News

Life-changing Walk On program launched at the University of Sydney


4 November 2010

Governor-General Quentin Bryce at the launch of the Walk On Program.
Governor-General Quentin Bryce at the launch of the Walk On Program.

The Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce AC officially launched the first Spinal Cord Injuries Australia Walk On program in NSW in a ceremony yesterday at the University of Sydney's Cumberland Campus.

The Walk On program, which focuses on maximising functional recovery through exercise, is delivered by therapists at the University of Sydney's Faculty of Health Sciences under a unique partnership arrangement which embeds community-based service delivery into teaching and research.

Dean of Health Sciences, Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn said: "The partnership allows us to offer this vital service to the community while also introducing our students to cutting-edge exercise rehabilitation techniques and research.

Client's report that the Walk On exercises result in greater central nervous system activity, core strength, muscle mass and movement as well as improving their psychological and emotional health and wellbeing.

Based on the well-established Project Walk in the US, the Sydney program will be the first of its kind in NSW, following the successful introduction and pilot of the Walk On program in Brisbane two years ago.

With an estimated 360 Australians sustaining a spinal cord injury each year, the demand for services is high.

NSW Therapist Kierre Ireland said clients have already travelled from as far as Western Australia and New Zealand to take part in the program.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence at the launch of the Walk On program.
University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence at the launch of the Walk On program.

"This isn't surprising as intensive exercise through the Walk On program provides an unprecedented opportunity for continued functional improvement post hospital rehabilitation," she said.

"Our clients range from young children to older adults and while not all of them will walk again, recovering the slightest movements can drastically improve the quality of life and independence of these individuals and have huge benefits for families."

Rod Watson is one such client. Whilst on his buck's afternoon with his mates, five weeks out from his wedding, Rod came off his trail bike and suffered a T12 complete spinal injury.

He spent five months in hospital where he was taught everything he needed to know about living and accepting his future in a wheelchair.

This was one of the hardest times for Rod who before his accident was a welder by trade and self confessed sport enthusiast, racing motorcycles and drag cars.

Rod heard about Walk On in the hospital where he was doing rehab. He met a couple of people who had been and he knew he wanted to be a part of it. Earlier this year he attended Walk On for a 10-day program and was amazed by the results.

"For a paralysed person to improve in just 10 days, it was unbelievable," he said.

"I gained more strength, more coordination and more core stability and just felt more mentally positive about my future after Walk On. It gave me something to look forward to, it gave me hope."


Media enquiries: Rachel Gleeson, 0403 067 342, 9351 4312, rachel.gleeson@sydney.edu.au