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Support Worker Spotlight – Paul

Support Worker smiling

Paul is a dedicated Sylvanvale Support Worker who has overcome enormous odds and now devotes his life to helping others. 

Paul’s love of mountaineering has seen him conquer Mont Blanc in France three times. In 2003 his passion for mountain climbing took him to the South Island of New Zealand with a plan to climb Mt Cook. Part of the preparations for the climb was to acclimatise with a couple of alpine walks so that he and his family would be fit enough for the challenge.

While walking across a gully a freak accident changed Paul’s life forever. A boulder dislodged itself further up the mountain, raced down the gully that Paul was traversing and swept him off his feet and down a 5m cliff! Multiple fractures and a traumatic brain injury turned Paul into a rag doll. A Westpac helicopter airlifted him to Christchurch hospital. Paul was in a coma for two weeks, had seven surgeries in five days, followed by three and a half months as an in-patient. A year of rehabilitation had Paul relearning how to eat, speak, write and walk.

After his brain injury, Paul became involved with the Brain Injury Association of NSW. He was invited to join the Board and spent many years as President. He also sat on the NSW Disability Advisory Council when Andrew Constance was the NSW Minister for Ageing and Disability Services, during the important period when the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) came into being.

During this time Paul, who has three university degrees, had a successful career in corporate management. But as his circumstances changed, Paul decided to move into the disability sector – encouraged by his wife Julie, who is the Principal of a school for children with intellectual and physical disability.

Paul started with Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC) before moving across to the not for profit sector. He worked for Edmen and very quickly found himself working nearly full time across Sylvanvale houses in the Blue Mountains. Paul enjoyed working with the customers and support staff so much that he made the switch to become a Sylvanvale employee.

There are many things Paul really enjoys about his role at Sylvanvale:

"I particularly enjoy the one-on-one support; for example, baking with Frank, art and craft with Lyndall, walking with Megan or driving with Paul and talking about everything and anything."

"I also enjoy supporting people to push their boundaries a little and seeing them enjoy their achievement. Both Frank and I had never baked before Karen suggested we have a go at Anzac biscuits one Saturday afternoon. Frank now describes himself as “The Emperor of Rock Cakes”. This is of course one better than being the King of Rock Cakes."

Woodwork has always been a life-long hobby for Paul. Along with the incredible support of his family and friends, woodwork played an important role in helping Paul to recover from his devastating accident.

In recent years, Paul has taken his woodworking to the next level and some of his stunning pieces recently featured in Australian Woodsmith magazine. You can see the article here.

Paul has passed on his love of woodwork to the people he supports. He prepares wood at home, which he then brings in for customers to create with (for obvious safety reasons he makes sure he does any sawing and drilling at home!).

Lyndall has made some wonderful things working alongside Paul, including boxes with pre-cut timber that Paul had brought in. Lyndall spread glue along the edges and clamped the pieces together. She particularly liked using the pistol grip quick clamps. She then used her creative talents to paint the boxes in bright colours. Lyndall was delighted with the results!