WA Paralympian Paul Barnett now helping Geraldton residents overcome adversity

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
WA Paralympian Paul Barnett is now helping Geraldton residents overcome adversity to achieve their goals
Camera IconWA Paralympian Paul Barnett is now helping Geraldton residents overcome adversity to achieve their goals Credit: Graeme Walsh

After dedicating almost every waking moment of his youth to achieving his goals in the pool, Paralympian Paul Barnett is now helping Geraldton residents overcome their own barriers to success.

The Perth-born athlete started swimming for fun at the local Yokine pool with his brother at the age of 10.

He was just a teen when he represented WA in para swimming events, taking part in his first international competition in the UK in 1996.

Barnett gave everything to the sport and four years years later, he would go on to win gold at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics.

At 20 years old, he set a Paralympic record in the men’s 100m breaststroke event and helped Australia win bronze in the men’s medley relay. Barnett was also awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his commitment to the sport.

Now two decades on, he said looking back at his swimming career felt somewhat surreal.

“It almost feels like a different life and a different world,” he said.

“My life then was swimming and work. Once I reached that goal, I thought ‘I want different things in my life now’.”

After ticking his Paralympic goals off his bucket list, Barnett moved on to new challenges —this time out of the pool — and dived into his role as a support worker with disability service provider Rocky Bay for six years.

He then developed an interest in education and moved to Karratha to support students with disabilities who needed a little extra help and encouragement in the classroom.

Barnett’s story came full circle in November when he returned to Rocky Bay, this time as a support co-ordinator in Geraldton.

He said he saw the role as an opportunity to help locals navigate the often overwhelming National Disability Insurance Scheme to ensure they received the support they needed to succeed.

“You do feel really good when a person gets a good (NDIS) plan, as you know you’ve assisted in that,” he said.

“It makes a huge difference to people’s lives — we have the joy of telling people the NDIS can provide them with funding.

“We can provide people with local knowledge which is really important, but also access to even more resources in Perth which is such a great advantage.”

Rocky Bay currently assists 245 people (with 85 of those accessing support coordination services) from its Geraldton hub, which opened last year.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails