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In this episode we’ll discover how aspiring pro surfer Barney ended up a C6 quadriplegic, and how a chance meeting at a bar lead to a truly inspiring love story.

Barney Miller is a two time National Adaptive Surfing Champion. In 2017 he became the ISA World Adaptive Surf Champion too. Barney credits his mother for his never-give-up attitude, resilience and mental strength that has seen him push through everything life has thrown at him.

Kada is a singer-songwriter from the east coast of NSW. Her sound has been described as a mixture of R&B, soul and folk with a dash of electronic. Her latest single ‘Capital Beautiful’ is about feeling worthy and enough. She and Barney have co-written a book and made a film about their lives. We can’t wait to see what their future holds!

Podcast Duration: 26 minutes

Podcast Release Date: March 3, 2020

Produced by: Black Me Out Productions

Additional reading

About Barney & Kada

Watch You and Me the movie. A contemporary disability story about Barney Kate Miller who both go on a heartfelt journey to redefine what it means to be a friend, a husband and family, after their lives were shattered and all the rules were broken.

Buy the Book “The Essence of You and Me”. The inspiring, heartwarming true story of Barney and Kada Miller. This couple prove that love and resilience can change everything.

More on Barney

Support the Barney Miller Classic Surf Competition

This year will be the 21st year since Barney’s accident and of course the 21st year of holding the Classic. ALL proceeds will be going to a benficiary that has suffered a spinal related injury. There will be a Gala dinner and Auction on the Saturday night and a Sawtell Street party on the Friday night. It will be a 3 day event and all surfers will surf twice at a minimum. Dates will be 27, 28 & 29th March 2020. Its gonna be sick!

Learn more

Read more about Barney’s story here

More on Kada

Support Kada’s music career

Just a small town girl who loves to create & share stories from the heart through song, books, conversation & film.

Follow Kada on Instagram

Listen to Kada sing

View transcript

Growing Bold and Falling in Love

Welcome to the Grow Bold with Disability podcast Brought to You by Feros Care. A podcast dedicated to smashing stereotypes and talking about the things people with disability care about most to help us live bolder, healthier, better connected lives. I’m journalist Pete Timbs and I’m Tristram Peters. I work for disability service directory, Clickability, and am a wheelchair user living with spinal muscular atrophy.

Today’s episode of Grow Bold with Disability is Growing Bold and Falling in Love. And our guest is quadriplegic surfer Barney Miller and his amazing wife, Kate ‘Kada’ Southwell. In this episode, we’ll discover how aspiring pro surfer Barney ended up a C6 quadriplegic and how a chance meeting at a bar led to a truly inspiring love story. Barney and Kad,a welcome to Grow Bold with Disability. Thank you.

Barney, let’s start with you. Can you take us back to that fateful day back in 1999? Yeah, for sure. It was just like any other day I was on my way. I’d woken up to get ready for work. I was a white water rafting river guide at the time just sort of an hour and 1/2 northwest of where we live and I got ready and jumped in the car. It was pouring down rain, but being a river guide, you need the water. So we were stoked and ready to go. Went into the office, found out that we had to jump in the car with one of the other workers because there was a bus full of people coming.

We started heading out, it was pouring down. And like on a small country road, he just decided to overtake three cars and then try to take a 90 degree angle turn at about 130km. So that’s when my memory actually just stopped until about a week later in hospital. But the reports say, the car rolled. I was caught in the wreckage, obviously when it hit the tree and rolled and then I had to be cut out, which took a few hours out of the jaws of life.

Let’s fast forward. We don’t want to leave it just there. Fast forward 8 years. We want to get to you guys because Barney’s story. It’s been an amazing story. But we want to hear about you two, Kada. How did you cross paths with this gentleman? Okay, I just moved to Sawtell from a small country town called Cara and it was the Sawtell Chilli Festival and I’d been asked to model in it. And so I thought it was a great way to get to know some people. And after that, I ran into him at the Sawtell pub and, yeah, we hit it off straight away and started talking and then didn’t see each other for a little about a month, I think it was. And then we ran into each other again down the beach, and that’s when he asked for my number. And then, yeah, the rest is history.

