination and confidence, Fred soon enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), not disclosing his history with the CMF or the fact he’d been discharged medically unfit.

Not long into his time with the AIF, Fred was sent to Papua New Guinea (PNG), where he served the remainder of WWII predominantly as a lieutenant, sparking a long time love and association with the country.

The Japanese laid down their arms on the 13th of September 1945, and six months later, the Army released Fred to return to civilian life.

The war was over, but by now, Papua New Guinea was in Fred’s blood.

Three weeks after being released from the army, not wanting to leave a country that had become his home, Fred became a Patrol Officer in the PNG Administration. He was promoted, only one month later, to District Labour Officer in Samarai.

It was here that Fred met June Grosvenor, the love of his life. The two married in Sydney in 1948 before returning to their lives in Papa New Guinea.

The following 15 years saw Fred work diligently across PNG, becoming a District Commissioner and helping to create the foundations for a future nation. In 1962, Fred was appointed Secretary to the Select Committee on Political Development in PNG. In 1964, as a result of the Committee’s report that Fred wrote, PNG gained universal suffrage, followed by the House of Assembly of Papua New Guinea. On Independence, the House of Assembly became the Papua New Guinea Parliament.

In 1963, Fred was appointed Executive Officer for the Commission on Higher Education, where he wrote the Commissions report, which ultimately lead to the establishment of the University of Papua New Guinea in 1965.

In addition to his administrative duties, Fred involved himself strongly in developing sporting bodies. He had been a schoolboy athletics champion, was elected president of the Amateur Athletic Union of PNG and, in 1961, represented PNG at a meeting in Noumea which led to the inauguration of the South Pacific Games. The games have been held every four years since 1964. In 1962 he captained the PNG athletics team at the British Empire Commonwealth Games in Perth.

In 1964, Fred was living in Papua New Guinea when his life changed forever.

Fred was involved in a plane crash in the Ramu Valley. Ray Jaensch, the pilot, didn’t survive, and Fred suffered extensive burns and damage to his spinal cord, leaving him with the effects of the paraplegia he would live with throughout his life.

Fred also had the complication of hyperesthesia, a strange syndrome affecting the tactile sensitivity of his upper legs extending down to his knees, so that for the rest of his life, he experienced severe pain when his knees were touched, even my trousers or a breeze. But despite this bizarre pain, he retained his gregarious, generous and irrepressible nature.

Forever the motivator, Fred gave a speech in Canberra not long after his accident where he declared: 

‘One day, I will get back as a District Commissioner. I am like MacArthur. I shall return.’

While in rehab, Fred commenced postgraduate study by correspondence with the University of Queensland. He later continued his study at the University of New England, where he completed his final year of a master’s degree, at the age of 51, as a live-in student with the young undergraduates. He was the first student permanently in a wheelchair to study and live for a full academic year in a university college.

Courtesy Kaad family album

In 1980, nearly 20 years after the plane crash, on the PNG’s Government’s recommendation, the Queen made Fred an Officer of the Order of the British Empire ‘for public service and services to the training of Papua New Guineans’, service that was ongoing after the crash. Remarkably, in the same year, he was made a fellow of the Australian College of Education for his services to education in Australia. These honours speak to his determination and strength of character.

All his life, he was involved in the community

Fred worked with sporting organisations in PNG, disability organisations and had a long history with the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia (PNGAA). His association with ParaQuad NSW was also very long-standing. Fred served on the Board from 1966 - 1988, as a Director and for many years as Vice President. Two highlights of his work with ParaQuad were fundraising for Ferguson Lodge, the first purpose-building accommodation for people with spinal cord injury in NSW, and the introduction of the Mobility Allowance in 1983. He was also a keen member of the Ferguson Lodge Fishing Club and would always look forward to joining the residents on day trips to accessible fishing sites.

Courtesy Kaad family album

ParaQuad NSW, the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia, Sydney High School Old Boys Union, and the Australian College of Education, awarded Fred with lifetime memberships. However, after all his success, it was perhaps the year 2000 which stood out most for him. Not only did the Governor-General award Fred the Australian Sports Medal, but Fred was selected to be a Paralympic Games torchbearer to carry the flame in a relay from a ceremony at Parliament House. On his segment of the relay, after being handed the torch (and a big kiss) by Ann Saunders, television journalist ad Seven Network news presenter, he was ‘ecstatic with happiness and as proud as punch’ as he carried the torch high above his head.

