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Editions
August 09 Edition Cover

Docklands loses a true believer

02 Nov 2011

Docklands loses a true believer Image

Docklands lost a special resident in September with the passing of 27-year-old Liam Paterson.

Liam lived with a chronic disability from birth but lost his battle on September 13.

Docklands had been a dream come true for the wheelchair-bound software engineer as it offered an opportunity to live independently from his parents.

Mum Gwenda Donaldson and dad Peter Paterson said their son was taken suddenly but at least he experienced his ultimate ambition of living out of home.

Ms Donaldson said the family was grateful for the wheelchair-friendly amenity Docklands offered Liam and also for the support he received from the local community.

“He loved Docklands,” Ms Donaldson said as she and Peter were clearing out Liam’s apartment in The Merchant in Bourke St last month. “Everyone down here has been a wonderful support.”

Ms Donaldson said she and her husband wanted to let people know that Liam had passed away and they also wanted to thank
the community for the chance it had given their son.

Liam was born with a dystrophic version of the rare skin condition epidermolysis bullosa (EB). Liam suffered burn-like blisters over almost all of his body.  His daily bandaging procedure could take up to four hours.

Liam had studied software engineering at Swinburne University and had become somewhat independent of his family.  But he was prevented from living away by cost and lack of suitably accessible accommodation.

But early last year his case manager came across Housing Choices Australia and its management of 57 apartments in The Merchant.  It was a perfect match – Dockland’s general disabled-friendly building standards and Housing Choices’ small number of specially-fitted apartments for disabled tenants.

Liam moved into his apartment in June last year and turned his attention to his next goal of joining a software team within a Docklands technology company.  Unfortunately, Liam passed away before achieving this.

Ms Donaldson said Docklands’ contemporary urban design meant it was totally accessible for her son.  She said with only limited number of low-floor trams, Liam was often forced to drive his motorised wheelchair to the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

“He put long-range batteries in it so he could make the distance,” she said. “I’d sometimes jump on the City Circle Tram and say ‘I’ll meet you at the top of the hill’.”

Like many others not accustomed to Docklands, Gwenda and Peter were sceptical about Docklands before Liam’s move.

“But we absolutely love it now,” Peter said.  “And we’ve been to New York in the meantime and totally get apartment living.”

“It would be great to win Tattslotto and buy an apartment.  It’s so central and handy to everything.”

Gwenda said Liam always felt safe in Docklands.  “We never had any fears for his safety, even late at night,” she said.

“And everything he needed was on hand – the medical centre, pharmacy, and how good is the supermarket?  There’s never any queues and the staff know everyone.”

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