Night Time Photography of Newcastle

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Newcastle Baths Diving Blocks Newcastle baths_night_dom_freestone Coal_loading LoveNewcastle beach at night by Dom Freestone pelican_newcastle Newcastle Ferry Night time stokton bridge sparking Vannessa Mahone fire wheel silo at night


Hi guys,

Sometime ago I bought a nice camera (Cannon 55D) and ever since that time I’ve been meaning to learn how to use it. Well the time finally came, as part of my uni course I had to go out and get some photos so I thought why not try and get some night time shots; after all I’ve always wanted to learn how to and I had a camera capable of doing it now.

I watched a few YouTube videos and learned a few things; I find YouTube is the best placed for how to videos. I went out one night with some friends and started taking photos of Newcastle.

As any quad knows, going out at night is much harder than it sounds, as my nurses would normally turn up from 8pm to 10pm so I had to make prior arrangements to go to bed later, he’s name is Trevor and he’s my dad. I don’t like being reliant on him but it’s hard not to be some times, if you’re reading this dad thank you for everything you do for me.

After getting my friends to help setup the tripod, a must for nighttime photography, I started taking a few photos. I must say nighttime photography is easier than I thought; the hardest part is finding the right spot and being there at the right time. I hope you enjoy thhe photos

Check out this video of my car!

Mind Your Back

Formed in 1961, ParaQuad NSW (Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Association of NSW) is a not-for-profit member-based association that aims to support people with a spinal cord injury to achieve their choices in life. ParaQuad have also started a new website and educational program called Mind Your Back, which teaches high school students and youth groups about spinal cord injury, spinal cord injury prevention and disability awareness.

ParaQuad approached me a few months ago and ask if I would like to be involved in presenting Mind Your Back to schools in the Hunter. I was a little reluctant at first, as I thought that the message would fall on deaf ears. This was only due to the ironic fact that I had a similar talk when I was at school and still ended up in a wheelchair. Then I started to think maybe I could try and make it a talk about life, while still giving them some idea of what life is like for a quadriplegic. I might not stop them from obtaining a spinal cord injury but that doesn’t mean I cant educate them about the role of the spine, what a quadriplegic is and making good decisions especially after making a bad one.

The first school I spoke at was Francis Greenway at Beresfield. I was amazed at how responsive the kids were and how well they listened, it was nothing like I had imagined. I thought the kids would be disinterested and talking amongst themselves, though I must say the teacher who had them that period looked like she knew how to handle unruly teenagers. The presentation went slightly over time but no one moved, surprising as it was recess.

The Next school was Newcastle High and surly this school, home to Silver Chair, would be trouble. Once again the teachers and kids were amazing and listened so well, not once did I see a private conversation going on. We had to do Newcastle High School two weeks in a row, the first week we spoke to year 10 PDHPE and the next we spoke to year 10 PDHPE and year 8. On my second visit I had kids going past who had somehow remembered my name and said hi. A few days after speaking at the school I was coming home from Melbourne cup celebrations when I was stopped in the streets by Noah, who was a student at Newcastle high. So nice to be stopped by kids who had remembered the presentation and it got me thinking that maybe these kids were actually different from me, maybe they are listening.

Next was school was etaustralia Secondary College, located in the central coast. I was told this school was full of kids who could benefit from what we have to say, risk takers. I didn’t know what to think and had trouble finding the school. When I found the school it was unlike any school I had ever seen and was told that it was in it’s first year, it felt to me like the old tv show heart break high. The kids were wearing whatever they wanted and a sense of rebellion was in the air. I started to think this maybe the hardest one yet, but as soon as we started the kids were amazing. Everyone listened, no one spoke and the showed a genuine interest. I was even asked the best question I think anyone has ever asked me about being in a wheelchair; “what’s the hardest thing you have to do each and everyday?’ What a great question! I responded with what I thought was the hardest thing I face and that is, being the guy in a wheelchair. To explain that better, it’s hard to be the guy in the wheelchair and want to go to parties and be the guy in the wheelchair, go to uni and be the guy in the wheelchair, go to work and be the guy in a wheelchair, go shopping and be the guy in a wheelchair. My life would be much easier if I just spent it at home where everything is accessible and air-conditioned, it’s hard to keep living your life and it’s a battle that I fight everyday. I have to push my self to do things that normal people do and not just stop living my life and that’s hard. I loved speaking to those kids in Gosford and I think I got just as much out of it as they did.

