26/11/2009 - 00:00

Personal stories drive safety message

26/11/2009 - 00:00


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FORMER Telstra centre operations manager, May Bowden, has been appointed general manager of the Paraplegic Benefit Fund.

FORMER Telstra centre operations manager, May Bowden, has been appointed general manager of the Paraplegic Benefit Fund.

PBF is the Shenton Park-based not-for-profit organisation founded by world-renowned spinal surgeon Sir George Bedbrook and his son, David, in 1984.

In taking the helm, Ms Bowden said she hoped to expand PBF’s membership and reach throughout Western Australia in the next 12 months.

“Building partnerships and promoting injury prevention has been our focus in the past and continues to be our goal for the future,” Ms Bowden told WA Business News.

“The Australian corporate market has played a major role in PBF’s success and this year we celebrate 25 years of working together with these partners to reduce the incidence and impacts of spinal cord injuries in Australian communities through our road, aqua and workplace programs.

“Our strategic plan to work together with our corporate alliances in a dedicated way to reduce injuries in the workplace has also led to a higher number of corporate and private memberships and means we are able to fund more programs that aim to keep workers and families safe.”

PBF Australia currently has about 80,000 members, including 400 corporate members, and has offices in Perth and Brisbane.

Ms Bowden said she would like to increase membership to 100,000 by December 2010, gain sponsorships to employ more individuals with disabilities, and raise funds to improve the lives of those living with spinal cord injuries.

“The resources boom in Western Australia promises an injection of skills in an expanding labour market, higher profits, and extensive retail and property growth,” she said.

“Our greatest challenge is to stir up corporate awareness that will see larger companies partner with us to help deliver the injury prevention message to their staff.”

Ms Bowden said creating safety awareness was a core life value that needed funding, especially as PBF sought to employ more people with spinal cord disabilities.

“The punch of our safety message is delivered through the personal stories of our presenters, each of whom has survived a traumatic incident that resulted in paraplegia,” she said.

About 20,000 people attended sessions in WA in the past 12 months.

Symon Still, who manages the injury prevention program and team of presenters, injects a quiet optimism about PBF’s mission to make Australian workers aware of safety at work.

As a victim of a road accident some years ago, he understands the challenges of realigning life goals.

Before the accident, Mr Still was a physical education teacher and aspiring Olympian tri-athlete, but the lifelong consequences of paraplegia have not dulled his commitment to achieving specific outcomes for PBF.

“So much of what we do involves the overwhelming complexities of sorrow and grief, in juxtaposition to delivering inspiration and hope with an added dose of reality around spinal cord injuries,” Ms Bowden said.

“In a unique way, PBF can achieve all of its goals through its engaging and confronting presentations that enable parents, teachers, occupational health and safety managers, safety reps and workers to advocate safer practices in safer environments.”

PBF’s gifting program, which delivers 100 per cent of funds to benefit those who have suffered spinal cord injuries, has presented more than $800,000 in monetary and equipment gifts to the disabled community where other streams of funding for equipment are not available, and provides ongoing support for research into a cure for permanent paralysis.

PBF also provides a peer support program, which aims to offer practical and first-hand support to newly injured patients and their families.



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