Charles Brice: A Life-Changing Accident That Lead To Breakfast Television
Charles Brice, a quadriplegic ABC reporter, speaks with Peta in this episode, about his experience with disability and how he landed a job at ABC News Breakfast. Charles discusses his background, how he acquired his disability, and his journey to his current role as a journalist. He also shares his insights on finding work as a disabled person and the importance of representation in the media.
Connect with Charles:
Wings For Life: https://www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com
Connect with Peta:
Peta [00:00:03] Hello and welcome to The I Can't Stand Podcast. The podcast answering your questions on what life is like when you have a disability. My name is Peta. I have cerebral palsy and I'm your host this week. I have Charles Bryce on the pod. If you don't know who Charles is, Charles is an ABC reporter based in Adelaide. He has a disability. Charles, this story is such a great one and I really enjoyed this chat. So without any further ado, let's hand over to Charles.
Charles [00:00:46] G'day my name is Charles Brice. I am a quadriplegic, which I acquired after sustaining a motorbike breaking my neck.
Peta [00:00:56] I want to before we go into all the disability stuff, I want to talk about your work, because for me it's very important and I talk about disability representation all the time. So for listeners who particularly aren't in Australia, you're on ABC Breakfast, aren't you?
Charles [00:01:14] I am the ABC News Breakfast, the the National Morning News program on television here in Australia. So yes, sleep is now a thing of the past for me unfourtunlty.
Peta [00:01:29] And how did you get that opportunity?
Charles [00:01:32] So after my injury sort of had to reassess my life and decide what avenue I was going to take, which is I had always sort of envisaged myself in being a pilot and started my own set of lawsuits before my injury. So you had to reassess. And I guess after the better part of 18 months in hospital, in rehab and watching the news nearly every day, I sort of a natural sort of liking of it and sort of get a bit of an interest in it. And I figured that it was still something that I could still physically do. Yeah. Enrolled in a Josie course at uni not long after going to rehab. And then he's completed that and then spent nine months searching for a job before I was offered a part time job at the ABC here in Adelaide in a different time. So. Yeah, for about 18 months. I works two days a week online. And then I had this opportunity to jump ship and go over to television and play the Adelaide Breakfast program. So. Yeah, that was just dumb to be on our side on a sliding door allowance and taking an opportunity, which I probably thought that I could or would fill up the bus and say that there's much harm in filing it. It means that it's progressed from a as a learning to really.
Peta [00:03:17] Doing the stuff that scary often has the most benefit. You know, we all have that imposter syndrome inside ourselves, and I'm sure you and I different, but particularly and I really relate to part of your story in struggling to find a job. When you go through that, it really does knock your confidence to be like, Will anybody actually give me a go?
Charles [00:03:41] Yeah, that's right. It's it's tough. And I guess for me, I had already been in the workforce before my injury, so I knew I knew what it was like. You know, finding jobs is and I everybody personally and I knew it was going to be a completely different ballgame. Yeah. I would hate to see how many how many miles. I'll send you out after you. I was pretty proactive in doing as many placements throughout uni as I could just to try and. Networks, really, and to also learn, because you do learn a lot more once it's sort of in the thick of things rather than at uni. So. Yeah, I mean, I had to, I say just at the end law degree. So I think that sort of went a little way in helping in helping to secure some employment. But I know, like I know other people aren't as fortunate as how.
Peta [00:04:46] So before you became disabled, did you have any understanding of what having a disability would be like? Was it a culture shock when you really struggled to get a job?
Charles [00:04:56] Oh, my God. Like, I didn't even know how to spell disability, let alone no one was. But I grew up in country, South Australia, from through to now. I grew up in the nineties, early 2000 and like back then in a town of 95,000 people, you could say anyone in which I would say anyone that had an amputation or a brain injury or whatever the disability may be, so. I was so naive to had no idea. And if I did say something in English, I'll probably just like, Oh, yeah, you know, poor bastard, like. You know, I didn't stop to think, you know, what other issues that I have.
Peta [00:05:49] Yeah, I sort of I often get the feeling that people look at me and think, Oh, you know what she goes through. It would must be really hard. But thank God it's not me. So I can only think, you know, how much of an adjustment it would have been, particularly with your upbringing having no representation of what a disabled life can be and how fulfilling it can be, which you're proving now.
