Media reports – 2010

Selected newspaper article reprints about people of short stature, including SSPA members, as well as short stature in general from newspapers and magazines around Australia from 2010.
For articles from around the world about people of short stature and short stature in general, go to




Scooter lapping up life in the fast lane
Cairns Post (Queensland, Australia), 3 March 2010  p. 50.
Author: Andrew Piva

Grant Patterson is a man on a mission to realise his big dreams, writes ANDREW PIVA
“With my body, I shouldn’t be doing half the things I do but I don’t listen to all those rules and that’s why I get so far in life”
– Grant Patterson

GRANT Patterson is running five minutes late.
His navy blue Commodore rumbles with the menace expected of a Holden V6 as he drives into a gated community at Kewarra Beach.
Muted doof-doof beats boom from the car before he parks in the driveway of the unit he shares with his parents and younger brother.
Poking his face out the driver’s side window, Patterson looks like he belongs behind the wheel of a Commodore.
His sun-bleached, shoulder-length hair complements a rusty Van Dyke beard covering his chin and upper lip.
He would not look out of place standing on Mt Panorama with a VB in hand, screaming abuse at Ford drivers and their fans during Bathurst.
But Patterson does not fit stereotypes – he shatters them.
When he opens the car door, Patterson reveals a body that would fit comfortably in a child’s restraining seat.
On his right foot is a custom-made boot, which allows him to reach the car’s brake and accelerator pedals.
“With my special boot, I can drive any car that’s automatic,” Patterson later reveals.
“I started off with just a broom stick, holding it in one hand.
“I took her for a spin at Crystals down in Redlynch with a mate once when it was nice and quiet because I didn’t want to run anyone over.
“That’s when my old man saw I was serious about getting my licence.”
It should not have been a surprise that Patterson wanted to drive because he has spent most of his life on wheels.
Before he gets out of the car, Patterson grabs a beaten, black scooter from inside and lowers it to the ground.
“No prizes for guessing why everyone calls me Scooter’,” he says while manoeuvring himself on the seat.
“I got a flasher one than this that some mates of mine from St Augustine’s made for me.
“It’s my white Ferrari but I only take it out for special occasions.”
Patterson was born with diastrophic dysplasia, a rare form of dwarfism that affects about one-in-100,000 births.
The condition hinders cartilage and bone development, leaving affected individuals with short arms and legs, as well as inward-turning feet.
Patterson displays all the symptoms but while diastrophic dysplasia is classed as a disability, it seems to have trouble stopping him doing what he wants.
As well as driving a car, Patterson owns a boat, can ride a jet ski and quad bike, holds down a part-time job, wants to go to university next year and is a self-proclaimed demon on the dance floor.
“You know what I’d like to do? I want to put all the stuff I can do on YouTube,” Patterson says.
“Get someone to film me on my jet ski, quad bike, in my boat bumping up and down on the waves.
“With my body, I shouldn’t be doing half the things I do but I don’t listen to all those rules and that’s why I get so far in life.
“I’m just like everyone else.”
But unlike 99.99 per cent of the able-bodied population, Patterson is a champion swimmer.
The 20-year-old is in heavy training for the national titles in Sydney this month and wants to qualify for the International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships in the Netherlands in August.
To achieve that goal, Patterson is in the water seven times a week, covering up to 3km a session.
He started swimming when he was 11 at his parents’ insistence but stopped after two years because of constant ear infections and shoulder problems.
The weight piled on during his teenage years, ballooning his small frame to 65kg. By 2007, Patterson was ready to reclaim his health.
“I was sick of being a fatty,” Patterson says.
“I did a couple of sessions a week to lose the weight and that happened quick smart.
“Swimming is a very good sport for me. It strengthens my muscles and helps the joints to move and keeps me fit and healthy.”
During a session at Tobruk Memorial Pool, Patterson ran into one of his old swimming coaches, Andrew Herbie’ Howard.
The two knew each other from the time Patterson was a junior swimmer.
“He saw me and he convinced me to come back to do some competition stuff,” he says.
“I remembered all the hours I put in when I was a little fella and I wasn’t too keen at first.
“But I think it was at TAS in 2007 when I got a few PBs that I thought I might have something.
“I decided to finish a goal I set when I was a little fella to make an Olympic team.
“In 2008, I went to the Beijing Olympic trials. I basically missed out on the team by a couple of seconds and I realised I’d only been swimming for six months.
“I thought if I gave myself another four years I’d be ready to rock ‘n’ roll.”
There are no half measures in Patterson’s world. Something drives him from the inside, hidden beneath his skin and imperfect bones, programmed into the strands of his DNA.
Patterson broke three world records in his disability class at the Australian Short Course Championships in Melbourne in September 2008 and has grown stronger in the water since.