The next school we will be speaking at is St. Pius X High School in Adamstown. I hope the kids there get something from our visit.

My first Podcast

Listen now

Wheelchair Accessible Veggie Garden

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Rizzo_the_gardener Gravel garden_base garden_base dom Freestone Hard at work volcanic_rock trevor_freestone framw raised_garden_bed Raised_garden cucumber_flower tap_handle_accessible hose spinach snow_peas


I’m constantly in my garden and I find it’s a nice distraction from the fast pace world we all live in. I don’t have a green thumb or any special knowledge of gardening but through investigation, trial an error and help from my awesome dad I’ve managed to create a garden that I’m able to grow vegetables independently in. Now, I don’t have to tell anyone in a wheelchair how valuable independence is so even if you’re not a gardener you may want to try this out purely for the self satisfaction that goes with growing your own crops.

So how do you go about making a wheelchair accessible vegetable garden? Traditional vegetable gardens are very close to the ground and impossible for someone in a wheelchair to access comfortably so I needed to start looking for alternatives that rise the height of the garden to a level a quadriplegic can access. There are a few options to do this, corrugated iron, railway sleepers, concrete blocks and treated pine. I’m not sure about the longevity of the corrugated iron or colour bond garden beds, I would imagine that at some stage they would start to rust and break down especially with the wheelchair constantly damaging the paint. This may not be an issue for some but for me, a quadriplegic who is unable to simply install a new one, this posses a major issue. I need something that will last as I will not be able to repair or replace this garden with out help, so I ruled out colour bond/corrugated iron.


Railway sleepers would be ideal, they are robust and could easily raise the height of the garden bed up to my level. So the search began, we looked everywhere for some reasonably priced railway sleepers (turns out reasonably prices railway sleepers is an oxymoron), even approaching a local construction crew who were in the middle of removing and old railway line for the new Fern Leigh Track in Newcastle.None of these options worked for me so I put a line though railway sleepers.


Concrete blocks were next on the list, they would stand the test of time but I would need someone with experience to lay the blocks and added cost is not something I wanted as I had limited funds.


This left me with one option, treated pine. Treated pine would last a long time exposed to the elements, it would only cost approximately $230 and my Dad and brother would be able to construct the garden in a weekend.


As the sleepers are cut into 200mm wide planks I decided that 800mm would be the ideal height for the garden, at this height I would easily be able to dig, plant and harvest.
After deciding on the material and design it was time to start construction.


My dads first layer consisted of road base. The idea with this is to provide a solid path around the garden so that I wont get bogged down when the ground is wet. Next dad placed the bottom level of the wood down and ensured that it was level. From there it was a matter of placing the next three levels on top of the base and screwing together with coach bolts and brackets.


After the frame was finished we half filled the garden bed with what resembled volcanic rock, to save on soil. Then we placed a weed cloth on top and filled the remaining space with “vegetable mix” soil.


It’s been roughly two months since we finish and now the garden is thriving, dad has installed a netting over half of the garden in a hope to stop pests.


I thought I’d also share a picture of my outdoor taps. As a quad I find normal taps impossible to operate so we put these lever type in, sorry I don’t know their actual name.


If you would like more details of the garden or want to share you gardening story with the freewheeler audience please email us.


My first Youtube Video


Thought I'd share this video with everyone. I made it about two years ago, I recorded the audio with my iphone at the Cambridge Hotel in Newcastle, while watching the Revival Tour. Which reminds me, if you're ever thinking of going to the Cambridge be warned it has unisex toilets and no disabled bathroom. I felt quite odd emptying my leg bag onto the urinal step, while everyone watched, as I couldn't get close enough to empty it into the actual urinal. There's also no room to move once the place gets busy.


My name's Dom

Welcome to freewheeler! This is my first attempted at writing a blog and as hard as it is I thought my first blog entry should be about myself. Now, anyone who’s written a blurb about themselves for a dating site knows how painful that experience can be, so stick with me and please keep reading. My name is Dom and I’m a quadriplegic. I grew up in a little beach town 20 mins north of Coffs Harbour called Woolgoolga, or Woopi to the locals. I had a great childhood, very active, very sporty.

After limping across the finish line that was the HCS (higher school certificate) I moved to Newcastle to attend uni. I use the term “attend uni” very loosely, I did maybe two assignments then dropped out. I wanted no part of the degree that I had chosen and was quite happy living poor and being around friends.

