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MSA National Advocates

Advocates

Andrew Potter (Tasmania)

Tasmanian resident Andrew Potter was diagnosed with MS aged just 23. A year into his marriage, the MS diagnosis came as a shock to both Andrew and his new wife, Jane.

Within six-months he lost sensation in the lower half of his body and was confined to a wheelchair. Andrew gradually was able to walk again. However, eight years later, Andrew’s MS worsened at a rapid rate and, at the advice of his neurologist, Andrew commenced two years of chemotherapy to put his MS into remission. The chemotherapy had limited success. However, other new treatments enabled Andrew to return to part-time work in 2005.

Andrew became an Advocate for MS Australia in 2008 to assist others with MS, and in 2014 became the National Coordinator for the National Advocates Program. In May 2015, Andrew joined Oceans of Hope, a 60-foot yacht crewed by people with MS that has sailed around the World to inspire others with the condition. Andrew took part in the Auckland to Sydney leg, followed by sails to Newcastle, Southport, Cairns and Darwin.

MSA National Advocate - Astrid Edwards (Victoria)
Astrid Edwards (Victoria)

Astrid Edwards was diagnosed with MS in December 2013 after a rather dramatic first MS episode. As a way of understanding the disease, she started blogging about chronic disease and living with MS under the pseudonym LadywithMS. Telling stories – and saying what needs to be said – is her goal. She became a National Advocate for MS Australia in March 2015 – the same time she identified herself as LadywithMS.

Astrid is a Director at Bad Producer Productions, and a teacher of professional writing at RMIT University, and Vice Chair of Writers Victoria. She is also writing her first novel.

MSA National Advocate - Bruce Frost (New South Wales)
Bruce Frost (New South Wales)

Bruce is a father of four grown children who, along with his wife Julie, is lucky enough to call Narooma home.

An unexplained limp while on a walk in Sydney after a conference led to his MS diagnosis. Prior to his diagnosis in 2001, Bruce was the proprietor manager of Frost’s Honey. Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated to where working alone in the South East forests potentially became too dangerous to continue.

Bruce continues to work part time with the Four Winds Festival and continues to volunteer for the MS Society, Narooma District Lions Club, and Narooma AFL Club and Surf Life Saving Far South Coast.

And, yes, he still has seven hives of bees in his backyard!

MSA National Advocate - Erin Brady (New South Wales)
Erin Brady (New South Wales)

Erin was diagnosed at 21, although had experienced early onset MS since she was 18.

Erin has a BA in Political and International Relations from UNE Armidale, a degree she achieved studying part time and working full time for the NSW Legislative Council. In 2007 Erin began working for the Commonwealth Attorney General’s, where she remains to this day.

Erin exercises on a regular basis, and with the assistance of an incredible support team (including trainers, doctors and nurses) participates in the Sydney to Gong Ride each year.

Erin has achieved personal best’s she never thought possible (such as a 105kg dead lift) and completed the Ridiculous Obstacle Course (ROC) Challenge at Olympic Park.

As an MS Advocate Erin’s passion is in the areas of health, exercise, empowerment and independence. Erin’s personal motto is ‘just because I have MS doesn’t mean I can’t’.

MSA National Advocate - Jenny Wallis (Tasmania)
Jenny Wallis (Tasmania)

Jenny was diagnosed with MS three decades ago, when her son was born. After starting medication in 1999, her MS symptoms improved dramatically and she continues to remain fairly stable with her MS. She continues to work part time and remains involved in community organisations in her local area.

Jenny became an Advocate for MS Australia in 2008 to help create awareness of the prevalence of MS in Australia and to encourage research into the cause and a cure for MS.

Jenny does everything she can to maintain a positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise to make the most out of life despite her MS.

MSA National Advocate - Jesse Frick (South Australia)
Jesse Frick (South Australia)

Jesse Frick was diagnosed with MS when he was 18 years old, but has never let his disability stop him. Since his diagnosis, his passion for helping people living with disability has grown.

Jesse’s passion has led him to join Julia Farr Purple Orange, where he chairs the Youth Board, and sits on the Julia Farr Purple Orange Board and the Julia Farr Purple Orange Housing Association Board. He also sits on the Council for the Care of Children. Jesse previously sat on the boards for The people with MS Consumer Participation Committee and the Adelaide City Council Access and Inclusion Advisory Panel.

Jesse has a strong commitment to advocacy work and the positive impact it can – and does – have in many people’s lives.

