Never Say Never - Parker Completes Trail walk - Lord Somers Camp and Power House


Never Say Never – Parker Completes Trail walk

The doctors said that he would never walk – I am sure they would have been surprised to see him climbing the Dandenong Ranges for 18 hours on his way to completing a third Oxfam Trailwalker.

Matt Parker, a.k.a Wobbles, was born in 1969 and diagnosed with cerebral palsy and only walked at the age of seven due to the tenacity and determination of his parents who refused to accept the doctor’s prognosis.

Through massage, stretching and being enticed with Freddo Frogs, Matt took his first steps to living a life that would prove many people wrong. Throughout his life Matt would display the same tenacious determination that his parents and siblings showed in enabling him to have the best chance of leading a ’regular’ life.

His two older brothers and younger sister ensured that he had all the fun, heartache and humiliation of growing up as ‘one of the kids’, Matt remembers being tied up to their upstairs banister for several hours by his brothers for telling fibs to his brother’s girlfriend.

I have known Matt for 35 years and have always been inspired by his passion for life, quick wit and wicked sense of humour. This was all on display as our team, ‘Hard in the Slush’, tackled the final Melbourne Oxfam Trailwalker on March 2.

A rolling cast of Slushies have made up the Hard in the Slush team in their continued participation in this event for the last 25 years. About 7 years ago Matt Parker was asked if he would like to join the team, and he thought it was a joke. Matt is a fan of never saying no to adventures particularly if asked to participate in something “out of this world” and something normally unachievable like walking/wobbling 100kms.
So a plan was hatched to see if we could achieve this. Two broomsticks were employed in our first training walk together, with someone in front and someone else behind holding the ends with Matt in the middle. This gave Matt some steadiness and helped him to walk more easily. This was the start of the design which ended up evolving in to Monty: an innovative, unique aluminium framework, named because it made us look like something out of a Monty Python sketch.
Monty helped us get through the Trailwalkers in 2016 and 2017.

Carlo, the companion to Monty, was conceived and built for the 2024 event. Made from a metal chair and a child’s BMX bike sourced from the local recycling station, it was all welded together into some sort of dystopian wheelchair, onto which Monty could be bolted to turn it into a chariot-like contraption. We dubbed it Carlo, so together we had Monty Carlo. It worked a treat, however in hindsight, some brakes would have been very handy on some of the downhills!

Our 2024 campaign saw our motley group assemble from all over the state and work together to complete the Final Oxfam Trailwalker and say farewell to this great chapter in our lives. We rolled, wobbled and pushed uphill and down as we managed the difficult course and the obstacles it threw in our way, we enjoyed banter with the other teams who quickly forgot about their discomforts, and we loved the chance to spend time together with our mates on this odyssey.

Matt reflects: “I think the collaborative effort that enabled me the courage and luck to begin to walk unaided, played out each time I walked Trailwalker with you lot. The mateship, banter and encouragement which we all enjoy is priceless to me personally and similar to the lessons learnt at Big Camps, I reflect on these episodes when life gets hard”.

This attitude to life led to Matt being integrated into the normal schooling system in 1980 at Camberwell Grammar, which was very rare for anyone with disability at this time. Matt is also a wonderful father to three kids and a great husband to Marie.

When being interviewed by Channel 9 news at the first checkpoint, Matt stated that he went by the motto, ‘never say never’, which is why he is such a great champion for inclusion.

Our team this year- Tyson Goldsworthy, Ian Patching, Matt Parker, Al Jack, Matt Bowker and Andre Sardone, ably supported by Jason Gribble – met in the late 80’s and early 90’s as members of the Slushies at Lord Somers Camp and have been great mates ever since.
I am very proud to call Matt Parker a great friend of mine and he is a constant inspiration to me.