It is with immense pride that we congratulate Konekt Occupational Therapist and Queensland Australian of the Year nominee Michael Lyddiard. Despite missing out on the nation’s top accolade, he is considered a winner in the eyes of many.
“The Queensland award finalists are remarkable individuals whose efforts are changing lives, changing communities and changing the future,” says National Australia Day Council CEO Chris Kirby.
Michael, as some of you know, is an ex-Australian Army Sergeant who was severely wounded in 2007 while disarming an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Not only did he successfully re-build his life to become an avid athlete, but the father of three also has become a valuable member of the Konekt team who looks after injured ADF personnel.
“I want to let them know we’re here to understand the whole picture,” Michael explains. “I understand their anguish through my lived experience and am able to encompass the physical and the mental issues.”
Despite his physical impairments, the aspiring Paralympian often competes against able-bodied athletes in gruelling events including Adventurethons, the Mark Webber Challenge in Tasmania – a five-day kayak, bike and run event – and the Yungaburra Triathlon near Cairns.
“Physical activity keeps me balanced and helps me fundraise to help others,” he says.
From patient to practitioner
When Michael first encountered the occupational therapists at Konekt in 2008, he was a patient with severe injuries. Today he is one of us, applying his personal experiences and professional Occupational Therapy qualifications to help rehabilitate others.
“Michael has certainly changed how I collaborate with clients,” says Fiona Smith, Konekt’s North Queensland area manager, who has gone from being his case manager and mentor, to being his colleague. “He’s in a unique position where he has lost a great deal and he understands what struggles people come up against.
“His ethos has been to prove to his three kids that if something bad happens, you pick yourself up and overcome what life throws at you. There have been ups and downs and struggles in adjusting to civilian life, but while he was once reticent, he now knows to ask for help when he needs it.”
Konekt, as Michael explains, has been a source of ongoing strength and support which at time “may be under-estimated”.
“From losing my identity and being at the lowest of my lows and not being able to feel emotionally, I was able to find purpose, meaning and love; love in what I do, helping others, who I work with and within myself.
“And trust me, when you lose your senses (sight, hearing and touch), touch and love for someone or something becomes one of the most important factors to drive one forward.”
Describing his work as an Occupational Therapist as “physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting at times”, Michael says it can also be empowering and enriching.
“As rehab consultants and managers in Konekt, I don’t think we see the true value and purpose in our roles all the time,” he explains. “But I can share this: Konekt saved me. A long time ago I was in a bad place – sitting on a mountain’s edge. From saving me, many people have been inspired and I’d like to think families too, because of my two rehabilitation counsellors’ actions, which were likely led by Konekt’s values.
“Although I wasn’t awarded the state title for Australian of the Year, I still want to do more as I know there is more in me.”
Konekt’s Chief Executive Officer Damian Banks says Michael is an inspiration to everyone he encounters.
“We are incredibly proud of Michael and what he has achieved,” Damian says. “Over the past eight years he has been on an amazing journey. He is a true inspiration to the people he helps in his OT role, his colleagues, his family and the wider community. He very much deserves this award and it’s something he won on his merits.
“Konekt is very fortunate to have helped Michael, and to now have him helping and inspiring us, and the people he helps with their own rehab.”