21 August 2023
Brain Injury Awareness Week is held annually to raise awareness of brain injury and its impact.
One in 45 Australians live with a brain injury. It’s an invisible disability, as there is often no physical evidence of the injury, but it affects how people think and feel as they recover and reintegrate into everyday life.
Murrumbidgee Local Health District’s South West Brain Injury Rehabilitation Service provides support to assist people affected by brain injury to regain skills required to so they can participate in home, school, work and community activities.
South West Brain Injury Rehabilitation Service’s Transitional Living Unit, Tarkarri provides a bridge between hospital and home for people learning to live with a traumatic or acquired brain injury.
“Tarkarri is an Aboriginal word that means ‘creating futures’,” said Jenny Goodfellow, an Occupational Therapist who coordinates the Transitional Living Unit program.
“After suffering a brain injury it’s common to act, feel and respond differently to situations as well as experience changes in your behaviour, personality and thinking.
“These changes can make it difficult to return to work, sport or activities you enjoyed before. It can also put pressure on your relationships with family, friends, co-workers and other people in your life.
“At Tarkarri we work with clients who have an acquired or traumatic brain injury to work on the skills they need to get back to life, including independent living skills, life roles and responsibilities and individual goals, so that they can create the future that they want.”
Tarkarri is a welcoming, home-like environment that operates just like a normal house.
“Everyone has their own bedroom so they have their own space when they need it. We all pitch in and do the housework, we cook meals together and plan our activities and outings,” said Jenny.
Albury’s Adam Scott has spent time at Tarkarri following an assault that left him with a brain injury.
“The team at Tarkarri taught me about brain injury, and how it can affect you. Once I understood what was going on with me, I was able to manage my symptoms better and start looking towards the future,” said Adam.
“The team also work with your family to help them understand what’s going on with you, what’s changed and how they can support you.”
Adam wants to encourage anyone with an acquired brain injury who could benefit from spending time at Tarkarri to give it a go.
“When you’re coming out of a brain trauma unit and you’ve been told some very confronting things, and you’ve seen some very confronting things and you’re basically told you have to start your life again, you don’t know how to take it. But here it’s completely different.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I came to Tarkarri, but walking in here was the best thing I have done. The support, the trust and everything you get here has just made my recovery so much easier,” said Adam.
“Re-learning the basics of everyday living has been confronting and challenging. I may not be able to go back to doing everything I was doing before, but Tarkarri has opened my eyes to what I can do. I’ve set myself some goals and I have people to support me to achieve them.”
Adam says the theme for this week – Brain Injury is more than you see, think and feel – can help to raise awareness of the invisible nature of a brain injury.
“The big thing that has changed for me is my confidence, and I also have a lot of anxiety as I’m living a very different life and trying a lot of new things. It’s hard to explain to someone that, not only can you not do the things you used to do, your perspective on life has also changed,” Adam said.
“Here at Tarkarri, I’m learning to talk about my injury, and to live with it in a positive way.”
Clients who come to stay at Tarkarri, or attend the house for a day program, may come from hospital or may have been living in the community for a while.
“We’d love to invite anyone who would like to see what we have to offer here, to come for a visit and see if our program is something that may benefit you or your family member,” said Jenny.
“Once you walk through the door you’ll realise it is not a hospital by any means. We have fun – we work hard, and the clients work really hard! It’s a very enjoyable and supportive environment and an amazing team. People get so much out of their time here, and that’s just beautiful to watch.”
Jenny Goodfellow, Coordinator of Tarkarri Transitional Living Unit and clients Cooper Maher and Adam Scott during Brain Injury Awareness Week, 21-28 August 2023.