A brutal assault in 2003 robbed James of his active life and studies. At 21, he was forced to live in aged care for nearly 7 years before a TV interview set his path to independent living in Specialist Disability Accommodation – first in NSW and now in Melbourne.
What made you want to move to Melbourne?
I feel people in Melbourne are a lot more including and accepting of who you are. The city is more accessible than living in regional NSW. I’m hoping for more opportunities to study – my area of interest is youth, drug and alcohol issues as alcohol led to my assault.
Did you ever think that having got yourself set up in SDA in NSW it would be too hard to make an interstate move?
I always thought I would like to move to Melbourne…I really wanted it no matter how hard it was going to be.
Was it actually very difficult to make the move?
For myself, not really – just packing boxes. Sadly, I’m still missing some boxes of photos from when I was able bodied.
I was always looking for a suitable Melbourne apartment to come up. I filled out all the applications and that process went quite smoothly.
What about leaving friends and family?
My parents were sad to see me leave, but I said this is the next chapter of my life.
You lived in aged care for a number of years – what did you find the hardest to cope with?
So young, so hard, making friends one day and the next morning they have passed away.
That made me resilient – I’m not scared of anything. It’s shown me life isn’t to be taken 100% seriously, we’ve got to have fun and games. Without comedy in my life, I’d no longer be here.
And the best aspects of living in your own SDA?
I get to choose what to eat rather than cold meat salad 4 times a week; being able to stay up to what time I like instead of being put to bed at 6pm every night.
My apartment feels great being so close to everything. And looking at the trams going past really soothes me, I love it. It means to me the world is moving.
A support worker I had a few years ago in NSW, now a friend, came and stayed with me for a couple of days recently. That was awesome. Having a friend stay makes it feel like a normal house.
Do you have any advice for other people hoping to be able to live more independently?
Set yourself a target and work each day towards that and you’ll get closer to getting the independent life you would like. Never give up. Do as much as you can for yourself and have good support around you. KEEP POPPIN’ IN THE FREE WORLD!