So why were you moving to Sawtell? Well, from where I grew up it is,  I had pretty tough teenage years. I’d lost quite a few friends to suicide and drink driving, and I’d found myself in a pretty bad spiral of just alcohol addiction and just bad choices. And so I was 17 at the time. And I knew I needed to make it big change in my family. My parents said “Did you want to move to Sawtell?” Because I already had family up there, they were already planning on moving up here in the coming years. And so I took the big plunge and did it. And it’s the best decision that I’ve ever made. And its there that you obviously met Barney.

Barney, what was your first impression of Kada? Okay, I think it was obviously, when I first sort of recognized her was like, this good looking girl, new to town, hadn’t seen her around before, and obviously, had to try and sweep in before she was taken. And just, you know, we started talking and she was just beautiful inside and out from when I first started the conversation. And I just knew that I had to sort of spend more time with this girl and it’s lead to where we are today. Did you ever think back in those days when you were single and out and about did you ever think that girls wouldn’t be interested in you because of the chair? Sometimes there is obviously a little bit of insecurity there. But if you are confident and just straight up and whatever. Like they know there’s a lot of beautiful people out there that see through that. And she was a rare one that did.

And, Kada, I’m a powerchair user myself and often think that sometimes taking a carer are on a date with me. You sometimes have you like having a third wheel? Was it difficult for you to start a relationship with that carer around? How’d you navigate that? Well, we were lucky in the sense that Barney’s carers were always his friends. So it was kind of just like hanging out with friends to begin with, But definitely in the beginning, when you try and navigate getting to know someone and wanting to have share, like, more intimate moments, you kind of just have to learn to let go of it a little bit and just go with the flow. And when we started getting a little bit more serious and, like, really started enjoying spending time with each other. That was when we had to have a serious conversation about, like, what was next for us. And that was when Barney really stepped forward and told me his goal of him wanting to walk again and wanted him to find more independence for himself. And that was kind of the beginning of our first step, of learning to live without a carer or and what that was going to look like in our relationship.

What did that mean to you? Because then that would basically mean that you become Barney’s carer as well. Was that a difficult transition for you? Not at all actually. It was the most natural transition for us. Purely because we were traveling, we started travelling a lot together and just having yeah having a really good time together. I don’t know, it’s crazy when I look back at it because at that time I was 17 when I took on everything and I came from kind of being pretty selfish before that. And I think it gave me an opportunity to give and to experience the world, that was more than just myself, and yeah, I don’t know. It just it just worked for us. And we’ve been in this position now for nearly 13 years, and it’s definitely had its challenges, but we as long as we keep communicating throughout the whole process it kind of just figures itself out.

Do you still have carers coming in and out? Barney, are they still a regular part of your everyday life? Yeah, they are. So obviously not that often. It’s only really for morning routine or, if it’s needed. But yeah, other than that was sort of it’s actually a hard because the last sort of, I guess you could say just over 12 months now, I’ve had a few issues myself, I spent a lot of time in hospital last year from a lot of stuff. I’ve been out of action, so I’ve had to let more carers back into my life for that reason, but it’s worked out. Good. And I’m on the other side of that, and I won’t get into that, but yeah. Wait, wait. I am I exactly, like, second book maybe.

Well, let’s talk about Kada. Tell us about the first Barney. Tell us about the first time you heard her sing. Okay, Now this was ah, it blew my mind because I was just on the computer doing some things and she asked probably about a week before that could we go pick up her keyboard out of storage I’m like, cool. And I just sort of said do you like to play, and she goes yeah, I like to play now and then. And, so then I was just in my room and she was out in the lounge room, doing stuff. And I was doing an email and I just heard this music again. And this voice and we I was like, is she playing the radio? I thought you were just playing on the radio and I wanted to know what that song was that she was actually singing and went out. I mean, what she was playing and then went out there, and it was actually her singing and playing, And I was just like, wow, like, wow. Why did I not know? Why did you not tell me like that about this, and I was just like, that voice is phenomenal. And we have to do something about that. Like you’ve got such an amazing gift that you need to show the world. So I guess that was it blew my mind. And  I’m just so stoked that she had the courage to sort of open up to me about and show me that that was what her passion was.

