NSW Champions: Pairs partner Ron Mowday (right) with Phillip Plackett
Phillip Plackett is currently the Australian and NSW Open Disability Pairs Lawn Bowls Champion. He is also a participant in Flourish Australia’s Individual Placement and Support program (IPS). Panorama spoke to him about his achievements.
“I thought I’d play a bit of sport to meet people, build some self esteem and maybe build some muscles, too,” says Phillip. He first played lawn bowls for a few months back in 2012, but in October 2016, after a break of four years, he decided to try his luck again. By June 2017 Phillip was in Queensland competing in the Australian Open in the multi-disability pairs event with his bowls partner, Bernie Wolland, from North Queensland. He wasn’t expecting to win, especially as his original pairs partner had cancelled at the last minute, but win Phillip did!
“I got to the quarter-finals in the singles, and we won the pairs narrowly and under a bit of pressure. We were losing 8-0 at one stage, but got there in the end.”
“The Australian Championships involved a lot of work and were quite draining, but of course they were also very positive and worthwhile. I even got a letter from NSW Sports Minister Stuart Ayers congratulating me. I had a lot of help and support from the people and companies who sponsored me.”
“I used to play snooker, but lawn bowls is really my first sport.”
Although Phillip makes it sound a bit like beginners luck, that can’t be the case all the time. In August 2017 he won the NSW Open Disability Pairs Championships with his new regular pairs partner Ron Mowday from Ettalong Bowling Club. “Ron was at the Australian Open, and he asked me to be his partner in the State Championships.”
As well as winning the pairs, Phillip did well again in the singles.
“In the semi-finals I lost 21 to 20, then in the play-offs for bronze I lost 21 to 18. I was actually pretty pleased by this because I was up against the best bowlers in the Asia Pacific Region, if not the world. It was pretty surreal!
“My next step is to go for State selection in 2018, but my biggest goal is the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The Commonwealth games hold a camp where they whittle the numbers down from twenty competitors to three. All up, there are three with physical disability, and three with a vision impairment. At the moment, I’m competitive with the ones who are being selected, so I’m well on-target. But I have to get more experience in the meantime.”
“I thought I’d play a bit of sport to meet people, build some self esteem and maybe build some muscles. My goal now is the 2022 Commonwealth Games.”
Phil lives with inclusion body myositis and late-onset muscular dystrophy. He began accessing Flourish Australia services because of mental health issues that followed the onset of his physical disabilities. His goal is to improve his life by getting open employment.
“My last proper paid job was in December 2005. I also volunteered in disability advocacy between 2013 to 2016 before I came to Flourish Australia. It’s been a long slog, and I’ve found that you have to want something badly enough and be prepared to work for it if you expect to get it. I chose to put in the time and effort. I want a better life. You won’t get handed a better life on the pension.”
The first program Phillip did with Flourish Australia was PreEmploy Institute. At the time of his graduation in June 2016, Phillip spoke of being able to unlock numerous personal barriers that had prevented him from achieving his vocational goals in the past. He also shared his aspirations of making the best use of his professional and lived experience in open employment. He spoke of gaining work that was “personally rewarding and challenging, as well as inspiring and motivating others to have a go and take control of their own journey of recovery.”
Above: Phillip working at the 2016 Flourish Australia Picnic in Sydney
Now, Phillip is working in an administration role with the Department of Industry. This is an open employment placement with the added benefit of low-level support from Flourish Australia. One of Phillip’s ongoing challenges is commuting to work, as he needs transport that can accommodate his wheelchair. The way Phillip describes it, it seems as though nobody expects people in wheelchairs to need to travel to work.
“There are only a few accessible buses that run before 9am. They’re often old, so there’s not much room. I have a big wheelchair, too, so sometimes I can’t always fit on the ‘accessible’ buses. Taxis aren’t usually big enough, and community transport doesn’t operate early enough. I need to get an express train to the city, because on an all-stations train my chair is always in people’s way. You often get abused if you block people. Plus, I can’t get on and off at just any station: it has to be one with a suitable lift, and I just have to hope that the lifts aren’t broken down. To make matters worse, I’ve been forgotten about and left on the train about thirty times to date!”
“On top of that, lots of other things can go wrong. One night, I got a puncture in my wheelchair on the way home so I had to divert to a service station. I left at 3pm and didn’t get home till 10pm.”
Needless to say, one of Phillip’s goals is to get a car. He’s already learned to drive only using his hands, and one of the benefits of open employment is that he is earning enough money to do it.
“It will be good to get a car. It will make life so much easier!”
Because Phillip’s physical disability is degenerative, it’s likely to get worse over time.
“You have to adapt to things as they get more difficult. Sometimes, when things get difficult or when things don’t go according to plan, I struggle to get motivated. There has been a bit of uncertainty about my work placement, but I remember that anything is possible. You don’t want to burn bridges, or end up biting the hand that feeds you, so to speak. I’m hopeful that I might be able to get something closer to home over the next twelve months.”
“James Herbertson (Senior Manager of Business Services at Flourish Australia) has always looked out for me, and I’ve been grateful for the opportunities he’s provided. When I was working a scanning job with Justyn Warren at Prestige Packing Co in Marrickville, I didn’t just see it as scanning: it involved helping other people out, such as the ones out the back who were involved in document shredding and so forth.”
“People who step up to the plate get noticed by others. If you make an impact, they are more likely to think about you when an opportunity comes up. I think you have to look after the people who look after you!”
(Thanks to Patricia D and Clare Isabel Evans for their assistance in preparing this article)
Australian Champions: Phillip Plackett with Bernie Wolland