We look back on Fred’s life with pride and amazement. Fred’s enthusiasm, happiness and encouragement were contagious to all who met and knew him. Fred used his 100 years to great effect for the benefit of those around him and beyond. It was not without personal hardship and tragedy, but it was a life of remarkable achievement and contribution.

ParaQuad’s Telehealth - Quick and convenient

Last year saw an unprecedented rise in medical consultations over virtual platforms, also known as Telehealth. Increasingly, health services have embraced Telehealth as a standard way to conduct appointments without requiring face to face consultations. Kylie Wicks, General Manager of Clinical Services, says that while face-to-face consultations will always have a place, Telehealth appointments are here to stay.

What are your ambitions for ParaQuad’s Telehealth?

I believe Telehealth has excellent potential for the future and particularly for those who have difficulty travelling. For example, those living in regional areas or anyone whose access to clinics is limited. Our participants can get the same service, advice, and care without having to leave their home.

I see ParaQuad’s Telehealth as an option that will work in tandem with face-to-face consultations, providing our participants with the most comprehensive care possible.

What are the benefits of Telehealth, and what makes Telehealth at ParaQuad unique?

A great aspect of ParaQuad’s Telehealth is that you can invite up to four other providers into the meeting at a time. Besides inviting other specialists, Telehealth is fantastic for family members or other clinicians to attend these appointments. It’s often challenging to coordinate several people to go to the same location together. Whereas, with Telehealth, it’s a lot easier; we can coordinate a half an hour spot and call everyone in together.

Another key benefit is the ability to follow up with a participant after an assessment. A typical consultation can take up to six hours, including report writing and travel. Whereas a virtual follow up, where we go over resources and questions, may only take an hour. This ultimately saves you time and money. We also find participants are often more comfortable being more open when they’re in their worn home. Telehealth is more convenient for our participants, but it also allows us to be more responsive to people, and that’s a significant advantage.

The quality of staff at ParaQuad is unique due to the experience of our clinicians, as is the add-on of our integrated relationship with BrightSky. We can discuss the products that will support the care and treatment within the service, and this also sets us apart from other alternatives; our service & products are all in one place for the participant.

Key benefits of Telehealth

  • You are able to maintain access and continuity during COVID-19.
  • The appointments are convenient and cost-effective.
  • You’re able to join appointments from the comfort of your home.
  • You can invite other specialists or family members to your appointments.
  • The convenience allows for more frequent appointments.
  • Every meeting is safe and secure. We teamed up with GPNow to guarantee a secure platform for all your Telehealth appointments.

Can you talk us through ParaQuad’s Telehealth and the range of appointments that can be covered?

Telehealth has become vital in our practice here at ParaQuad. You can receive many of our services, from initial nursing consultants to follow-ups with your occupational therapist (OT).

It is particularly important for follow-up appointments, especially to wound care and monitoring wound care progression, to determine if additional care or support is needed. Nothing beats visiting someone in their own home, but do I think we have to visit them there all the time? No, I don’t believe we do. It’s about what’s most convenient for the participant.

The staff at ParaQuad care about what we do, and we take pride in our contribution to those living with SCI and other related injuries every day. We’re proud of the work that we’re doing and the support we’re providing our members and the community.

What you need to set up a Telehealth appointment.

  1. Set up an appointment through our standard referral process. Call: 02 8741 5689 or email:
  2. We find the right clinician for the right participant and confirm days and time.
  3. We then work through all the funding.
  4. When it comes time for your appointment, you simply click through to your Telehealth service through the website:

Travelling the world with a wheelchair!

By Julie Halvorsen

Over five decades of living with my favourite para has involved the inevitable travel adventure. With it has come challenges that, while frustrating, strengthened our courage and perseverance.  As a note, this title is a teaser, given that we have only travelled overseas single digit times and certainly are still far from experiencing 'the world.' Still, even with travel being affected by the pandemic, we always dream of seeing more!! Travel has provided us with some hilarious moments and some injuries and certainly tested our resolve, causing us to work well as a family and a couple when launching into the unknown!