Charles [00:06:16] And when I was going through rehab, I was. My next door neighbour was a young guy who had four kids and like, like, like normal is. But I knew that I would never be able to run around these kids on the playground again. So in that regard, I find it's easy to go through it yourself and what it is to watch on.
Peta [00:06:43] I don't know how you feel, and I'm really interested to talk to you about disability pride, because I am very proud to be disabled. But at the same time, God somedays is really hard.
Charles [00:06:55] Life as life is still right. I still have so much fun living my life and they would never be in the situation like work was like was if I hadn't had a disability and had also turned around into a different direction. So I'm proud. I am proud to be have a disability.
Peta [00:07:27] So what's it been like getting feedback from the public because you are such a strong form of representation? Every day on ABC Breakfast.
Charles [00:07:37] Yeah. I mean, I guess I don't really think of myself as being, like, a representation of the disability community. Very simply because I'm just doing my job. I don't think I'm flying the for all those people. And yes, there has been times where I advocated for things with my work. The feedback has been great. You know, it's it's really only on Twitter that you cope a bit of grief. And that's, again, not having a disability. It's just if I've had a bad day at work. The feedback has been really good, and some people have even said to me that after quite a while doing my job that I didn't even realise I was in a chair. To me like that's..that's important as well because it should really matter. But also to like, it's just it's nice to be able to maybe shape the minds of people out there that, you know, the 19 year olds out there that don't know what a quadriplegic is, to then stop and think and be like, you know, like this can happen to anyone or it could be achievable. And, you know, the common stereotype of who it is with a disability sitting in their rooms all day is not true
Peta [00:09:14] Certainly isn't true. I have to say, you said that you don't consider yourself like you don't think about the fact that your form of representation, but you really are for me. It's so rare to see someone like me on the telly to be like, Oh, he's like kicking goals. And also you not forced to just talk about disabled issues which are just like that. So it's how it should be, you know?
Charles [00:09:42] Everyone does fly their own flag in some degree. It's just that mine happens to be on a more of a public profile. I know every spinal cord injury are draftsman, in finance sector and they don't just do just too good a job.
Peta [00:10:05] And do you ever crave being a pilot? Is that something that's possible for you now that you've been more accustomed to the disabled life?
Charles [00:10:15] I still would love to be a pilot, for sure. I know it's not going to be at the commercial level, but look, I know it is possible to do it privately. And there are people out there who are of similar injury to me who have gone on to get their pilot licence to fly to Australia and do all these amazing things. But unfortunately, I've got a mortgage to pay off and it's not getting any cheaper and I don't have the biggest income in the world, so. Yeah. Maybe one day. One day, hopefully. I did a talk at a school late last year and I told the kids, you know, their problems go that I always wanted to be a pilot and wouldn't be able to now because, you know, if you rocked up on the at the airport and you saw you all, it was in a wheelchiair. You know, we're still going to get on that plane. And to my surprise, a lot of the kids. Oh, yes. So that's fantastic. Hopefully they can become the rule makers and regulators so I can get back in the air.
Peta [00:11:23] So clearly, you're an adrenaline junkie still and you're part of a bike ride in 2019 and 2021. Raising money for spinal cord research. Tell me about that. Obviously, it's something very close to your heart, but what was that experience like?
Charles [00:11:41] It was bloody tough, you know. Yeah, in a sense of the word. It kind of stems from a friend of mine. She came to me one day and said that she wants to do some fundraising for me. It's about eight years post injury and. And so many people fundraise and do so many great things for me over those eight years. I kind of felt a little bit selfish. Should be like taking more money from, you know, kind of the same community. So her idea was to walk from the site of my accident to Adelaide. And I was actually like, let's not do it for me let's do it for the big picture. And give back. So yeah, the ideas start from a walk, which then turned into a bike ride. The first one was from sort of accident, and we rode back to Adelaide. That was that was the first time I'd go back to the site of my accident. It was kind of like a bit of a was like a letdown, really. Like, I go out there and. Like, I didn't really feel any emotion, really. I had only been in the area where I was farming at the time for probably like six or seven weeks. And I wasn't really familiar with the area. So like you pointed in any direction, any point and said you had your accident there I would have believed you. It wasn't just myself and my friend Sarah. We had we had 20 other people and then a crew of ten for our support group. So there's not a great number of people in this. As tough as it was, it was also like so much fun and so rewarding because that first year we were able to raise about 140 grand, it just really showed the generosity of some people. We kind of got the bug after that first one and we decided to do it all over again a couple years later. Just in a different part of SA, I we started and finished in Naracoorte, which is where both Sarah and I grew up, so. Unfortunately, I haven't really touched the bike since, But again that second round of the rides. Oh, yeah. Well, north of 100 grand. It's all going to the Wings for Life Foundation, which is trying to find a cure with the spinal cord injury. So at 100% of donations go directly to research. So there are no admin fees, there are no overheads there and I salaries to pay. That's that's a big reason why a lot of it and not a big reason why a lot of it is because they're making great inroads.
