REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Courage has three new names

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by ACM executive editor James Joyce.

COURAGE PERSONIFIED: Josh Hanlon with Lulu (left); Elise Woodcock after her life-changing crash and ACT rugby union coach Dave Oliver.

COURAGE PERSONIFIED: Josh Hanlon with Lulu (left); Elise Woodcock after her life-changing crash and ACT rugby union coach Dave Oliver.

Courage has a new name.

Well, three names, actually.

Meet Dave Oliver, Elise Woodcock and Josh Hanlon - and prepare to be inspired.

Josh "Chooka" Hanlon, from Wagga Wagga in south-west NSW, is turning 22 this week.

Last year, a few days after playing Aussie Rules for North Wagga on the June long weekend, Josh was feeling unwell so he took himself off to hospital.

It turned out that his organs were shutting down. His body was being attacked by a common bacteria. In the efforts to save his life, he suffered blood clots which led to the amputation of his right hand and both legs below the knee.

Twelve months after winning the fight for his life, Josh is now busy living it.

LOOKING AHEAD: Josh Hanlon with Lulu, the border collie who came into his life not long after he came out of hospital last year. Picture: Les Smith

LOOKING AHEAD: Josh Hanlon with Lulu, the border collie who came into his life not long after he came out of hospital last year. Picture: Les Smith

As Josh's mum Leanne told The Daily Advertiser's Peter Doherty: "When we first found out that he was to lose his legs and hand and all that, I can remember as plain as day, through the fog, saying to him, 'This is not going to stop you from doing anything. You can do anything you set your mind to'. And he will. He'll do anything he sets his mind to."

Read journalist Peter Doherty's profile of Josh here.

Elise Woodcock, from the NSW south coast fishing town of Ulladulla, was driving home from Canberra on March 4, 2018, when her car veered off a notorious stretch of the Kings Highway east of the village of Braidwood.

The next morning she was discovered in her upturned car by Toby, a driver for Bunnings, who was making one of his regular trips along the highway.

At first Toby thought Elise was dead. Then he began to remove the windscreen.

COMA FIGHT: Elise suffered a fractured skull, fractured pelvis, fractured ribs, a fracture to her right leg, a bleed on the brain and five lung clots.

COMA FIGHT: Elise suffered a fractured skull, fractured pelvis, fractured ribs, a fracture to her right leg, a bleed on the brain and five lung clots.

"He said I groaned when there was a crackling and he almost jumped out of his skin - I was a purply blue colour," Elise told Milton-Ulladulla Times journalist Sam Strong.

Found at the bottom of a ravine, Elise's long climb back to health continues next month when the mother-of-three plans to run in the City2Surf in Sydney.

"I'm always ready for a challenge," she says of the 14-kilometre Sydney run.

Read more about Elise's marathon road to recovery here.

Dave Oliver is a coach in the ACT's lower grade rugby union competition.

For almost 20 years, he struggled in silence - through depression and substance abuse - as he came to grips with a secret: his sexuality.

Now 38, Dave has bravely written about his experiences for The Canberra Times - to counter the harm he fears the controversial statements of Israel Folau poses to young players going through what he went through.

MESSAGE OF HOPE: "I need to tell as many people as possible, mainly blokes, that things are going to be OK," Dave Oliver writes. "My personal experience is a tribute to that."

MESSAGE OF HOPE: "I need to tell as many people as possible, mainly blokes, that things are going to be OK," Dave Oliver writes. "My personal experience is a tribute to that."

Recounting his dark years of "toxic shame", Dave writes with pride of his beloved rugby as a sport that can be truly inclusive: "No one at my footy clubs cares I'm gay. They care about how much I love the sport, the club, and getting out there and having a crack."

Read Dave's powerful story here.

Thanks to Dave, Elise and Josh for sharing their personal stories of strength and courage with their respective local newspapers - and for inspiring us.

See below for more great reading from around the Australian Community Media network, including a novel way to show your support for Aussie firefighters - the people who run into burning buildings when everyone else is running out - and a range of worthy charities.

James Joyce

Executive Editor, Australian Community Media

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