Outback farmer Rob Cook is the Northern Territory's Local Hero.
Quadriplegic Crosses 730 Miles of Australian Desert In A Wheelchair
Rob Cook, the first person to cross Australia’s Tanimi Desert in a wheelchair, has been awarded Local Hero of 2012 in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Rob Cook, 30, is an Australian farmer who was rendered a C4 quadriplegic after a helicopter accident in 2008. Despite this setback, Cook has remained an active member of the Australian farming industry and continues to inspire injured farmers to continue contributing to the agricultural industry.
This year, Cook became the 255th scholar in this jubilee year to be awarded the the Nuffield Scholorship, a travelling scholarship scheme for British and Empire farmers. This scholarship will take him to New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico, USA, Canada and Scotland to study innovation and technology in the beef industry.
To fund this scholarship, raise awareness of farmers in wheelchairs and inspire other injured farmers to remain active in the farming industry, Cook took up the Tanami Desert Challenge. This began on 24 May 2011 and saw him travel 730 kilometres through the Australian outback in his wheelchair from Suplejack Downs to Alice Springs.
Riding at 6 kilometres an hour and averaging 36 kilometres per day, Cook completed this challenge within 24 days. He was joined by his childhood friend Luke Bevan.
Trials and tribulations of the journey:
“The weather has been certainly the hardest hurdle we’ve passed. As it turned out, we picked the most miserable time of the year to do it,” he said.
“We started out and the weather was quite warm and we put up with the dust and the flies. Then we got a strong southerly breeze that tried to blow us off the road.
“Then we had two days in the rain… and then it just came in windy and cold. I’ve been putting blankets on my wheelchair to keep the ice off it. Two days ago… all the tips of my toes had frostbite on them.”
Of the journey:
“I hoped that me being stuck out in the middle of the desert would help those Australians with a disability who work on farms to not just sit around and think your life is over if you have had an accident,” he said.
On 10 November 2011 Cook was awarded the Northern Territory Local Hero 2012 award. He is now a finalist for the national Australian of the Year awards which will be announced on 25 January 2012.