Peta [00:14:40] Congratulations. That's such a big thing to achieve. Not once, but twice. And it's really lovely to say that you're super proud of yourself, as you should be. You said that you didn't really feel anything when you when you went to the site, that your accident happened. Were you expecting it to be sort of therapeutic and for it to be like, oh, this will really help my mental health? And it sort of didn't happen? Or did it happen in a different way for you?
Charles [00:15:10] I didn't know what I was expecting but I didn't leave there regretting going there. I didn't leave there being sad or. Oh, happy. I kind of like ok, that box had been ticked. Let's go and do something. It's probably got more significance to the people that still live in that area and seem to have passed it every day. And again, probably comes down to it being easier to live it than to not live it.
Peta [00:15:47] And now that you've been living in a wheelchair for a little while, how do you go about the dreaded question that all of us get? And that is what happened to you?
Charles [00:15:58] I don't mind it. As long as I ask with severity. Like I said, I've had one guy look me up and down one day and be like, What's wrong with you? And. I kind of look back and go, What's wrong with you? Look now, that has been 13 years, I feel like my story is a bit boring to be honest. Like everyone, I went through rehab with had a motorbike accident. It's it's not something that's special or unique and to I'm living with it every day, like I'm used to it, I don't see it as like a big deal now, so. I'll have learnt so much, particularly around what disability is, I've probably learnt to be a little bit more empathic. I've learnt to be patient and that's not because I wanted to it's because I've had to. But yeah I've also learnt there is such a long way to go as well. We don't have the infrastructure on the side streets or like the buildings? But it is frustrating when people haven't learnt what we've learnt. But I remember to I spent 19 years not knowing as well as I. I don't expect other people to know just because I had that lived experience. If you're not exposed to it or you don't want to be exposed to it, then you're not going to learn. Quite often to you get people come up to you and say, oh, you know, I like. You'll walk again one day, which I know they're trying to be positive and engaging. But yeah, I guess I wish that I knew. Yeah, that may not be a possibility. I think hope can be a dangerous thing.
Peta [00:17:57] I'm the same when people say, I'm sure one day a walk. I sort of think like I understand it's coming from a positive perspective because they hold walking up here and I like, don't really like because I've never done that. So I don't really understand, you know, of course it would be handy, don't get me wrong, But it's just sort of like, well, does that mean my life is then have less value because I can't then walk and you're just waiting for me to have this magical cure. It's just such a funny thing to try and work out in your own head.
Charles [00:18:31] Oh, my God. I would take so many more things before being able to walk again. Like, I would rather have to use my arms and hands before I could even move my little, my little toe. Or, like, the use of, like, your bowel or bladder. Just give me those simple things before being able to walk like any day of the week. Because not being able to regulate my body temperature like it's 30 degrees in Adelaide today, and if I sit in the sun for more than 10, 15 minutes. You can almost cook yourself from the inside out like because we don't sweat and we're not able to cool down. I'd love to be able to lay out a towel.
Peta [00:19:26] What do you hope for the future for people with disabilities?
Charles [00:19:30] Happiness, inclusivity. And just fairness as well. Like it is improving, but you're not going to take a little while to go yet. But I mean, disability is different things to so many different people. And yeah, I guess in a broader sense, I just hope that they're able to get those things and to to be happy. 'Cus life with disability is pretty good. It's not something to be embassed about. It's just a different way of life.
Peta [00:20:09] Thank you for listening to this week's episode. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, can I encourage you to leave a writing, a review on whatever platform you're listing on? Or you can send me an email or contact me by my Instagram. Thank you so much for listening. I truly appreciate you. And until next week. Have a good one, guys. Bye. I'd like to pay my respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, but especially to the Bunnrong people. Where this podcast was recorded.