You can’t have a conference without a bright, shiny venue – the University of Sydney’s Business School in Chippendale 

There’s no doubt about the prevalence of brain injury in Australia, The Australian Bureau of Statistics says 700,000 people are affected by what used to (more euphemistically) be described as ‘head injury’. That’s one in every 37 people. However, and perhaps because of the stigma attached to such injuries, it wasn’t until 1986 that Brain Injury Australia (BIA) was formed as a peak body to represent the interests of people who’d suffered this life-changing injury.

What makes BIA particularly different is that it’s led by somebody who genuinely understands exactly what it’s like to have an acquired head injury. Nick Rushworth was an experienced, dynamic and successful journalist bicycling happily in typical Sydney traffic one morning when another car smashed into his bike. He was sent crashing onto the bonnet and spiralling into a new world.

The Business School’s spiral stairs unintentionally mirror the way brain injury can send you tumbling into a new world . . .

Rushworth left journalism and took on a succession of roles working as an advocate for those who are least able to advocate for themselves: those with a brain injury. It’s this combination of personal experience and understanding of the complexity of the physiological background that has made the Conferences Rushworth arranges so remarkable. They’re informed by his intense desire to marry the intellectual cutting edge of medical treatment (his sister and father are both Medical Specialists) with the very personal experience of those who’ve had their brain damaged. This has been particularly evident in Nick’s organisation of what is now coming up to be his eighth annual Brain Injury Conference, (which will be held at Sydney University from the 28th to 30th of June (next week). The Conference agenda is packed with features and so, for the first time, this year will be split into an initial day of pre-conference workshops (on Positive Behaviour Support following brain injury; domestic and family violence and brain injury; and concussion or ‘mild’ traumatic brain injury) and then three separate strands, each focussing on separate aspects of brain injury.

Dr. Tim Feeney, Chief Knowledge Officer at Belvedere Health Services,

One of the most exciting aspects of the Conference will be the way it escapes the traditional ‘medicalised’ approach to head injury. Instead of focussing solely on the neurological aspects of brain damage, Rushworth has designed a program that will hear the voices and words of those who possess an acquired brain injury as well as other practitioners who deal with the processes people with ABI need to adapt to reintegrate into the world again. One of these is Dr Tim Feeney, who has flown from the US so he can deliver a keynote address and speak with Dr Jennie Ponsford on the results of the world’s first controlled trial of Positive Behaviour Support which was conducted with 50 Victorian Transport Accident Commission clients with a Traumatic Brain Injury.

This has become Australia’s leading Conference on Brain Injury for good reason because, basically, it’s excellent.

And it’s still not too late to book!

Disclosure: Nic Stuart is a former Board member of Brain Injury Australia. He will be enthusiastically attending this Conference with assistance from the Commonwealth Government’s National Disability Initiative Funding program. 


Nic Stuart

Nicholas Stuart is an author (Kevin Rudd, an unauthorised political biography; What Goes Up, behind the 2007 election; Kevin Rudd, 2007 - 2011) and columnist with the Canberra Times. He was the ABC's Indochina Correspondent when he suffered a significant head injury in a car crash in Bangkok.

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