We braved our first journey on a cruise ship, of all places. It was 1984, and I was expecting our third child.

We stayed in the 'accessible room' where we quickly realised that Anders couldn't fit his wheelchair through the door!

We needed the maintenance crew to take the cabin door off its hinges to enter and exit the cabin. As you can expect, this became very tedious and ultimately meant that Anders would opt to stay in rather than go through the process every time he needed the bathroom.

Besides, there were copious raised sections (bulkheads) around the ship to negotiate - not friendly to wheeling around the decks! Shore excursions back then were not worth the effort, so while Anders would mind our little ones, I would explore the dock and local markets. I am seldom, even now, without one or two cameras, and I have thousands of photos. We share them at the end of every trip, often through tears as I reminisce on the things I saw and did alone, wishing he was there with me.

We decided to give cruising a miss after that.

In 1986 Anders was asked to speak at a conference in the USA for business people. Once there, we had planned to travel together on a 2 ½ week road trip from Los Angeles (after the obligatory Disneyland visit for the then 2, 7 & 9-years-olds), up through the Sierra Nevada mountains, into Yosemite via the Tioga Pass and then up to Virginia City.

We quickly discovered that most bathrooms didn't work despite our best research, and we had to 'adapt' - most places would have been appalled at how that occurred in their rooms and will remain out of print!! Times pre-Google, or the existence of travel agents for people with disabilities, meant spending hours communicating by landline to settle on flights and hire vehicles with hand controls. Anders, being blessed with a wife who had never flown or driven overseas and who was a ridiculously nervous driver, promised that I would never have to drive.

However, he did insist I should have an international driver's licence 'in case of an emergency’. That emergency hit immediately at the car hire place when the hand control hire vehicle turned out to be a sporty two-door. Their reason being that 'the only people who need a vehicle with a hand control are young single vets who don't have a family.' Despite fruitlessly negotiating for a family vehicle with hand control, we had to accept that I would be the only one driving.

And yes, if you're wondering, we discovered how strong a team we could be.

Anders supported me as I negotiated my way through LA freeways and tackled the one-way Tioga Pass with no guardrails. Throughout every trip, my husband has been a saint, an excellent navigator, cheering me on, helping me believe in myself while managing not to make too many shrieks of fear!!

The most notorious trip of all was perhaps our getaway to Bangkok - a business trade fair this time. This trip nearly became my last. We began our journey with Anders sitting in an airline wheelchair as we patiently waited for our wheelchair to arrive at the terminal. The staff had politely told us numerous times that ours was on the way, but it wasn't long before the truth finally came out that the chair was, in fact, on its way to Frankfurt!!!

To make matters worse, the airport staff told us that we could not borrow a wheelchair, even for the few hours of the trade fair. It was hours before we could convince the airport staff that Anders could not walk, and he needed a chair. We finally forced our way out of the airport to find a (regular) taxi, with no seat belts, lifts, etc., just brute strength from the taxi driver, who could load Anders up and drive to the accommodation. We discovered language and lack of understanding of Spinal Cord Injury were huge in that trip to Thailand (it took three days to get his chair back).

Indeed, times are changing, and improvements are being put in place every day; however, it is still significantly difficult, despite careful planning, not to encounter unwelcome 'surprises,' handling challenges and ignorance.

We have learned to do the very best due diligence we can before travelling. When things go 'pear-shaped,' and they still do, we try to stay polite and realise that most people are trying to help us and that kindness and understanding seem to work to bring out in others the responses we need.

There are exceptions, of course, and frustration is usually aired privately or through the appropriate channels. On one occasion, a disgruntled customer took a particular domestic airline to the Human Rights Commission (a story for another day) due to neglect and lack of care. In contrast, we forgave a separate domestic airline for breaking Anders' foot through ignorance rather than deliberate carelessness!

Our most recent and perhaps most memorable trip to Norway in May 2019 deserves a whole story of its own. So, Part 2 of travelling as an older couple with a wheelchair will be coming soon, and yes, the picture is a teaser, and yes, we are in the Arctic Circle airport of Kirkenes where Anders was unloaded the old-fashioned way!!!!