It was a routine game of rugby in 1994 that dramatically altered the course of Perry Cross’s life.
Moments after the 19-year-old Queenslander ran out onto the rugby pitch to face his opponents, he was carried off with a horrific spinal cord injury.
He never walked again. But it hasn’t stopped him.
On Monday, Mr Cross is to be announced among the Australians receiving Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2020, alongside almost 1000 others including social justice leaders and charity workers.
The list also features Liberal politicians including former prime minister Tony Abbott and former speaker Bronwyn Bishop, as well as sportspeople including cricketer Michael Clarke.
“I was obviously shattered and devastated about the situation and my life,” Mr Cross, from Broadbeach on the Gold Coast, told The New Daily.
“It was a huge obstacle, but it was also a huge opportunity.”
Mr Cross’ accident rendered him a C2 quadriplegic, unable to move from the neck down and unable to breathe without a mechanical ventilator.
He has since founded the Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation, which funds key medical research that aims to find a cure for paralysis caused by spinal injuries.
You need to focus on what you can do, where you’re going and what you’ve got’,’
– Perry Cross is to be awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM)
His latest passion is Accessible Homes Australia, an organisation helping people with disabilities live independently.
Of the 933 Australians receiving awards on Monday, nearly 40 per cent were for outstanding service or achievement in the community.
“In this list we see all the positives that are in our community – we see the great ideas, we see the hard work, we see the love and compassion for fellow human beings – it’s a microcosm of Australia,” Governor-General David Hurley said.
In addition to our politicians and sports stars, dozens of everyday Australians doing extraordinary things have been honoured.
Among them is Sarah Brown, a rural nurse who has helped set up 18 remote healthcare clinics and a mobile dialysis unit to treat Indigenous patients in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
She forms part of the team at Purple House, an Indigenous-owned-and-run health service operating from its base in Alice Springs.
“For the last 17 years, I have been helping the Pintupi people of the Western Desert to come up with a new model of care for people who need dialysis,” Ms Brown told The New Daily.
People were being told to leave their remote communities and country – everything they loved – to visit hospitals in Alice Springs three times a week.’’
An estimated one in five Indigenous adults had signs of chronic kidney disease, according to the ABS 2012-13 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Measures Survey.
Without dialysis treatment, many of those people will die from kidney failure.
Part of Ms Brown’s role involves driving a mobile dialysis unit, fondly dubbed ‘the Purple Truck’, thousands of kilometres on dirt roads across the outback to treat these patients.
“We have good fun and look after each other,” she said.
“Aboriginal health workers have taught me far more than I could have ever taught them.”