Matthew Cowdrey OAM
In London 2012, Matthew Cowdrey made history by becoming Australia's most successful Paralympian. Matthew won five gold, two silver and a bronze medal in London to bring his total gold medal haul to 13 and eclipse track sprinter Tim Sullivan's previous record of 10 gold medals. He also passed Australian swimmer Kingsley Bugarin's overall medal haul of 19 medals, with Matthew now having won a total of 23 Paralympic medals.
Matthew's successful London campaign backed up his Beijing Games where the multiple world record holder was Australia's top-medalling athlete along with fellow swimmer Peter Leek, and was named the IPC's Male Athlete of the Year as well as the APC's Paralympian of the Year.
Born with a congenital amputation to his lower left arm, Matthew started swimming at the age of five and was determined to not just be as good as any able bodied person, but to be better.
As well as multiple Paralympic titles, Matthew also holds six world championship titles after the 2010 World Championships and has two Commonwealth Games gold medals both from the 2006 Games where he was the only Australian male swimmer to win individual gold.
- 13 Paralympic Gold (23 in total)
- Medal of the Order of Australia
- Set five world records in Beijing alone
- Australian Flag Bearer 2008
Why is Matt our Ambassador?
- He challenges people who are disadvantaged to overcome their barriers
- He has an inspirational story that relates to everyone
- He believes in our vision and mission and wants to help motivate Australians overcome whatever barriers they face in their lives
Matt officially becomes our Ambassador at the launch of CoAct on June 23, 2015.
Learn more about Matt here
Our Local Heroes
The CoAct Local Heroes program is an initiative which recognises excellence, creates ambassadors and highlights the work we do within our communities both nationally and locally. Our Local Heroes show that we not only deliver services at a local level but we engage, change and build better communities. Each member has a Local Hero to highlight the services and organisation at a local and member level.
Who are our Local Heroes?
Local Heroes can be almost anyone within the community and are an example of what we as a network have set out to achieve. They include:
- A local business who might to provide training and work opportunities to young people
- A local job seeker who has overcome adversity to succeed in work and life
- An older Australian who has provided guidance and opportunities to other people in the community
- A person who has been long-term unemployed, found work and helped others to do the same
- A CoAct member employee who has gone above and beyond to activate their local community
Dismantle (Pat Ryan)
CoAct Member - Bridging the Gap (Perth, Western Australia)
Dismantle is leading the way in connecting young people into education and work using the bicycle as a tool to break down barriers. The program focuses on boosting self-esteem, learning tangible skills and connecting them to a positive future.
Young people who are disengaged with mainstream schooling are referred to the program. Dismantle teaches them bike restoration skills, while Bridging the Gap upskills them with a Cert I in Work Preparation. The outcome is that 75 per cent of participants are actively involved in education, training or employment six months after they complete the Bike Rescue Partnership Project.
The Education Department of WA has described the project as "one of the most effective engagement programmes running in the south metro region, and we are looking forward to continuing the good work for the benefit of Perth teenagers."
CoAct Member - Settlement Services International (Sydney, New South Wales)
Hikmat came to Australia in 2010 seeking refuge from the persecution and violence he and his family experienced in Pakistan. In Karachi, Hikmat was a businessman, employing thousands of people across a variety of businesses, including a social enterprise that supported underprivileged women in rural areas with employment and regular income.
He is working hard to establish himself again as a businessman in Australia and SSI's Ignite Small Business Start-ups initiative is facilitating links and networks to support Hikmat and his entrepreneurial skills.
CoAct Member - Access Community Group (Wollongong, NSW)
Shaz Harrison-Shaw had a vision to provide a food parcel service to struggling local families. In February 2013 she created Need a Feed and with the help of a team of volunteers Shaz provided food parcels, bakery items, fresh fruit, vegetables and drinks to 100 local families in need. Since then Need a Feed has created several strong partnerships which have developed over time, these partner organisations connect Need a Feed with families in need of food support. Need a Feed also passes on excess food, both fresh and non-perishable to various neighbourhood centres and organisations who support those in need, working together as a team to help more local families in need. Her vision for the future is to not only feed thousands but millions of families in need.
CoAct Member - ACSO (Richmond, Victoria)
Paul is responsible for coordinating ACSO's business partnership with Project New Dawn and its two lead corporate partners, BP and Bunnings. Project New Dawn is an innovative program that addresses homelessness and unemployment by providing safe housing and paid employment opportunities for individuals who do not have a place to call home or a paid job to make ends meet.
Paul's passion and determination in assisting the most disadvantaged in our communities is evident in all aspects of his work. He coordinates a small dedicated team to identify suitable accommodation, recruit new house tenants, and work with our corporate employer partners to provide ongoing paid employment as well as provide ongoing mentoring to all house tenants through weekly house meetings and additional in-work support at each individual's workplace. Paul works with participants to build self-reliance, independent living skills and resilience. In the last five months, Paul and his team have assisted eight very long-term unemployed and homeless individuals to secure safe housing and a paid job. A further 20 accommodation and paid employment placements is planned for completion by the end of 2015.