He won a gold medal in the 100m backstroke for swimmers with a disability at last year’s national titles and his compulsion to improve borders on an addiction.
“I just love it when I’m in the pool, training and flogging it hard,” Patterson says.
“You get that feeling that you can’t do any more and then you get that burst of adrenaline come through and then you’re on fire.
“When you’re an elite athlete, you have to go harder than 100 per cent.”
Patterson plans to compete in at least six races at the national titles, mainly in backstroke and breaststroke, and wants to qualify for as many events as possible for the world championships.
“I want to get over there because it would be good to see all these other little critters like me,” Patterson says.
“There are some fast ones out there and I want to go against them.
“Imagine having a whole lane of us and the first one to the wall wins. That’d be pretty good, I reckon.”
IT is 5.30am and the sun is still on the sleepy side of the eastern horizon.
A line of idling cars sit out front of Trinity Bay High School in Manunda, mimicking the grumbling of reluctant children and teenagers being dropped off for swimming practice.
Patterson is already inside the gates, roaming the school’s undercover assembly area on his white scooter.
“A bearing came off my other scooter,” Patterson explains.
“So I had to take this one. I’ve already got it a bit dirty but I’ll clean it up later.”
Patterson is soon surrounded by the other swimmers. They organise themselves for a routine of stretching between yawns and bursts of school-age gossip.
Patterson joins in, flexing limbs and juggling different conversations in a master class of multi-tasking.
He is lucid and firing on all synapses, free of the pre-dawn blear clouding the brains of most of his younger squad mates.
“I’m never tired when I get here,” he says. “When I drive here I pump the music, the techno beats, and that wakes me up pretty good.
“When I get here most people tell me to shut up because I talk too much.”
As if to prove his point, Patterson starts a conversation about his “flash-looking” scooter with one of his mates.
Squad coach Howard blocks out the chatter while he writes the morning’s training session on a whiteboard.
It is an intimidating formula of multiplication signs, time intervals and distance.
In bold red marker on the top left of the whiteboard is a list of upcoming swimming carnivals, including the Australian titles.
When Howard decides to talk, the swimmers quieten to a respectful hush and listen to his instructions.
He directs everybody to the school’s 25m pool, which is bath-water warm after an uncomfortably humid night, and wheels the whiteboard along behind them.
Patterson disappears into the male toilets to change into his Speedos before heading to a lane on the far side of the pool.
He hauls himself off his seat when he is next to the starting block, balancing precariously on his inward-turning feet for a moment, before pushing his scooter away towards the nearby stands.
Then, with the anonymous plop of a pebble falling into a lake, Patterson rolls into the water. He draws himself to the edge of the pool and drapes his arms over the side so he can see the whiteboard.
Patterson reads what he has to do and talks to Howard about the goals of the session.
And then he is off. Quietly and with no fuss, Patterson lowers his goggles and pushes off for a set of backstroke.
Patterson looks comfortable in motion. The weightlessness of the water offers him an ease of movement denied to him on land.
His tiny arms rotate with a smooth rhythm, propelling him down the lane with surprising speed.
Patterson swims hard for 30 minutes before stopping for a gulp of energy drink.
“Got to keep my electrolytes up,” he says.
“I’m feeling pretty good. My shoulders take a bit to warm up usually but they’re going good.”
Howard, who has spent the majority of the session with the rest of the squad, moves in for a brief consultation with Patterson before setting his swimmer off on a set of breaststroke.
“Scooter will do really well at the championships,” Howard says later on. “He’s got a few little shoulder injuries at the moment but his work ethic is brilliant in training.
“Once he gets into the competition he switches on, particularly at the big meets.
“When he gets down there I hope to get him all fired up to get his head around it.”
When asked about the challenges of coaching an athlete with a disability, Howard makes clear his admiration for Patterson.
“With the disability and the problems he’s got, it’s quite amazing what he can do,” he says. “He’s always cracking jokes and he always seems to be happy.
“We’ve got to do a lot more recovery stuff because of the problems with his ligaments and tendons.
“He’s swimming up to 3km a session but he’s always handling the workload.”
By 7.15am the sun is up and the morning light is perfect for photographs.
Patterson is posing for pictures at the far end of the pool when Howard yells to him the session is finished.
The information is ignored. There is no chance of Patterson leaving the water yet.
“I’ve still got some sprints left after I’ve done this and I’m not getting out until I’m finished,” Patterson says.
“I actually feel pretty good considering it’s the end of the week. Normally, I’m pretty smashed.
“Dunno what it is. Seems I got a bit more energy today.
“Might as well not waste it.”

Jordan soars ahead in leaps and bounds
Hills Gazette (New South Wales, Australia), 17 September 2010, p. 1.



