Meet our Forward Membership Panel - Forward Ability Support

Meet our Forward Membership Panel

Recently Forward Ability Support convened a new Membership Panel to provide greater input and feedback about the services and support we offer and what we should offer in the future. We discussed topics of interest within the disability and spinal cord injury space; including the complexities of aging and SCI, the need for more accessible travel and the importance of peer support and mental wellbeing.

As an organisation working towards creating an inclusive society, Forward are committed to amplifying the voices in our community. We are mindful of the ‘nothing about me without me’ initiative and want to utilise the Forward Membership Panel as a platform to engage with our members from diverse lived experiences and backgrounds.
We are continually interested in gaining more and varied views and this is your opportunity to help steer us in ever-improving directions. If you have thoughts and ideas on how we can do this, we would be thrilled to either provide your input or become a valued contributor to the FAS Membership panel. Please click here to register your interest.

We’re delighted to introduce a few of our current membership panelists below.

Rachel Trevitt, Sydney

I have been living with a spinal cord injury for 14 years due to a complication resulting from surgery.

I currently work for the Department of Industry, Science and Resources as an Assistant Manager. I moved back to Sydney to be closer to my family and undertake a Masters of Economics at the University of Sydney.

I found out about the Forward Membership Panel through the EveryDay Matters newsletter and wanted to be a part of it because I enjoy reading the newsletter and wanted to help shape the content and stories that have helped create a sense of community and empowerment for me and have improved my knowledge about spinal cord injuries.

I have a strong interest in advocating for and empowering others to feel equipped to advocate for inclusivity and accessibility in all areas and I want to see more public discussion and normalisation of the lives and priorities of people living with spinal-cord injury.

Brian Cohen

Brian Cohen, North Willoughby

I am a retired CTO, currently helping to build software products that assist businesses in healthcare, and have been on the Forward Board of Directors since 2013.

At age 16 I was at Bondi Beach with friends and thought I would go and welcome one of them to his “board”. As I was running into the surf I noticed that the depth of the beach was quite variable and I decided to change my run into a dive. Unfortunately, the depth changed and I ended up diving into a sand bank.

That dive changed my life: I had broken my spine at levels C5/6/7.

I found out about the Forward Membership Panel through my involvement as a Forward Board Member and I wanted to be a part of it because I wanted to see if my experiences could help as many new members as possible to make sensible choices and, hopefully, avoid bad decisions.

While ultimately I wish to see how we might repair spinal-cord injury, I am keenly focused on ensuring that people with spinal cord injury are looked after and have every opportunity to live their best life. Working with Forward ensures that we focus on everyday matters after a spinal-cord injury, and that an accident, injury or illness is not the end of the world but the beginning of a new way of living a full life.

Robyn Ryan, Sydney

I recently retired after working for 15 years at ParaQuad NSW (now Forward Ability Support). At ParaQuad I worked in different roles and for my last five years, I worked as a Support Coordinator/Peer Support Officer.

I acquired my spinal cord injury 47 years ago when I was involved in a motor vehicle accident as a teenager. As a result, I am paraplegic. I am married and my husband and I have managed to raise two (lovely!) people to independent adulthood – they’ve both now flown the coup.

Currently, I volunteer at a local history museum and I am a member of the local council Access and Inclusion Committee. At the museum, I am helping to photograph, research and catalogue museum objects and enter the information into a database. I enjoy it because I get to increase my social history knowledge, mix with like-minded people and contribute to the ongoing sustainability of the museum. As a member of the local Access and Inclusion Committee, I am contributing to improving access and inclusion for people with disability in my community.

I found out about the Forward Membership Panel through the EveryDay Matters newsletter. I wanted to be a part of it because I believe strongly in the importance of sharing information and lived experiences – we can all learn from each other.

I believe in the value of peer support and I am keen to share my SCI experiences and any relevant knowledge I have acquired over the years to support people.

Wendy Harris, Sydney

I recently retired after working for 40 years in the disability and community service sector. A large part of this time was spent with ParaQuad NSW (now FAS). My last five years were spent working as a Support Coordinator under the NDIS and prior to this, I was engaged in ParaQuad’s Education and Training team and Peer Support team. My educational qualifications are in Rehabilitation Counselling and I spent several years working with the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service.

I sustained my spinal cord injury in 1970 in a motor vehicle accident. At that time, services for people with SCI in the community were non-existent and without support from family and friends to assist there were few to no suitable options for accommodation, education, transport, employment and recreation. Fortunately, over the years community support has evolved through tireless advocacy from the disability sector. Today we have the NDIS and, while not perfect, it can offer a lot more appropriate support than before or that was not previously available at all.

I currently teach English conversation for refugees as a volunteer through TAFE and also with my local council. I enjoy education and training and feel this is a positive way to be involved with and contribute to my local community.

I found out about the Forward Membership Panel through the Forward website and as I still have a keen ongoing interest in disability issues, especially for SCI, I felt this was a constructive way to contribute to FAS, utilising both my personal, lived experience and my past professional and work experience. In this regard, I feel I can make a positive contribution to FAS editorial committee.

I have a strong interest in all issues related to improving the lot of people with SCI. Prominent in my interest are ongoing issues with supports provided under NDIS. Appropriate supports under NDIS are the basis of regaining, retaining and maintaining a good quality of life after SCI. At a grassroots level, I feel that peer support is very important to those newly injured or those experiencing difficulties with their SCI as they move through different stages in their life.

On a personal level, I am married to a wonderful husband and have two adult children, a new granddaughter and many lovely friends. I have a keen interest in genealogy and am currently tracing my family history. I love a good book but find there is often not enough time to read. I dabble in the kitchen but love eating out, the movies and catching up with family and friends.

Trevor Robinson, Duffy, ACT

I have been living with a spinal cord injury for 14 years following a motor vehicle accident.

I worked in aviation for 32 years, the last nine years before my accident as a senior airworthiness inspector.

Following my morning routine, I check the news, stock markets, emails and diary. During the day I chat to family and friends, watch a movie, read various academic journals (to keep my continuing professional development current) and practice several musical instruments. I go to bed early, sometimes watching mindless TV!

I found out about the Forward Membership Panel through an email that was sent to members earlier this year. I wanted to be a part of the Forward Membership Panel to offer different opinions, expertise and my lived experience as a wheelie.