MSA National Advocate - Julie Newbury (New South Wales)
Julie Newbury (New South Wales)

Julie’s MS story started forty years ago with a bout of optic neuritis. It wasn’t until 2006 – thirty years later – she received her MS diagnosis. Julie jokes that she has always lived her life clumsy and unable to dance, but now has the MS as her excuse.

Julie has worked as been a primary school teacher and principal, and now runs her own consulting business.

MSA National Advocate - Karen Costa (Victoria)
Karen Costa (Victoria)

Karen became an Advocate for MS Australia’s in 2008. She also volunteers for her Council’s Disability Access Advisory Committee, Meals on Wheels and Early Childhood Intervention Service Programs.

Karen believes everyone has a valuable contribution to make towards creating respectful and understanding communities.

MSA National Advocate - Lynda Whitton (West Australia)
Lynda Whitton (Western Australia)

Lynda was diagnosed with MS twenty year ago. Since then, her MS has meant she has used a wheelchair and a cane, and also had periods when neither were required.

She has been the President of the Bunbury MS Outreach Group for a decade, and has been an Advocate for MS Australia for the las four years. In 2014 she was chosen as the West Australian MS Volunteer of the Year.

MSA National Advocate - Lynne Smith (New South Wales)
Lynne Smith (New South Wales)

Lynne was diagnosed with MS in 1991. She joined MS Australia’s Advocate Program at its inception, and remans proud to be an Advocate to this day.

Lynne speaks with her local Federal MPs and Senator on a regular basis, and aims to help politicians understand the needs of people with MS.

MSA National Advocate - Mary Webb (Australian Capital Territory)
Mary Webb (Australian Capital Territory)

Mary was diagnosed with MS twenty years ago, when her two children were babies.

Since then, she has been actively involved with her local MS society and the wider MS community.

Mary understands how MS poses unique challenges for everyone living with the disease (including mobility, fatigue, pain, cognitive issues, employment, relationships, finances… and the list goes on).

Mary has a background in biological research and science education, and currently works as a freelance editor. With this professional background, she feel strongly about educating people about MS, and also closely follows the progress being made in MS research.

MSA National Advocate - Mike Welsh (Victoria)
Mike Welsh (Victoria)

Mike was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS nine years ago at the age of 31. While the diagnosis was a surprise, Mike already understood the disease, as his mother was diagnosed with MS when he was at university.

He is a digital guru within the financial service industry, and is actively involved in transforming the industry to become more disability confident.

MSA National Advocate - Natalie Walsh (Queensland)
Natalie Walsh (Queensland)

Natalie is the Advocacy Manager for MS Queensland, as well as an Advocate for MS Australia. She was diagnosed with MS in 2008, and counts the Queensland Government’s Medical Cooling and Heating Energy Concession as one of her best achievements.

Natalie is a passionate advocate of issues affecting people living with MS and other disabilities, including advocating for the seamless transition to the NDIS in Queensland, ensuring access to age appropriate residential care, reviewing the Adaptable Housing code to align with the National Disability Strategy, improving employment outcomes for people living with MS.

MSA National Advocate - Nigel Caswell (Victoria)
Nigel Caswell (Victoria)

Nigel migrated to Australia from England in 1972. He was diagnosed with MS in 1993, but it seems likely that the slow but progressive gait changes 20 years earlier were likely caused by MS. Nigel is a lover of the Australian bush and, although he uses two crutches or a wheelchair, he is still an enthusiastic camper.

Nigel is President of People with Multiple Sclerosis Victoria, Deputy Chair of the MS Advisory Council (Victoria), a volunteer at a local emergency relief organisation, a Civil Celebrant; and has been a member of several state government advisory bodies. Nigel was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2013 Australia Day honours ‘for service to the community through a range of organisation’.

In Nigel’s previous professional life he was a civil engineer and the General Manager of Parks Victoria. He believes he was fortunate to work alongside professionals who were tolerant and understanding of MS, whereas others with challenging health issues are not so lucky.

MSA National Advocate - Suzanne Hadley (Queensland)
Suzanne Hadley (Queensland)

Suzanne lives in Cairns. She was the primary carer for her husband for thirty years, until the nature of his MS made it impossible for him to remain at home.

Despite being only 62 when he was admitted to care, Suzanne’s husband was admitted to an aged care facility as it was the only location available. Suzanne understands the need for a more diverse range of care options, and is a passionate advocate for the needs of younger people in nursing homes.

As well as being her husband’s primary carer, Suzanne is an Accredited Family Law Specialist, running her own busy boutique family law firm in Cairns. Suzanne is passionate about the needs of the disabled and is a member of the Queensland Law Society Health and Disability Committee.