Parents Alex and Shane Ross with Jordan hope to raise awareness of Jordans rare condition.
YORK toddler Jordan Ross is a social butterfly, loves to explore his surroundings and sings and dances along to music, like most children his age.
But three-year-old Jordan has a serious medical condition called Microcephaly, which his mother Alexandra hopes to raise awareness of in the town this month.
Microcephaly is a neurological disorder where the head circumference is smaller than normal, affecting about 2 per cent of the population.
Children with Microcephaly may have mental retardation, delayed motor functions and speech, facial distortions, dwarfism or short stature, hyperactivity, seizures and difficulties with co-ordination and balance.
We were told everything with the pregnancy was normal till our 32-week scan, where they found a problem with the feet and the size of Jordans head, Mrs Ross said.
Jordan also suffers from fluid retention in both feet, a tendon disorder in both legs that allows him only to stand on his toes and an eye disorder in both eyes showing the early signs of deterioration.
Despite the challenges, Mrs Ross said Jordan had developed in leaps and bounds from the limp, quiet and grey baby in the delivery room.
Jordan continues to surprise us with each new mountain he manages to climb, she said.
National Microcephaly Day is on September 30 and Mrs Ross is celebrating the day with morning tea at Jordans daycare.
Local cafes will display paper windmills and posters about the condition.
York residents are encouraged to wear yellow to show support for sufferers.

Champion of disabled dies at 73
North Devon Journal (England), 30 September 2010, p. 20.
Author: Andrea Foster



Robert Wood, formerly of North Devon, was small in stature but a big champion for the disabled, raising awareness of their needs and striving for improvements in the built environment.
At only 4ft tall, ordinary tasks that others would not think twice about, presented him with a challenge.
But he never let his size stop him from doing his own thing.
He was born on November 18 1937 and diagnosed with achondroplasia, commonly known as dwarfism, shortly after birth.
In 1946 his family moved to Barnstaple where, for the first time, Robert encountered name-calling from other children as a result of his size.
He was adopted as a mascot by Barnstaple Fire Station and took part in the annual carnival.
Robert went to Belmont College at Bickington where he became a prefect and a house captain and won cups for races on sports day, by covering half the normal distance.
His first job was at the White Hart Garage in Bratton Fleming.
He then went to Yeovil for a year, working in a motor dealership company before returning to North Devon and getting employment at the Fatstock Marketing Company and then with Devon County Council.
Robert enjoyed many events with the Lyn and District Motor Club.
He was also a keen member and supporter of Barnstaple Rugby Football Club and official scorer for Instow Cricket Club.
Bitten by the travelling bug, Robert left the country in 1972, visiting Singapore, Bangkok and Malaysia before ending up in Australia.
He went to work as an asparagus picker on a farm in New South Wales where, for once, his height was an advantage.
Later, when picking tomatoes proved beyond his reach, he was employed testing the farm’s tomato tins in the canning department.
He eventually settled down in Sydney and worked for a container shipping company for many years.
His interests included playing bridge and golf.
He also got involved in The Little People’s Association of Australia, eventually becoming its president.
His work with the advisory committee of the Lord Mayor of Sydney in the early 1980s was crucial in bringing about easier access measures in the city.
He also gave considerable time and effort helping to establish the Handicapped Persons’ Alliance, taking part in public demonstrations, marches and meetings across New South Wales.
Regular letters and phone calls, plus several trips back home to Braunton, kept him up to date with his family.
On one trip he introduced them to Margaret, his longed for bride, but sadly the marriage ended after only two years.
On retirement Robert undertook work with colleges in Sydney, helping students with disabilities in their class work and exams.
Major mobility problems led to him having surgery and, after a lengthy period of recovery, he moved to the Blue Mountains and began writing his memoirs.
Despite the enthusiasm of publishers the book was never commercially printed although copies were made for family members.
Robert joined local bridge clubs, where he enjoyed great success, and the local golf club, not only playing competitively, but also instructing partially sighted people to play the game.
Further surgery and physiotherapy followed in 2007, after which he moved into a nursing home.
Following his 70th birthday celebrations he suffered a stroke which left him without speech and paralysed on his right side.
He still managed to get around with the use of a specially made electric wheelchair but, despite the efforts of a group of loyal friends and speech therapists, he never regained his ability to make conversation.
However, he never lost his sense of humour and enjoyed friends’ jokes to the end.
He died on August 3 at the age of 72.
He is survived by his brother Anthony and sisters Penelope, Susan and Elizabeth and their families.
Penelope, who lives in Fremington, said: “Throughout his life Robert gained the respect of all who knew and worked with him.
“He made a difference to many people’s lives, both in the UK and Australia – a remarkable man, a much loved son, a very precious brother, uncle and great uncle, and a life long friend to many North Devonians.
“One of his great contributions to society was to help ‘normal sized’ people recognise their handicaps in relating to those who are different in size, shape or ability.
“Inside that small frame was a heart of gold.”
George Mackenzie, who played the bagpipes at Robert’s funeral, said: “A man of small stature, perhaps, but Robert was larger, in every facet, than most people twice his size.”

