While having worked together a mere 13 months, the camaraderie between Luke, a former Officer in the Australian Navy, and his support worker Linda is palpable. We spoke to Luke and Linda as they prepared for the ANZAC Day march earlier this year.
Luke is marching in this year’s Anzac Day parade for the first time; I’ve been out today getting a suit for him. He’s really looking forward to it, he’s very proud of his military service. He was a high-ranking officer in the Australian Navy, an engineer on the HMAS Brisbane.
Luke lives with an acquired brain injury and has some complex health issues because of that.
Luke also has a passion for swimming but hasn’t been able to swim for 20 years, which is a shame because the ocean is so special to him. He was a state swimmer years ago and he trained as a diver when he was in the Navy.
Getting back in the water had been in the too-hard basket for a long time. His support team has worked with Luke’s health professionals to develop a plan to manage the risks and it was wonderful to see him recently take to the water assisted by the Illawarra Disabled Surfing Association. It brought him so much joy.
We share a connection to the Navy actually. I worked on the HMAS Albatross for two and a half years in charge of the Mess. Luke was also a cadet there, so he loves to go and visit whenever we can, whether it’s for the airshow or just connecting with that part of the community. Sometimes the officers will come and visit him too.
Luke never says no to anything and will give everything a go. I think he could bridge the gap between people living with disability and the wider community. People just seem to gravitate to him whenever we’re out.
We have a lot of fun together. He’s almost seven feet tall, which is funny because I’m pretty short. I come up to his armpit! He helps me with the washing because he can reach, and I can’t. His nickname back in the day was “Tree” because of his height.
Most Friday nights we go to the Fisherman’s Club for dinner to enjoy some barramundi and the “million-dollar view”, as he calls it. The staff there love him and will ask after him if he’s not there. He is always so grateful for us, for the staff, for everyone in his life. He really is one in a million.
I’d like to see Luke build on the connection he has with the Navy; he has a lot to offer. He’s a walking history book – he’s teaching me so much! He knows all about who was in which war against who. I feel like he can teach people so much from his experience, and it’s up to us to bring out the best in him.
I’ve always loved the ocean, loved it off my own bat, all my life. I told Linda if she’s ever in the ocean and there’s a shark, to punch it in the nose. All the shark’s senses are in its nose. I’ve done it! They clear off quick-smart!
I was a Petty Officer on the HMAS Brisbane, DDG 41. It’s a destroyer, Hobart Class. I worked down in the boiler room and was in charge of the safety equipment, especially the fire equipment and fearnought suits. Because if the ship catches fire, we’re in big trouble.
I reckon DSA stands for “Damn Super Amazing”. They are the best – and Linda, or Lovely Linda I like to call her – is the best.
We have fish and chips together every Friday night at the Fisherman’s Club with the million-dollar view, and she’s trying to help me cut back on coffee. I’m a coffee-aholic!
I’m marching in the ANZAC parade, I’m looking forward to it. I told Linda I will imagine all the service men and women who have died looking down on us from heaven. It’s going to be great.