PDA WA Associate Director, Melanie Hawkes, shares her ”I can do it” series.

Written by and starring Melanie Hawkes (and her dog Upton)

Growing up with three younger brothers, my parents were busy all the time. I either had to learn to do things for myself, or wait a while for someone to help me – not ideal. With hands like mine, sometimes it was a challenge to find ways to do things, but it has made me more independent. There’s no better feeling than being able to achieve something previously thought impossible. 

I only have the ability to bend my little finger on each hand, but can grip things between some fingers as well. Tasks I can do include feed myself with ordinary cutlery, write, type, knit, cross-stitch and prune my bonsais with scissors. What I can’t do with one hand I can usually do with the other, and if not, I use my teeth. ** Disclaimer: don’t try this at home. I look after my teeth by flossing and brushing every day and regularly visiting my dentist. **

Here are some videos of me doing some everyday tasks. It might be slow and frustrating to watch, but I am proud that I can do these things when nobody is around to ask for help.

You can watch my videos below or by going to the PDA YouTube channel ( Whilst you’re there please check out our other videos and subscribe.

I hope that you enjoy watching my videos.

Melanie Hawkes, her sweet tooth and unwrapping a mintie.
Melanie Hawkes and how she writes with a pen.
Melanie Hawkes, her dog Upton and treat time.
Melanie Hawkes and her front-opening face mask.

There is one thing I wish I could do myself: put my own mask on. As I can’t reach behind my ears I have to get people to put it on for me. The solution? I pinned one to my hat, so when I slide my hat on, it comes on too. Or, if I have to wear it all day at work, I wear this mask that my awesome support person Amy made for me. It has a flap that I can open and close in order to eat and drink! And at the end of the day I can pull it off with my stick.

Accessibility during Australian Elections. Is enough being done to make elections accessible?

With elections looming this year and with accessibility to vote further challenged by COVID-19, PDA is interested to hear about issues that you have personally faced in previous elections – whether at a polling station, early voting centre, via telephone, postal or AEC voting.

We encourage you all to participate in our short survey so that we can ensure that all members of the community have equal access to the political process.

Life in pandemic purgatory

PDA’s TAS Associate Director Tammy Milne has written a piece for the ABC around her world that continues to shrink as a result of COVID.

It’s a great read.

“When the coronavirus pandemic hit Australian shores, Tammy Milne knew she would have to call time on her 33-year teaching career.

“I decided to retire, or resign,” she says. “It was basically because of the risk factors of COVID and just not feeling safe.”

…Unsure of where COVID may be circulating in the community, Tammy now limits her movements in order to protect herself.”

Buyer Beware! Protecting yourself and your money.

We recently heard the story about an Australian man who found himself in a considerable financial predicament following the interstate purchase of a modified wheelchair vehicle.

It’s a sad story that we wanted to share with you to encourage you to do your research and take care when making a purchase.

Whilst this particular case is more a case of lack of due diligence, it highlights the importance of knowing all the facts before committing to buying something – particularly big ticket items.

John (name changed) was in need of a wheelchair accessible vehicle. Unable to find something suitable locally, he did what so many of us do and looked online. Using a reputable, popular and respectable online car sales website John found his perfect car – in his price range, with his needed modifications and with the added assurance of it having been owned by a state health department – albeit not in his state.

Happy with his decision, John bought the vehicle and arranged for it to be shipped through to him.

When it arrived John went to transfer the registration to his home state and to sort out his insurance – and this is where his nightmare began.

It is important to note that each state and territory in Australia has its own unique rules and regulations when it comes to registering a vehicle transferred from interstate.

It is also worth knowing that if you buy from a private seller, protections such as cooling-off periods and statutory warranties do not apply. With this being the case, it is crucial that you thoroughly research the car, have it inspected (whether by yourself, a trusted local contact or an independent inspector) and find out what rules/regulations/expectations/requirements apply to interstate vehicle registrations before you buy.

CarsGuide has a helpful article on purchasing a vehicle from another state (, HOWEVER, it is important that you are fully informed on your state’s rules PRIOR TO COMMITTING TO A PURCHASE. We encourage you to speak to the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state.

