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Freddy from Tiwi Islands is in a wheelchair can’t use his legs. He plays an active coaching role with his local footy team and encourages young people to be active in sports. Even though Freddy’s doctor wants him to stay fit in his push wheelchair, Freddy would like an electric wheelchair to help him get around in the wet season.


Freddy: Yeah my name is Freddy Thomas inaudible (last name in language), and I have a T11 and T12 disability, in my back spine. Yeah I’ve been in a chair for nearly, oh sixteen years now, so yeah been on this for a long time. The first time it was a bit hard because yeah.

Tammy: Introduce us to your partner and tell us that she’s your carer?

Freddy: Yeah and this is my partner and carer inaudible (name in language? Bit of wind). And she’s helped me since day one when I was in the car, motor vehicle death. And my partner, yeah has looked after me all the way. Yeah it was a bit hard the first time, but slowly just getting used to all of this stuff. Yeah sometimes it’s a bit hard, but when you’ve got family around, friends, good support, yeah I’m really happy too.

Tammy: So tell us, what sort of house do you live in and what’s your situation with housing now?

Freddy: Uh we ring up 403331 and this got four bedrooms, ramp just for me to go out and in, uh two bathrooms, and yeah it’s got stuff for me to use. The bathroom and shower, it’s got a bar, so I can stand, got a bench to sit.

Tammy: Yeah, so it’s got rails.

Freddy: Yeah. Yeah so my partner, sometimes, helps me go in, yeah put the shower on, yeah.

Tammy: So you’re comfortable, you’ve got good home to live in-

Freddy: Oh yeah!

Tammy: Got good structure and that?

Freddy: Yeah.

Tammy: Alright.

Freddy: The last couple of years I had a problem too with my physio, yeah. Had a hip, to the last two years ago, about two years ago went into hospital for a couples of months.

Partner: Stayed in hospital for one month and came back. After coming back, he had the same problem. We had to go in again, the same problem with the hips. And after calling his physio doctor to come see him, and we had a talk for him, she came and visited.

Tammy: The physio?

Freddy: Yeah, the physio.

Partner: Julia.

Freddy: Julia.

Tammy: But was they coming to Nguiu or?

Freddy: Ahhh not oft- not like a couple of years back, after that five years.

Tammy: In that five years was they coming here?

Freddy: Nup not in that two years?

Tammy: So they never come to Tiwi?

Freddy: Yeah after I had my problem hip I went into Darwin.

Tammy: That’s when they came in to see Freddy.

Freddy: That’s when I had a conversation with her, that’s my um insurance claim, yeah insurance. Yeah that’s the mob who sometimes help me with my stuff. Yeah and-

Tammy: Which insurance mob?

Freddy: TIO Insurance.

Tammy: Oh yeah. So you got a pay-out aye, from your accident?

Freddy: Yeah, yeah.

Tammy: So you put that money away and use it to pay for therapy and things?

Freddy: Yes, and when I go into town and sometimes stay at really fancy hotel. Yeah so, me and my partner, we go in escort, probably stay at a private, not private, a fancy hotel.

Tammy: What do you go to town for?

Freddy: Oh just for x-rays and things for my doctor, check regularly, probably once, once or two years go in to check. So yeah, see my regular doctor for my health and all that, yeah.

Tammy: Do you suffer any pain?

Freddy: Ahhh, no.

Tammy: So just say that, I don’t suffer any pain.

Freddy: No, probably no more don’t suffer. Yeah.

Tammy: Do you think about therapy that you might need, when you’re here on community, or even in Darwin that you’d like to do ya know? Could be swimming, jumping in a swimming pool to do some sort of therapy, or you know are there things that you’d like to do that you don’t have access to?

Freddy: Yeah I tried and done that before, I did it.

Tammy: What was that, what did you try and do?

Freddy: I tried in town to probably swim, the first time, but yeah um, I probably changed my mind.

Tammy: Why did you change your mind?

Freddy: Ah no, I’ve just been doing a bit of normal exercise for my arms, yeah so it keeps it easy to push around and yeah.

Tammy: So do you think of work that you’d like to get involved in or?

