Story by Nazim Erdem
We all met Wayne at different stages of our lives. Some of us know each other, and some of us don’t. I want to talk to you about the Wayne I know: Determined, Genuine, A Tiger Friend, Colleague, Mentor, A very proud father.
I met Wayne in the mid 90’s, only a few years after my injury. It was actually at an event organised by AQA, known as A Day in the Park. I was playing Wheelchair Rugby, and me and another guy tried to convince Wayne to join our team. We needed a hulk. We couldn’t convince him; he was no longer into team sports and was happy doing his own thing… exercising, literally pushing for 100’s of kms. I remember at one stage he pushed 3000km during a year.
We became closer friends and colleagues in 2003 when he was employed as an Information Peer Support Officer at AQA. During this role I could see how much he loved life and helping others with disabilities. It excited him when he knew he was able to help improve people’s lives, by speaking to them over the phone and giving them the information they were after.
Wayne was also a great mentor to others with SCI. He was able to motivate so many people and help set them up with goals, and prepare them to get back to their communities after completing their rehab. Patients were able to relate to him, and when they saw his genuine nature and happiness and excitement, this rubbed off onto them.
At lunchtime, we often went for a push around the park. We’d start off together, and after a few minutes, he would go one way and I would go another… He would always choose the longer and harder path. I will never forget when he convinced me to join him on one of these longer and steeper tracks. I told him I’ll give it a go if he stayed close in case I got into trouble. But that didn’t work… when we started pushing up this steep hill, Wayne didn’t look back and left me for dust. I didn’t see him for another half-hour.
Another time, he showed me another very steep hill and asked if I would give it a go. There was no way in the world I could make it to the top, so we found another hill that I could do. We gave these hills names… Wayne’s Hill, and Nazzie’s Hill.
Wayne was a big hearted, beautiful man who got so excited whenever he connected with another person with SCI in his work. He inspired countless people with his stories. He wrote many great articles for our magazine (check out She Was the One Tonner for Me) and you could hear his passion in his voice.
He had a big voice that made it hard to focus when he was on the phone in the office, and his volume control was set to high, even when whispering, and lived for the footy, and his sons.
If he was here now, he’d want me to finish with “Go Tigers”. You’re a ripper bloke Wayne. RIP
- April 5, 2023