In John’s case, whilst the car was sold in good faith and as advertised by the seller, the associated paperwork relating to the modifications was incorrect. Recorded as a 7 seater, rather than the modified 4 seater, the vehicle could not be registered locally without accurate paperwork. In an added twist to the story, when chasing up this discrepancy with the interstate engineer who had approved the modifications, it was discovered that he’d passed away and so could not correct his paperwork.

To have the required inspections and anticipated corrective work done to meet his state’s vehicle standards and specifications, John was informed that associated costs would be considerable and outside of his financial capabilities. Selling locally in its existing state as a non-registrable vehicle would mean huge losses to John.

The Office of Fair Trading could not help as it was simply a case of buyer error.

So sadly John learnt the hard way that due diligence is essential.

Please ensure that you are fully informed and have done your research before you make a purchase – particularly those with a high dollar value.

The One-Legged Sax Player on Home Modifications – Part Three

Written by PDA President, Andrew Fairbairn.

In my last blog published in May 2021 (, I wrote of the process I had to go through to engage a Project Manager, Builder and OT. Well……I am so happy to write that as of today, the 29thJanuary 2022:


Let me take you back in time to the middle of 2021, and please forgive me with timeline, I am old, and I sometimes forget things.

By the end of May, all the reports were lodged with the NDIA by my OT and PM. I then had to wait while they were looked at, dissected, discussed, and according to the Delegate, LOST. You can imagine how that went down with me. I wasn’t impressed at all. My OT had to upload the Complex Home Modification Request (CHM) again, adding yet more wait time.

In the middle of October, yes, five months later, I received a phone call from yet another Delegate telling me that I needed to upload the OT CHM again, as they “couldn’t find it on the system” Well, you can imagine how that went down with me, so I insisted that the Delegate send me this request by email in accordance with my NDIS File stating that I only want contact by email. 

The email arrived, and I immediately replied to it, stating that I knew that the document was on the system, and I called the Delegate out. I also copied my reply to NDIA CEO Martin Hoffman, NDIA WA State Manager Ed Duncan and his Associate Manager Nathan Hills.

Now bear in mind, this has been ongoing now for 2.3 years. About 30 minutes later I received a phone call from Ed Duncan, wanting to know what was going on. I explained the situation to him, an lo and behold, 6 hours later a new plan dropped into my email, complete with all the funding required to complete the home modifications.

The build began in early November, with me and my wife moving into the backroom of our son’s house for the next 2.5 months.

I had to modify a few things with the design and placement of things as we went along, but overall, I now have a fully accessible house, complete with wide doorways throughout, ramps to the front and back doors, completely redesigned bathroom and laundry, new carport and a fully electric gate to access the back of the house.

As I close out this chapter, I implore you to keep on with gaining access to funding for home modifications. Stick to your plan, research, and know what you want, but mostly, don’t take no for an answer. YOU’VE GOT THIS.



I will follow this up with a VLOG walk through to show the final product.

Stay tuned and stay safe.

What to do if you test positive for COVID.

So you’ve managed to get hold of rapid antigen test and you’ve tested positive for COVID.

So what do you do now?

  • Call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 for information about how to look after yourself when you are sick with COVID-19.
  • DO NOT CALL 000 for an ambulance UNLESS YOU NEED EMERGENCY SERVICES. Resources are being unnecessarily stretched with a reported half of ambulance call-outs being made by COVID-19 patients not requiring emergency services.

Most people with COVID experience no symptoms (asymptomatic) or mild symptoms which can be managed with over-the-counter medication. Rest, drink lots of water and eat well.

However, please call 000 immediately if you develop severe symptoms such as:

  • difficulty breathing
  • oxygen levels less than 92% (when tested with a pulse oximeter)
  • blue lips or face
  • pain or pressure in the chest
  • cold and clammy, or pale and mottled, skin
  • fainting or collapsing
  • being confused
  • becoming difficult to wake up
  • little or no urine output
  • coughing up blood.

For help on a State/territory basis (including information, resources and links for more support for people with COVID-19, including when you can leave isolation), go to:

Information in Auslan around COVID-19 plans, managing symptoms, and getting medical help can be accessed at:

You can also find translated information about testing positive for COVID-19 in over 60 languages by going to

If you think that you may have COVID symptoms or suspect that you may have been exposed to COVID, please do not enter pharmacies, supermarkets or other retail outlets.