Freddy: Probably not really.

Tammy: What do you love the most?

Freddy: Ahh, the most is probably coaching footy, the most.

Tammy: Tell us again, say “I love football the most.”

Freddy: Yeah I love football the most, probably in my life this Aussie rules footy. So yeah, in 2015, one day a local team in the footy grand final, yeah I was public coaching at the time. Yeah so we won the premiership, so probably I’ve been coaching maybe four or five years.

Tammy: Yeah so you’re involved in the local footy?

Freddy: Yeah so probably get involved in the local Tiwi Bombers if they’re playing in Darwin, because my eldest son, he plays for the bombers. So try and get involved with the bombers, encourage not only the bombers players but the small ones. Try and encourage them to not only get into sport, but top get active.

Tammy: Yeah, get active.

Freddy: To get fitter, get away…all this, for them. Watching us adults, that’s too much for them. Trying to help kids to do, yeah…

Tammy: Good thinking, yeah.

Freddy: Yeah, trying to help kids through myself. That’s all I’m aiming for, and trying to get kids to get active.

Tammy: So trying to be a bit of a role model?

Freddy: Yeah.

Tammy: For young kids.

Freddy: Yeah, gonna aim for that too.

Tammy: Yeah, just say that, “You know even though I’m in a wheelchair I’m still trying to be a role model.”

Freddy: Yeah, trying to be a role model for kids, yeah. But I probably help, yeah.

Tammy: Now, you’re in a wheelchair – do you feel like this wheelchair is good for you or? Because these days they’ve got remote control ones and you know…Have you ever thought about getting a different wheelchair?

Freddy: Yeah actually for a long time because with this one, sometimes I get a problem with my shoulder.

Tammy: Yeah ok so just for this interview, start off my saying “I have trouble with my wheelchair and that you’ve been trying to get you know…” and tell us that story.

Freddy: Yeah I’ve been trying to get one that’s electric so, to go more easier, sometimes I get lots of trouble with my shoulder from pushing on this wheelchair. So I’d probably like to get one that’s electric, so it’s easier to go to the shops and probably the clinic, and just go and see the family too. Yeah, move around the community, that’s all I want, yeah. It’s hard sometimes, to push this chair. An electric would be so much easier to just go around.

Tammy: So you’d like some support with that?

Freddy: Yeah, because I’ve been pushing for nearly 15 years.

Tammy: That’s a long time.

Freddy: Yeah that’s a long time. Like I said, I’m used to it but I’m getting old and nearly getting to 40…so I’m trying to get an electric scooter or wheelchair to go around the community.

Sheree: What happened, have you tried to get one- what’s the stop?

Freddy: I asked my doctor, but doctor said “Nah, you’re still young, try and push and keep fit.” But he’s probably getting old…

Tammy: Do you get tired?

Freddy: Sometimes, yeah. I’m getting tired from all this.

Tammy: What’s the longest you can go out yourself or?

Freddy: Well sometimes I can go…

Tammy: All day?

Freddy: Yeah. But sometimes when I go it’s down the hill, so when I have to come up, it’s a bit hard.

Tammy: Huffing and puffing tired aye?

Freddy: Yeah. Sometimes I stop and sit in the shade and have a five, or probably ten-minute break.

Tammy: So your doctor probably sees you as fit, ya know, you’d be fit by exercising like that.

Freddy: Yeah (laughs).

Tammy: Wait till you get older, you might be near fifty and he might change it.

Freddy: Yeah, but I’d probably like to get one of those electric scooters, ya know go round and see kids and teach them, yeah. That’s all I want to do.

Tammy: Tell us about that dream, remember I asked you before, what do you dream about doing in your life? Maybe with your partner, your family, yourself, you know what are your dreams?

Freddy: Yeah dreams, be happy with my partner.

Tammy: So you’re just happy to be in- you from Nguiu?

Freddy: Yeah and my partner…be happy, happy with my kids. Yeah I’m really enjoying my life with my partner and my kids.

Sheree: How do you go- you’re in transitional housing now aren’t you?

Freddy: Yeah.

Sheree: How do you go with the wheelchair on these steps?