I worked weekdays as a labourer, which is where I met Mark Donaldson VC, if you don’t know who that is shame on you and google him right now! Mark was different from everyone else I knew and he dreamed of being in the Army and one day the SAS. He trained everyday to realise his dream, which I thought incredibly stupid. I use to say to him, “you'll die a horrible death fighting for something you don’t care about” but I did nothing to Marks intentions of joining the Army, instead he convinced me that the defence force was a dream job. A place where I could play sports all day and be paid for doing it. So with no other direction in life I gave it a go and joined the RAAF. I originally wanted to be a Aircraft Technician but was told the wait would be roughly a year so changed my preference to a GSEFIT or Ground Support Equipment Fitting Engineer, a fancy name they use for a diesel mechanic in an attempt to lure the young and it works.

I was only in the RAAF for about two years when I shattered my spine at cervical 5/6. The neck is so fragile and it didn’t take much for mine to shatter into a bunch of little pieces, a simple dive into water that was too shallow. I wish I had of done it doing something heroic or worthwhile, so I could tell people a grand story rather than “I dived into water that was too shallow”. Anyway I spent the next week on life support in the ICU at The Austin hospital in Melbourne. The day of my accident I was a fit 103 kgs, ran 2.4km in 9 min 27 sec, one month after my accident I was a skeleton at 78 kgs and unable to move anything. The Air Force flew my parents in to be with me, I can only imagine how hard it is for them and they’ve never been counseled for the trauma my actions caused them, one of the many thing that needs fixing in this world.

A piece of advice for those who have friends or family who are unlucky enough to spend a prolonged period of time in hospital, after a few weeks people stop visiting and thats when it gets hard to cope, so try and visit them more.

Ok, I’m going to speak to those of you with no knowledge of spinal cord injuries now. I am a quadriplegic and I can move my arms, praise Jesus! I’m joking of course, not about the arms rather praising Jesus, he has nothing to do with it. Being a C6 quadriplegic means that I have limited movement in my arms. The image below shows what levels of the spine control, C5,6 is me.

Now don’t feel bad if you thought quadriplegics couldn’t move anything, some cant and I had no knowledge of this either until I was a quad.

Once I moved out of rehab I found out how hard life was going to be. In rehab there’s plenty of people in wheelchair’s and they’re in the same situation as you and the abled bodied people are health care workers who are around wheelchairs all the time. When you move “home” you realise the inescapable fact you’re the one in a wheelchair, you’re the one everyone looks at. Everything moves on without you and a year is a long time to be removed from the world then suddenly returned as a guy in a wheelchair.

That second year was tough and I didn’t leave the house much, oh and my house was a department of housing unit that would be home until the defence force accepted liability for my accident or I found somewhere else cheap to rent that was wheelchair accessible. In the end after a year of fighting and even being accused of “doing it on purpose to get out of the defence force” the RAAF accepted liability. I’m extremely luck to have their support now and my life would be much different without them. I was able to buy my own home, which the DVA (Department of Veteran Affairs) modified to suit me.

Then came the realisation that I now had a copious amount of time and nothing to do. I sat around for a few months until I bought myself a friend, Rizzo. He’s a brown lab and he got me leaving the house again, Rizzo didn’t care about the wheelchair and he deserved to go out walking. I started walking him everyday and we slowly made it further and further away from the house and I got use to being the guy in a wheelchair.

Now I could leave the house and feel “normal” what was I going to do with my life? I want my newly born niece, Hollie, to be proud of her uncle and not a secret she keeps from her friends when she gets older. That’s when my Occupational Therapist asked me if I’d like to drive again! How could I drive, look at me. Anyway with her help I did, I’ll write about that some other time.

So then I started thinking that I should volunteer somewhere, so my dad started asking around and it didn’t take long before he found somewhere. I volunteered at the Maritime Centre in Newcastle 3 days a week for a year, which I might write about some other time too.

I then started to think I need a hobby, so I search around and heard of a guy in Orange who was welding and he had an even higher level of injury than me! We organised a trip to Orange only to find that the “wheelchair accessible” accommodation was far from accessible and extremely long rambling story cut short thats when freewheeler was born, at least the idea.

I hope this site helps and grows so that traveling is now long a hassle and I hope that one day I’ll be someone my nieces can be proud of.

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