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Water warrior rises in readiness for World Championships dream


Armed with the
right mindset and support, inspired water warrior Justin Redfern is ready to
sit on top of the world.

Qualifying for
the World Disabled Water Skiing Championships, the Feros Care National
Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participant and Townsville talent has broken
through many a barrier on his way to the world stage, since a work accident in
2013 crushed Justin’s leg under a boat, leading to an amputation five years

determination and self-belief has him right in the frame for a podium topping
performance in the green and gold.


Nearing his
dream, Justin said his journey would have been impossible without the support
of Feros Care and the NDIS, whose funding included a prosthetic leg and a set
of skis.

“If I didn’t
have the NDIS funding, I’d be buggered,” Justin said.

“Feros Care and
the NDIS has allowed me to continue down this path. Without them, I wouldn’t be
able to do what I love.

“It’s enabled
me to purchase the skis I compete with, and I use a special sit-down cage. A
new one is on the way, so without that assistance, I wouldn’t be able to fulfil
my sporting goals.”

While the
support helped Justin to build his capacity and work towards his goals, it’s a
steely determination and dedication which has driven a continual rise from near
death, after attempts to save his leg for over a year-and-a-half failed.

Justin, 34 at
the time, endured severe infections and kidney failure in his recovery from
amputation in 2015. With his health deteriorating, family and friends gathered
to say goodbye.

But drawing on
faith, and a solid health base, Justin pulled through.

While it’s been
a hard road, Justin credits his faith as a saving grace. Combined with a
determination to push himself physically, he has come to thrive.

“Leading up to
the amputation, I got as fit as I could and really focussed on nutrition,” he said.

“It was sheer
hell… when I woke up after the amputation, I was really distressed, but after a
few days on the surgical ward, I was in rehab and doing weights.

“I ended up
doing 5-7 hours a day in the hospital gym. But the day before I was to leave
the hospital, I got an infection and was a mess… the surgeon had to open my
wound and re-clean it.

“I went home on
a Friday and saw my daughter Jemma, then by the Monday, I was given 24 hours to
live. I survived, but for the best part of six weeks, I was gravely ill, and my
kidneys were running at 12% (functionality).

“They found an
infection and started giving me the right antibiotics; I wasn’t of the woods,
but I kept myself healthy to give my body something to fight with.”

dialysis, Justin looked up every kidney detox regime he could, and by the end
of the year, his kidneys had returned to 100% functionality.

Justin took
life by the horns, and with assistance from the NDIS, who also fund in home
domestic supports and psychology treatment, he’s been able to greatly improve
his mental health.


Continuing his fitness
and sporting journey through powerlifting, Justin’s competitive boxing
ambitions had to be parked, but he took to training and mentoring after gaining
the confidence to reconnect with the wider community.

“Being a boxer
had been my dream for some time. After my amputation, I thought I’d get a
prosthetic leg and get back in the ring, but that was far from what happened,” he

“So, one day, I
found the Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association, and they became
instrumental in introducing me to opportunities I didn’t even know about.

“I started
powerlifting and went away to nationals. With boxing, I became a trainer where
I’ve trained a few boxers now ready for amateur fights, I work with a diversity
program for kids with disability, and I have my own training regime with an
exercise physiologist.”

Sporting Wheelies, Justin also became close friends with accredited water
skiing coach, Donna James, who invited him to a come and try day of para

“I went down
and found that was my calling as opposed to powerlifting, and I enjoyed it a
lot more, so I started directing my full attention to water skiing,” he said.

“I learnt the
basics and had some terrific help from Donna and T3 paraplegic gold medallist,
Ian Hickmott. They gave me the training and confidence and water time to give
it a good crack.”

After shooting
a video of his talent with Ian, Justin caught the eye of Australian para water
skiing coaches.

continued rise saw him take on his first competition in 2019, and linked up
with Chris Beckett, who started Townsville’s All Abilities Ski Club.

with the Australian Waterski and Wakeboard Federation (AWWF), Justin competed
in the Burdekin, which gained him access to an Australian training camp in
Coolum in February, where he met, and became “great friends” with Australian
para skiing coach, Jason Sleep.

Justin competed
in slalom, wake board and jump skiing, requiring three different types of skis.
Through training, sponsorship, and help from friends, Justin gained regional
and finally, World Championships selection in Victoria.

the World Championships, which were set for early 2021 in Bridgewater,
Victoria, have been postponed until 2022.

While he’s yet
to return to the water, Justin is working hard on his fitness on dry land, and
is also content in his personal life, enjoying a close relationship with Jemma,
now 15, and his long-term partner, Amanda, who has a “heart of gold”.

Working with people
with disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, Justin wants
to give back and show everyone that “disability doesn’t have to hold them back
and they can achieve anything they set their minds to.

“I’ve always
had the dream to represent Australia at Paralympics level, so now, I want to go
out and show the world what I’m capable of doing, and have the world say, ‘look
at what he’s done and what he can do’,” Justin said.

“I was never
going to let this define me… I want to be an inspiration for everybody to say,
‘If this guy with one leg can do it, so can I’.”

Justin also
said he wouldn’t be where he is without the support of Feros Care Local Area
Coordinator (LAC), Andrew Bligh.

“Andrew was
fundamentally involved in getting me funding for my sit-down cage,” he said.

“I’m eternally
grateful. Andrew has always been professional, but he’s a really good bloke and
he always wants to go that extra step.

“Without his
assistance and help, I don’t believe I’d be in the situation I am. So now, I’ll
press on and try to win a world title, and I won’t stop until I get there.”

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