Kada, why had you been hiding it for so long? I don’t know. I think, I guess fear really, just I think for me I had a really hard time finding the difference between, um self belief and confidence and knowing that I had a gift and vanity and an ego and so. I think I’ve had a few moments growing up where I’d been made fun of for being over confident with my singing and being told that off. She thinks she’s so good. Like who she thinks she used thinking that she can do all this and I think that stayed with me. Forget too long. I let it I let it, um I let it in too much. And I think as when Barney heard me and that was the first time that I really actually sang in the probably a good two year period. And it just felt like home again. And I think I started to feel like myself again. And then it wasn’t until we went to America that I really started to find that the the real passion for it and the real confidence in myself again. To let others hear it again.

Speaking of America, you’ve actually sang in a major league baseball game. Can you tell us about that experience? Yes. Well, I was asked by the place that Barney was doing rehab at Project Walk. They did fundraiser at the San Diego Padres game, and they partnered up with them, and they are part of that. They were told that they could choose who was going to sing the national anthem for the game. And GiGi, he was in charge of client relations at Project Walked, approached me and asked me if I would be interested in it. And it’s funny, actually, just a few weeks before that, we’d been at the Lakers game and it was at the Lakers game that the girl sang the national anthem there. And I said to Barney, I want to do this. I want to sing the American national anthem. It’s such an incredible song and I want to sing it in front of thousands of people and I was just saying it just joking. And me and Barney would just like laughing and having a joke about it. Then I just let it go then to. That to be asked to do that two weeks later was absolutely incredible.

And so I had three months to actually practice and get it all to how I wanted it to sound. And they actually gave me strict instructions that it had to be one minute and 15 seconds. Exactly. And so that was a thing in itself. But it was the most incredible feeling to look out to, like 25,000 people and just hear the the passion from the audience. And  just feel the vibration and the energy of the whole stadium was a feeling that has stayed with me from that day. And that’s a feeling that I definitely want to feel again. So it’s something that drives me every single day as well. And yeah, very, very honored that I was given that opportunity and I didn’t even know if it was possible with being Australian, but, our neighbours definitely thought I was very patriotic practicing it every day. I’m so stoked. And one day I hope I get to do it again. I actually hope I get to do it for Australia this time.

Now Barney. Did something else happen on that day? I can’t really remember. Yeah, it was avery special. day. I asked Kada to marry me and spend the rest of her life with me in It was I just knew that that was the place that it had to be done because she and she was coming off a high from singing in front of all those people. And I actually spot until I when I want to make it a big surprise and and make sure it was a great, even better evening. So I spoke with GiGi. Who was that Project Walk who helped Kate with the anthem and stuff, and I got her to. It just sort of give me, like, I gave her some ideas about what I want to do. So we planned that we were gonna someone’s gonna take Kada away to keep her occupied. We’ll get her. I was gonna get down on one knee, which I had never done since my accident. So that was just something that I had set my mind to and a goal that I really wanted to achieve because yeah, I just wanted to do it that way. And and so we were supposed to be training to do that at my facility, like practicing it over and over again.

But because Kada was at every single training session of mine way never had time to. So we winged it on the night. So on the night, we just like All right, this is go time. So I got got my trainers to help me, and then I jumped. off jumped down on one knee. They wrote out a red carpet. We had people Oh, rose petals on And then GiGi ran over the Kada and said. Could you gotta come quick? Something something to Barney. She comes around the corner and I am there waiting for her.

So, Barney, what is it about Kada that you love? Let’s get sentimental for Let’s get even more sentimental. Yes, Let’s hear it. Yeah. Hey, e have, uh, well, I just She’s an amazing, ah looking person. She has a biggest heart. You could ever find in someone She’s thinks about everyone else, usually before herself. And she She’s just a person that lights up a room when it’s there. And people just wanna be around her. She just had the most amazing energy that people feed off. And it’s definitely some think that is very rare. And oh, mate, I can’t even it’s so like there is so much. So much, that I could just rattle on about. But yeah, well, I know she’s just an amazing looking person with a massive heart. Just enjoyable person. to be around makes me laugh sometimes a lot of time.

Way Well, listen, let’s throw it back at you Kada. Gonna ask you the same question. What Is it about Barney? That you love? Um I love his his just his outlook on life. Really? It’s his ability to on. turn a, horrible situation into. Something that he uses as his strength. Um, and more than ever, I witness that in the past 12 months, we’ve been together for nearly 13 years, and every day he surprises me with just his strength and his ability to, um, just overcome. But definitely the last 12 months, I’ve literally watched him hit death’s doorstep more times than anyone should ever experience but and then come out the other side still smiling and still so grateful and so so stoked to be alive and last year He had his full independence, so we thought we’d been through it up until that point. But last year we really went through it and he, literally lost all of his independence within himself off his physically.

