“We moved from a city with nine million inhabitants into a town with



“We moved from a city with nine million inhabitants into a town with
Life down under
Two years ago Tim Rushby-Smith
made a life-changing decision to
move to Australia. Since arriving
down under in 2013, he has had
to adapt to a new, and quite
costly, way of life.
efore my SCI, I had accrued a
long to-do list. This wasn’t just a
tick sheet of experiences to have
before I die, but a series of big decisions
to make.
My wife Penny is Australian, and
I am English. Along with the choices
to be made around having children,
we always had a decision to face as
to which side of the planet we should
call home.
I grew up in London and I feel a
strong affinity for the city that made me.
“We moved from a city with
nine million inhabitants
into a town with 3,500”
While people keep telling me that the
ideal life for children is to be found in the
countryside, I feel I gained enormously
from growing up in a thriving city,
surrounded by an eclectic array of
voices and cultures. Still, I felt like
London only provided half the picture.
The one thing we could both say
with certainty was that a clear-eyed
decision as to where we should live
long term, would require us to try life
together on both sides of the globe
first. Still, the prospect of leaving
London and our close friends and
my family behind was daunting.
Everything changed with my injury.
All our plans were immediately put on
ice, with the thankful exception of
having a child (Penny was pregnant
when I fell from a tree on 1 April 2005).
So, I had my accident, spent three
months at the NSIC and made it out
with a week to spare before the birth
of our daughter.
Tim and his family enjoy
exploring Australia's landscape
44 l forward feature l HoLIdAyS & TRAvEL
February 2015
Time passed, several years in fact.
We decided that life with one child
wasn’t complicated enough, so we
had another. Our son was born in
2011 and we returned to the world of
nappies and sleep deprivation. Then
2012 brought the Paralympics to our
doorstep, an event irresistible to my
journalistic ambitions.
Once the London Games had drawn
to a close, we began to plan our exit
strategy from the city that had just
shown its best to the world.
Red tape
As we worked through reams of forms
and requested Police Checks and
chest x-rays (to rule out TB), we soon
discovered that the process was not
going to be as straightforward as we
had hoped. Our migration agent
introduced us to the ‘medical criteria’
that would form a part of the decisionmaking process for the Australian
Department of Immigration.
This is a complex assessment
whereby applicants are refused
residency if they are judged to have
a condition that is considered a threat
to the Australian community, or likely
to result in significant healthcare cost.
In short, the decision would depend
on how much of a ‘burden’ I could
become on the Australian healthcare
system. During the medical assessment
the doctor explained that the main
criterion was to judge whether I was
completely self-caring.
A year after we began the
application process, I was fortunate
enough to be granted residency. As
to the medical assessment, I cannot
be sure whether I met the criteria or
whether the decision was based on
other factors. According to our
migration agent, Penny and the kids
all having Australian passports made
refusing me almost impossible as it
would have resulted in three Australian
citizens having to choose between
family life and living in their own
country. My bluff had most definitely
been called. It was time to pack.
We arrived in Australia in September
2013, after months of packing and
preparing our flat in London for rental.
As well as the shock of moving from a
city with nine million inhabitants into
a town with 3,500, we faced a daunting
period of adjustment to a very different
SIA Healthcare 0800 023 8841
system. We had no car (there is no
they can’t afford not to. I have since
Motability Australia), no DLA, and
discovered a funding scheme,
no NHS to fund the cost of catheters
providing I can make a case for using
and medication. This was rapidly
a more expensive product, but even
going to get
“Here in Australia, many people regularly re-use
Luckily, my in-laws
were able to lend us a catheters because they can’t afford not to “
car, having also found
us an accessible house to live in. Finding
that will only fund 270 of the 1,825
an accessible house in Australia is made
catheters I use in a year. We factored
easier by the dominance of single story
this additional expense into our
homes. Much of London’s housing
calculations before we left the UK,
stock consists of stair-infested Victorian
to make sure we were prepared.
terraces. Having a two-storey home is
What I was less prepared for was
something of a novelty in Australia, at
just how many hills now
least out of city centres.
fill my life. Most Australians live on the
The medical situation proved to be
coast, and land has a habit of going
more complex. Because I am working,
downhill where the ocean begins.
I qualify for Mobility Allowance (MA)
Where we live, as well as the ocean
of $89.10 (£50) a fortnight. More
to the east, we have mountains to
importantly, MA entitles me to a
the west. On the plus side, we are
Healthcare Card, which means that
surrounded by spectacular beaches,
my treatment is largely funded by
rainforests and national parks. Disabled
Medicare, Australia’s health safety net.
access, where it has been provided,
Although subsidised, prescriptions
tends to consist of a parking space next
to a picnic table. But
while more effort could
be made to make tracks
Tim and his son in
accessible, there are
plenty of wild places for
the intrepid wheelchair
user to explore. Even
the local beach is firm
enough for me to
wheel along.
So here we are.
Another chapter
begins. Making contact
through organisations
like Spinal Cord Injuries
Australia (SCIA) has
certainly helped me
to feel supported.
As I write this on
a clear and sunny
afternoon, I am looking
still cost $6 per item. When it comes
out towards the mountains just beyond
to catheters, however, the numbers
the trees. Little fluffy clouds begin to lift
become much scarier.
from the ridge, and the air is filled with
I receive a CAPS payment of $545
the squawking of Rainbow lorikeets.
(£300) a year, which covers the cost of
After school, we’ll take the kids down
five boxes of catheters. I use five boxes
to the beach for a walk.
of catheters in a month. When we
If you ask me where we will be in
packed to leave the UK, I sent some
10 years’ time, I can’t tell you. But I do
catheters ahead by post, and shipped
know that the horizons are wider and
everything else I had, so I arrived with
that everything feels just that little bit
supplies to cover the first few months.
more achievable.
Tim Rushby-Smith T12
Here in Australia, many people
SIA Member
regularly re-use catheters because
HoLIdAyS & TRAvEL l forward feature l 45

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