Paul's passion for 'creating another chance' for all our clients, his integrity and belief in humanity epitomises ACSO's core values and is a major reason for our organisation's ongoing success.
CoAct Member - Advance Personnel (Canberra, ACT)
Describing her introduction to the disability sector as "arrival by surprise", Sue Salthouse was 45 when she fell from a horse in the Snowy Mountains and embarked on her life of 'new opportunity' in a wheelchair.
Committed to social justice, Sue's immersion in the world of disability advocacy provided a new perspective on how to work on behalf of people who feel powerless. Considered a 'warrior for women', Sue's work with disability and women's organisations has spanned grass-roots leadership and capacity building through to ensuring women's rights in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are realised.
A trained teacher, Sue now focusses on women's rights and recognition of disability. Sue is Consumer Co-chair of the National Disability Insurance Scheme expert panel in the ACT and is determined to ensure that all people with disabilities have accessible housing, economic security and are enabled to make an equal contribution to society.
CoAct Member - Impact Community Services (Bundaberg, Queensland)
Kerry was nominated as Impact's Local hero by her work colleagues as a prime example of someone who goes above and beyond to help people realise their dreams and see their potential.
Kerry was originally referred to Impact under the PSP (Personal Support Program) for depression. Kerry overcame a number of personal barriers and enrolled in a Cert II in Business to increase her confidence. Cert III qualifications followed and she hesitantly accepted a traineeship role with Impact. She has grown exponentially in the role over seven years and is now part of Impact's mental health team. Her life skills and experience has helped many clients with a severe and persistent mental illness secure employment and training to live, grow and prosper. Her unwavering dedication, compassion and easy going nature allows her to connect with anyone and for us epitomizes what IMPACT is all about and what we want to portray to our community.
CoAct Member - MTC Australia (Sydney, New South Wales)
With four children and her parents to support, Tricia was determined to make a positive change in her employment prospects and enrolled in the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) to start her own business. NEIS helps unemployed people become self-supporting by establishing and running their own business. Despite the many challenges and stages of doubt through the process, Tricia is a shining light of success, creating the prosperous international freight forwarding business, United Pacific Freight (UPF).
Tracey Sassall and Gail Isedale
CoAct Member - Workways Australia
Tracey and Gail were both School Learning Support Officers who were working with children with Autism. To ensure the children they worked with had the best possible school experience, they developed an e-learning resource pack and educational program that assisted the children to more effectively participate in their schoolwork, and transition through education and into employment. As a result, the pair created Angels for Autism to allow schools, parents and community members access to the resources so that children and young people with Autism could be more effectively supported to navigate education.
Many daily routines can be difficult for a child to complete independently and because of this, they require support. Tracey and Gail have now developed a home base program that allows families, community members and specialists to help children visually in their day-to-day routines.
CoAct Member - MS Australia
Tim has lived with MS for the past seven years. His natural talent with the oval ball resulted in him being selected into high profiles football clubs such as VFL Port Melbourne and was on the cusp of being drafted into the AFL Melbourne Football Club in 2002. While participating in his love of sport, Tim suddenly discovered he was experiencing an episode of double vision.
A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis soon followed along with other symptoms effecting his mobility, balance and fatigue levels. This dynamic young man in time felt well again and returned to work, coaching school age children in a variety of sports, which he loved.
His attempt to return his normal 'invincible' self was short lived when he realised he could not run or kick a football any longer. Cleverly Tim diversified his professional life and changed roles to a high profile role with an international airline carrier requiring less mobility and continues his passion for sport, when he took up wheelchair basketball.
With the love and support of his beautiful wife, baby, family and friends Tim is an enthusiastic fundraiser for MS and hopes to one day run and kick the footy with his daughter when that elusive cure is found for multiple sclerosis.
Endeavour Foundation (David Barbagallo, CEO)
CoAct Member - Community Solutions Group (Queensland)
Endeavour Foundation was established in 1951 when a group of parents set up school on the veranda of a Queenslander home, refusing to accept that their children with intellectual disabilities could not be educated.
Today Endeavour Foundation is one of Australia's leading disability and community support providers, throughout Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. As a keen advocate for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Endeavour Foundation welcomes the changes which will deliver greater choice, control and independence to people with a disability. They embrace the opportunity to provide a holistic and diverse range of services nationally. They provide a comprehensive range of innovative and person-centred disability, health and wellbeing, training and employment services.
Edmen Community Staffing Solutions
CoAct Member - Community Solutions Group (Queensland)
With a commitment to client-centred service provision, Edmen delivers specialised and flexible staffing solutions to community service organisations across Australia. Founded in 1991, partnerships are integral to their services and they work with community service organisations to ensure high-quality, mutually beneficial service outcomes, particularly in the fields of disability services, aged care, and youth.