A former North Queensland Cowboys and Gold Coast Titans player has been named the winner of the First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) National Footprint art project competition.
Dharrpa Warra and Thitharr Warra Man Brenton Bowen from the Guugu Yimithirr speaking people of Hope Vale won the prize for his artwork titled ‘safe journey’. Brenton’s artist name ‘Thamal-Dilmbu’ means ‘footprints’ in his Guugu Yimithirr language.
FPDN’s National Footprint project was designed to strengthen the representation of First Peoples with disability across all policy areas to ensure their needs, expectations and priorities are met.
Mr Bowen said his design for the FPDN Footprint art project speaks to the journey First Nations people living with a disability are on every day.
“As our Mob with disability share their stories and feel safe with FPDN, they are also shedding the stigmas attached as people living with a disability,” Mr Bowen said.
“The journey in this artwork is about FPDN giving First Nations people with a disability a voice and supporting them to rediscover their strengths knowing that they no longer walk alone or in silence.”
Mr Bowen has been on his own disability journey after being diagnosed with Pituitary Adenoma in 2011. This life changing diagnosis saw Mr Bowen go through multiple surgeries and radiation to remove the tumour and stop the cells from growing, resulting in him no longer having a functioning Pituitary Gland.
“At the time I was diagnosed with Pituitary Adenoma, I was still playing professional rugby league. I was at the peak of my physical condition as a professional sportsman but then I started experiencing blindness in both of my eyes because of a tumour in my brain that was pressing on my optic nerve.
“While I was well supported by family, friends, and medical staff at the time, I carried the majority of this mental toll of this diagnosis in silence because of the stigma attached to being a strong Indigenous man. I wasn’t confident to reach out and ask for support.”
Although his health is now stabilised with daily medication that he will have to take for the rest of his life for his condition, Brenton now uses his experience to inspire others.
“Twelve years on since my diagnosis I have learned to live my life as an immunocompromised person, and with a fear in the back of my mind that a tumour may return.
“But I channel the insight I have gained from this journey into supporting and encouraging others to reach out and get the support they need, knowing this isn’t a journey they need to travel alone.”
FPDN National Training and Engagement Manager Carly Wallace said she was looking forward to seeing Mr Bowen’s powerful Footprint art design being featured in many aspects of the organisation’s work, including the new Yarning Disability podcast.
First Peoples Disability Network | www.fpdn.org.au
For Media Contact and to organise an interview with Brenton Bowen please contact Rebecca Thorpe, FPDN National Communications Manager | 0418 815 111 | [email protected]