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Reg kicks major goals for culture and independence


LIKE on the field he used to command as a junior Indigenous football star, Reg Matthews is now kicking major goals off it.

Enjoying waterfront outings along the Strand in his home of Townsville, the former mine security guard and Feros Care participant said he felt like he’d struck gold with a new lease on life, after gaining access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

“My life has changed for the better, now I’m getting support,” said Reg, who has had two strokes and lives with diabetes.

“I have carers from Open Minds come for three hours every day and they’re (funded) through the NDIS.

“We go out for rides and walks, and they help me clean the house and do the washing. It’s really good and everything has changed a lot.”

A proud Aboriginal man, Reg’s new-found happiness and chance to reconnect with his culture and community takes him back to a time before his health issues had taken hold, when sport, socialising and connecting were key pillars of his life.


Originally from Ayr, Reg was a junior two-code football star, representing and honouring his indigenous heritage as an Australian All-Black in league.

As an Aussie rules back-pocket with plenty of potential, Reg was headed to Papua New Guinea to represent Australia before officials discovered the talented teen was only 16.

Working security in the mines of the Northern Territory amid the dusty expanses of Alice Springs and Katherine in his adult years, Reg loved connecting to country.

However, after his first stroke 15 years ago, Reg returned to Townsville before a second stroke just four years later greatly affected his life.

With his health declining, Reg felt like he was in prison. Cut-off from friends and loved ones, he was limited to a gruelling walk around his neighbourhood while struggling at home.

“I required a walker, but the one I had wasn’t good enough… it had small wheels and I couldn’t push it around,” Reg said.

“So, I tried to sit down most of the time. I couldn’t put my hand above my head, and I had to butter bread with a spoon.

“Having no cultural connection was really hard… It felt like I was in a prison cell. I didn’t go out and I got no air; you just want to be active and have a friendly talk with friends and just talk about anything really.”


From never receiving any funding support prior to being introduced to the NDIS through a co-location between Feros Care and Townsville Aboriginal and Islanders Health Service (TAIHS), Reg, now 62, is on the path to happiness.

Aside from alleviating his social isolation, Reg’s NDIS plan has given him access to occupational therapy support for equipment, including a new power bed and a sit stand chair.

Assessments for home modifications including a ramp for easy house access will also be carried out, and adaptive technology for the kitchen to help build capacity around meal preparation, nutrition, and maintaining general health and wellbeing is also in the works.

Reg is also looking forward to receiving podiatry support, including orthopaedic custom-made shoes, which will assist him to keep his feet in the best shape possible.

Previously having to make do with taped up Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFOs), Reg will receive a new, suitable AFO, and will gain access to a clinical nurse consultant who’ll assist him, his support workers and family members, with diabetes management.

Describing Reg’s capacity building as “phenomenal”, Feros Care Community Development Coordinator (CDC) Stacey Stafford has seen great strides.

“When we first went through the process and I told him he’d gained access to the NDIS, he said ‘I don’t believe you, things like that don’t happen to me’,” Stacey said.

“He was so grateful that someone would want to help him and make his life better. He’s a very proud man and doesn’t like asking for help but assisting him to get access to the right services has been fabulous.”

Ringing Reg every week to keep in contact, Stacey sees plenty of exciting things ahead, with a “whole scope” of options taking shape.

Wanting to spend more time with family and friends, Reg is also set on joining culturally appropriate men’s groups, including a Men’s Shed in his area.

While he’s champing at the bit to see a North Queensland Cowboys game again when the National Rugby League season returns, it’s calling on his culture and sporting knowledge to help the next generation of Indigenous footballers which forms the basis of a dream Reg thought impossible not so long ago.

“Reg is very keen to reconnect with his community, and it’s something he talks about all the time,” Stacey said.

“He has a huge passion to give back to the Indigenous community through sport, and in particular youth, who he hopes to mentor.”

“There’s many things available for Reg now and he can’t wait to explore them.”

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