So he was bed bound for the past 12 months. Um, not being able to get up, not being able to go outside in and out of hospital. He had 12 surgeries. He just, um and it was very rare. I don’t think I actually heard him like, really complain about the situation. Like if he definitely had his moments of just crying, saying, I don’t know if I can go on any longer, like, I don’t know if I have the strength, but then would let it out and then go. Okay, What’s the game plan from here? And in that moment of him, like he got told in his last surgery that there was a chance that he wouldn’t survive it.

And through, that that was probably the heaviest few months of our lives of the lead up to that. And to say goodbye to him and but for him to also be at peace of where he was at and see him after the surgery and just have so much light and so much life in him. That’s that’s what I love about him. It’s his ability to just, um just what he does, too. The world, what he brings to the world, really. Just the world obviously isn’t finished with him yet. And just to see, like those thousands of messages from all around the world of people just sending him his love and support and like that, that right there, like he his heart has the ability to heal others while healing himself. And that’s that’s such an honor and such a gift. And I am extremely proud to be a part of his life and a huge part of his journey.

So that’s what you very eloquent I Hey, you guys want some? What? So what’s next? What’s next for you guys that you’ve overcome this hurdle? What is their kids on the horizon? What’s what’s what’s the future hold? Well, we want to just live for a little bit. First way, actually want to get out of the house that is the no, Actually, we did get to go on a cruise recently. Like a week or two weeks ago. I think it was. That was Barney’s first outing for over 12 months. That was incredible. But yeah we got some traveling plans coming up this year, and we’re going to start back doing a school talks and taking a film and a book around to high schools and just spreading more love and more, um, more hope. And for me, my music is a big priority this year and so I’m gearing up for a lot of exciting shows and, um, yeah, just getting my music out into the world’s and performing as much as I can and Barney’s training again and I’ll be I’ll be tagging along there somewhere. And, uh, yeah, we’re definitely just I’m really looking forward to just sort of getting back with my trainer and just just that’s just me doing that sort of stuff. I need to get my independence back, uh, and just enjoy and make up for the 12 months of hell that I’ve been through and and that definitely, I think, yeah, we’re going to start a family after sort of. We’ve lived a bit and look forward to a happy future at the moment.

We got two pretty crazy dogs to look after, so they have been keeping us busy. I can. So, Barney and Kada, as you know, this podcast is called Grow Bold with Disability. Barney first, can you tell us what living a bold life is to you? Living a bold life is living the life the way you want it to be without any outside influence, from whether it’s professional or personal opinions and just pedal to the metal and going hard and enjoying yourself. Perfect and Kada, Grow Bold to me is just pushing beyond the fear of self doubt and just feeling it. But then doing it anyway.

Yeah, that’s nice. I love it now guys thank you so much for being part of grow bold with disability today is brought to you by Feros Care now the movie you’re talking about” You and Me” you’ll be able to find the links to that in our show notes. And also the book guys give the book of plug. Yeah, right. Us, give it a plug?. Okay, you give a word smith. It’s called the Essence of You and May and it’s pretty much the journal to our lives and you can find that at most bookstores and yeah, it’s pretty. It’s one of the most healing exercises yet. Yeah, it’s one of the most healing exercises that we have ever done. And if you haven’t written a book, even if it’s just for yourselves, do it because it’s the greatest form of therapy that you could ever do. Fantastic.

As I’ve said listeners to this podcast can find all those. All those links in our show notes of today’s episode. Barney and Kada, thank you so much for joining us today on Grow Bold with Disabilities You have been amazing. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for listening.

And if you have enjoyed today’s episode that make sure you subscribe to the podcast grow bold with disability. And if you like what you heard and please take a few moments to pop over iTunes and give our podcast a quick rating so we can continue these conversations and encourage people to grow bold. This podcast is brought to you by Feros Care a people care organization committed to helping people live bolder lives. We call it growing boldly and for over 25 years Feros has been making it real for both older Australians and those living with disability. To find out more, head to feroscare.com.au

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The content and views discussed in this podcast series are those of the individuals involved. They are not necessarily condoned by, or, are the views of Feros Care or its employees.

Our Guest


Barney, a quadriplegic surfer, and Kada, singer / songwriter

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