Instead please go to a testing clinic or have a family member/friend get you a test and deliver it safely to you.

With rapid antigen tests stocks becoming more readily available at supermarkets and pharmacies in the coming days and weeks, access to home testing will improve.

In the meantime, take care and stay safe.

PDA TAS Associate Director Tammy Milne’s recently published newspaper article.

Tammy had one of her articles published in the “Tasmanian Times” on International Day of People With Disability.

It’s an interesting read:

“I am disabled. I am on a fixed income. I am privileged and have a good and full life.

So when I wanted to attend a disability award dinner to support a friend who was nominated for an award I thought I would ask for support from the plethora of sponsors of the event as the tickets cost $140 each. I mean who is the dinner for?

And wouldn’t it look quite odd if people with disabilities couldn’t actually attend the dinner because of the cost? Or is this dinner like a lot of industry led initiatives where business pats it self on the back for providing paid services to people with disabilities and we paid for them and feel grateful they are having a dinner to celebrate but we aren’t included.

They actually make their money off the backs of the most vulnerable people in our community and yet set a new standard of Ableism when it comes to access for people with disabilities. We are simply shut out because of cost.

Now I’m not advocating for a ‘cancel culture’ mentality around this because it so cringe-worthy in its over thought and exclusion of people with disabilities but I am advocating for some provision to be made so that it is more accessible for people with disabilities to attend. I rang two of the sponsors and asked as I have been told there were some tickets available from sponsors, on both accounts I was fobbed off basically with, ‘no nothing for  you dear!’

My friend had her ticket paid for by her boss but her mother also paid for her own. So ticket pricing didn’t even take into consideration the cost to people who were nominated and the hardship this might thrust upon them and angst at having to weigh up attending and wearing the financial burden or not attending and thus making the whole event look like a farce.

Now lets get to the judging of the awards. It wasn’t until quite late into the organisation that a savvy person with disability asked the question, who is judging?

And yes they actually didn’t have anyone with a disability on the panel. In instances like this it is usual for the panel to be made up of a significant number of people with disability.

I mean you do want the awards to have credibility? Right?

My thinking around this is that those who organised the event have little understanding of inclusion or disability culture. In this case I am strongly advocating organisations to reach out to leaders in the disability community, ask questions, have us involved, become informed and educated.

We are very willing to contribute to anything that involves us to make it more inclusive  and accessible. The disability community embrace, the ethos of Nothing About Us Without Us as used in the seminal work of disability rights advocate James Charlton in the year 2000, about disability oppression and empowerment.

We want to be involved, we want to be invited to the table for discussion and listened too. I understand there is a great deal of learning around disability by the wider community and in the disability industry so just let us have a clear and free flowing dialogue about how we move forward from here.

3 December is the International Day of People with Disability.

PDA’s new Executive Team elected

PDA recently held its AGM, with elections held for the Executive Board positions.

It is with great excitement that we introduce the new PDA Executive Team:

Andrew Fairbairn – President
Talia Spooner-Stewart – Vice President
Sharon Boyce – Vice President
Tim Harte – Treasurer

With such a strong leadership team at its helm, PDA’s future continues to shine bright as it continues to represent and support Australia’s physical disability community.

PDA would also like to thank, recognise and celebrate three incredible outgoing Board Members who have been instrumental in growing and moving forward our organisation:

Liz Reid has completed three successful terms as PDA President and now sits as NT Associate Director. She has played an outstanding role in growing PDA’s presence, recognition and reputation as an important, necessary and valued representative disability organisation on the Australian disability landscape.

Jonathan Shar who did an outstanding job as PDA Treasurer and NSW PDA Director.

Kathryn Lyons who has stepped down from her role as QLD Associate Director.

Both Kathryn and Jonathan have been instrumental as both founding and committee members in the establishment of PDA’s Youth Network and we are grateful that they will continue to be driving forces in its growth.

PDA has big plans moving forwards and looks forward to having its Board and Members play a role in its mission to enable every Australian living with a physical disability to realise their full potential.