Freddy: Probably sometimes my partner-

Partner: I give him a hand, pull him up. Pull that back handle down the side, put him down slowly, chuck him down and go round.

Freddy: Yeah, sometimes my partner or my son-in-law. Sometimes my son-in-law comes. Yeah.

Tammy: To help, yeah.

Freddy: Yeah.

Sheree: And when you go into town with the car and all that, is it the same thing? Like you have to lift?

Freddy: Oh yeah, especially when I go into town, for my appointment, go into town. It’s easy to get into plane and out of the plane again into my chair…

Tammy: And how do they do that?

Partner: They just take the wheels out-

Freddy: They probably tell the pilot, and my partner, she’s probably there and standing on the side, in case I lose my balance. Sometimes I go backwards if I’m going up the step, and my partner tells the pilot.

Tammy: Do they need a special plane to come for wheelchairs? Or any plane?

Freddy: Ummm…no, yeah just normal plane, sometimes a charter, like them small ones.

Tammy: And just for you- to your partner, do you have any struggles? Do you struggle being a carer at times or?

Partner: (shakes head suggesting no).

Tammy: You’re quite happy doing the things you do for you partner aye?

Partner: Yes, yep.

Tammy: But do you sometimes think it’d be nice if we could have this, or it could be nice if we had that, do you think about things like that? Or a bit of help for you?

Partner: Nah.

Tammy: You right? Okay.

Sheree: Do you get carer’s support money or?

Partner: Yep.

Sheree: That helps?

Partner: Yep.

Tammy: Well it seems like they’re pretty happy. Independent.

Freddy: Yeah we go out shopping with my partner, yeah a couple of dollars we spend.

Other person (family?): But it’d be better if we could get that electric chair and you could get round the community aye.

Freddy: Yeah, like I said that’s all I want, just get that electric chair and just go out there, especially when it’s footy season.

Tammy: Well you know what, it could be that you still have your wheelchair, because you don’t want to get too lazy in the electric chair aye, you gotta keep fit because you’re still a young fulla.

Freddy: Yeah yeah yeah.

Tammy: But you got that electric chair for when you go for long time aye, ya know make it easier? And then when you come back you might just jump in there just to go down the street or something.

Freddy: When I go shopping, or…

Partner: Gym set.

Tammy: Your partner was just talking about the gym; do you think of doing gym sessions?

Freddy: You sometimes I wanna do that but that wrist problem too, from the footy when I was playing footy, that was a long time when I finished footy. I was like ah…probably a defender, and all the time I was getting punched and hitting on my knuckles. I still got it, even now.

Tammy: But you could do light weights with that sore hand aye?

Freddy: Yeah.

Tammy: So is gym something that you wanna do? Therapy or…

Freddy: Ahh, I got a bottle of water, sometimes I fill it up and just do light weights. And plus, therapy, just a couple of weeks ago gave me them strings, yeah to do some exercises.

Tammy: So you’re already doing stuff, stuff like that?

Freddy: Yeah, yeah. But sometimes I was careful for my hip, I’m still having a problem with that, so…

Tammy: So you’re managing it?

Freddy: Yeah, and my partner’s looking after me, because I’ve been in Darwin for probably more than three months, yeah.

Sheree: You get support with TIO insurance don’t you? Because you had a car accident?

Freddy: Yes, yeah. So, I ring my physio with like what I want, like with that washing machine, that’s from TIO insurance. Yeah I got that new bed, you have to plug it on the wall, an electric one. We’ve had it for nearly what, one year now aye.

Tammy: Is that better for you, that new bed?

Freddy: Oh yeah.

Tammy: So there’s things that you’re getting to make things easier for you.

Freddy: Yeah.

Tammy: You’ve got access to it through your insurance.

Freddy: Yeah, and if my chair is broken I just ring them up and yeah. I’ll send it in, in Darwin, and probably a couple of weeks later and it comes back. Yeah sometimes it was hard, but now…

Tammy: It’s gotten better.

Freddy: Yeah. For the family, and my kids, especially my kids. Yeah I forgot to say, I got three kids, yeah two boys, and one girl.

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