Brad Hanns was 12 years old in 1980 when a horse-riding adventure took a terrifying turn. “The horse decided to take off and I fell off the saddle,” he recalls. “I got my foot caught in the stirrup and got dragged.”
Most people would struggle to find an upside to a mishap like that, but not Brad. “The only thing that saved me was the leather strap was rotten and it broke,” he says. “I got a lot of positive things from that accident.”
Growing up, Brad remembers his stockman father’s motto: “You always get back on the horse.” While it served him beautifully when he was 12, that advice also laid the groundwork for a philosophy that would carry Brad through a lifetime of challenges – and pave the way for his vocation in motivational speaking.
Six years after his near-miss on the horse, Brad was a first-year coppersmith apprentice when a bullying incident at work left him with a brain haemorrhage and a fractured skull. The long months of rehab and a resulting speech impediment triggered anxiety and depression in young Brad, whose mental-health challenges escalated over the years as hardships mounted: falling six metres onto concrete at work in 2003, a car accident in 2014 and the subsequent deaths of his father and partner in fast succession.
Yet there was light amid the dark times. Brad’s rescue Border Collie-Kelpie cross, Rastas, was his devoted companion until he passed in 2022, and today Brad is never without Shadow, a Collie-Labrador cross who’s “the spitting image of Rastas,” says Brad. “Gave me goosebumps when I first saw her.”
It was in 2017, at the height of his mental-health challenges, that Brad discovered his flair for public speaking. Hospitalised for his mental health, Brad became the impromptu host of a wellbeing workshop.
Accessing the NDIS in 2018 was another positive turning point.
“It has changed my life, it’s helped me be able to do what I have to do,” says Brad, who’s supported by his Uniting Local Area Coordinator, Sarah Hussein. “During COVID-19, Brad and I would talk regularly over the phone about getting his supports that he needed,” says Sarah.
Aside from connecting Brad with assistive technology that enables him to move about in his community, Sarah also champions his aspirations in motivational speaking. In late 2022 shared his message of resilience and encouragement to others to not be afraid to reach out.
“If you need help, raise your hand,” Brad urged the audience.
As he faces his latest challenge – a diagnosis of cancer in the hand – Brad is more passionate than ever about finding opportunities to step up to the microphone. Getting back in the saddle, even after the hardest days, is still the motto he lives by – and he believes it will support others, too.
“I just want people to hear my story and to realise you can get through it all.”
Come along to the Nepean Disability Expo and talk to Uniting LAC staff about how the NDIS can help you to achieve your goals, just like Brad.
Alternatively, contact us via our website https://lac.uniting.org/contact-us
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