In December 2019, some wonderful people from the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) volunteered their time at Cottage by the Sea. One of their team, Tony, stayed at the Cottage as a child nearly 50 years ago.  We were lucky enough to hear his story. In his own words, Tony has generously shared some of his memories with us all.

The story goes I was a child that attended Cottage by the Sea through circumstances beyond our control.  Around 50 years ago, my father was recovering from major surgery, breadwinner for the family and had not been in employment for a number of years.  On the night of my Dad's surgery - actually Anzac Day, the family were travelling to see my Dad in hospital when we were struck by a truck going through a red-light – driver affected by alcohol.  Back then there were no seat belts or safety features and as result my mother and brothers were transported to my Dad's hospital and my sister and I Royal Children's.  Following the incident and no MAB/TAC our recovery was long and arduous with Mum recovering from her injuries for many years, Dad not in gainful employment and our family like many others making ends meet the best my parents could do.

Through my school and social workers, I was provided opportunities to experience summer breaks, Christmas like other children, also to provide relief to my parents. I spent summer breaks in camps, hence Cottage by the Sea (one of a few) was a home for two summer short term breaks.  The memories were fond and surreal experience.  I do remember the dormitories, children in similar situation to me, the children's sick bay, food and a gift pack with toiletries etc.  I do remember isolation being the only family member with no siblings or friends as company. The nights were difficult.

I have over my life journey driven past the Cottage by The Sea and would not stop or enter the property, not because the good it does, rather personal reflection and memories.  A few weeks ago, a colleague suggested as part of Rapid Recovery Senior Leadership, we would volunteer support with help around the camp and hold our leadership planning in the afternoon.  For a moment my heart stopped.  I spoke to my colleague about my experience, after which the offer was made to find an alternative venue.  Whilst appreciative, I declined as I felt I wanted to be able to provide something back for what it has done to support me and the good it does for others.  Last week, we held our leadership offsite at Cottage by the Sea and I must say I drove past, stopped and pondered for a few moments and later with the leadership team entered the property.

On entering the property, much has not changed from the time I was a guest noting the distinctive ambiance of the building, rooms, cooking etc.  We were provided with a guided tour, nothing much had changed – even the gift bags, bunk beds and children's sick bay.  I paused, reflected and was reminded of how fortunate I am to have spent some time at a place which has helped shape my DNA, values and belief in people.  It was until last week that something so close and dear part of my life journey was just tucked away.

It was great to hear the plans for the upgrade to Cottage by the Sea with openness and colour, led by dedicated and enthusiastic personnel so others can be provided the same opportunity as I was.  It is also worth highlighting the great support on the day from the rest of the TAC team and to our Values......we value life