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A tragic moment in 2016 changed the course of Tom Spratt’s life forever after he fell asleep behind the wheel and rolled his car. The Parramatta local was travelling on the M1 Motorway at night and while he survived the car crash, Tom was hit by another car that same night while waiting for his father to pick him up from the side of the road. He suffered significant brain injuries and rehabilitated for almost eight months. But it was during this time and countless appointments with his occupational therapist that he found his passion for occupational therapy. Now at 22 years old, Tom turned to TAFE NSW Castle Hill to get his life and career back on track by completing a Certificate IV in Allied Health Assistance with a view to studying at university this year. And he’s not the only one to forge a new career in the industry with research showing 6,269 new occupational therapists were registered in NSW in the second half of 2019 alone. The Health and Wellbeing industry is forecast to have the highest growth in employment in Western Sydney in the next two years, growing to a workforce of 23,558. “I was interested in occupational therapy because the help I received during my rehab really inspired me and I know it will allow me to work with people who have had similar experiences to me,” Tom said. “Living with a brain injury is my reality and adjusting to life again and learning to walk was made easier through the help I received, which is why I’d like to be that support for others in my position.”
As part of his TAFE NSW course, Tom gained practical recreational therapy experience at Castle Hill Anglicare by working with their clients. He is currently employed as a therapist aid with Royal Rehab in Ryde and will study a Bachelor of Health Science Therapeutic Recreation at university this year. TAFE NSW Head of Health, Well-being & Community Services, Anne Goonetilleke, said the Allied Health courses provide students with practical skills needed in the industry. “TAFE NSW maintains strong industry connections so that students get the hands-on experience they need to pursue occupations in the health sector that are changing the lives of people like Tom each day,” Ms Goonetilleke said.
“Tom is proof that TAFE NSW students can be whatever they want to be.” Tom’s occupational therapist Belinda Carr encouraged him to pursue the career and has been his inspiration throughout the TAFE NSW course. “He was resilient throughout his whole journey to recovery and will bring a wealth of experience to the job because Tom has something in common with his clients and that is empathy and shared experience,” Ms Carr said. To enrol or enquire about the Allied Health courses on offer at TAFE NSW, visit www.tafensw.edu.au or call 131 601.
Media contact: Jessica Cortis, Media and Communications Business Partner, 0456 170 211.
 Western Sydney Region Snapshot