Geologist close to big oil discoveries
West Australian (Australia),

Murray Johnstone, who died on September 14, was a petroleum geologist who, as a student, participated in a geological survey which four years later led to discovery of oil at Rough Range, 1070km north of Perth.
He was on site in December 1953 when the discovery was announced. It was then the biggest development in Australian oil exploration, precipitating shock waves of enthusiasm and a stockmarket boom that stimulated exploration throughout Australia, not only for petroleum but also for metallic minerals.
Murray Johnstone had a small part in this outcome. As a cadet geologist in the Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral Resources (BMR), he was a member of a geological survey that produced, in his summer holidays of 1948/49, the first geological map of the Rough Range anticline. Experienced US geologist Eric Craig led the mapping survey.
Four years later, the range hosted Australia’s first flowing oil well, Rough Range No. 1, drilled by West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd (WAPET), a partnership between Ampol and Caltex.
Murray was sent to monitor the well for BMR, becoming skilled in the duties of a well-site geologist. A second well, Rough Range No. 1A, was later drilled close to the discovery well, with a smaller rig; Murray was there during the testing of the oil zone and is pictured collecting oil from it in 1954.
That year, when WAPET poached BMR geologists with irresistibly high salaries, Murray signed up, bringing his expertise in well-site geology and the geology of the Carnarvon Basin. Despite being WAPET’s top well-site geologist, he maintained his interest in field geology.
Once, in 1958, on a detailed study of Windjana Gorge in the Kimberley, he scaled a steep rocky slope to reach the gorge clifftop, despite his diminutive 137cm height, a result of the genetic disorder achondroplasia, resulting in abnormally short stature.
Murray often recalled that, in 1953, when he stopped in Norseman to get a truck licence, a policeman said he now understood a mysterious report about a driver-less truck on the highway. This was because Murray’s head barely reached above the base of the windscreen.
In 1964, WAPET discovered oil on Barrow Island and oil and gas near Dongara. Unlike Rough Range, both of these were commercially viable.
Murray became WAPET’s chief geologist in 1971, while heavily involved with professional bodies, including the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia (PESA) and the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS). In 1974, he was WA Citizen of the Year for the Professions.
With the decline in WAPET’s exploration activities, Murray in 1978 joined the Geological Survey of WA as supervising geologist in the sedimentary (oil) division, monitoring and advising on petroleum exploration in WA and overseeing staff field activities.
During the 1980 Noonkanbah dispute, the State government called on him to help seek agreement with Aboriginal people to approve test drilling by Amax Petroleum. Despite his best efforts, the situation deteriorated into a stand-off that soured government-Aboriginal relations.
Murray joined Esso in 1981, relocating to Sydney when the Perth office closed, and retiring there when head office switched to Melbourne.
Murray Howard Johnstone was born in Toodyay on March 24, 1928, only child of local primary school head Robert Johnstone and wife, Elvira (Tyrie). His father’s peripatetic career meant young Murray had primary education in East Northam, Swanbourne, Buckland Hill (North Fremantle), Bayswater, and Claremont Central State Schools, before secondary schooling at Wesley College.
In 1950, he earned a first-class honours degree in geology at the University of WA, while a cadet in the BMR.
In retirement, he indulged his musical interests with partner Richard Buckdale, including as joint secretaries of the Schubert Society. He organised petroleum conferences and edited technical journals.
Murray Johnstone suffered heart failure in Sydney. He was 82.

Dwarfs stand up for their rights
West Australian (Australia), 4 October 2010, p. 5.

While they may not reach great physical heights, these dwarfs will not let that stop them at the 43rd annual convention of Short Statured People of Australia in Perth this week.
About 80 short-statured people from across the country have made Point Walter recreation camp in Bicton their base to meet and discuss issues affecting people with the condition, socialise and visit the sights of Perth and Fremantle.
Short Statured People of Australia is a nationwide support group for dwarfs, which it defines as people who have not reached or will not reach the height of 150cm, or 4ft 11in, by maturity.
It is the second time in the SSPA’s history that the convention has come to WA. The last was in 1996.
Jo Bracknell, president of the WA branch, said the convention was important for short-statured people to realise they were not alone. There are more than 200 different types of dwarfism.
“Sometimes you will get short-statured people who have never met another short-statured person in their life,” she said. “They realise then they are not alone.”
Mrs Bracknell is 132cm tall and has four older siblings who are of average size. Mrs Bracknell has the most common form of dwarfism, achondroplasia, characterised by the shortening of limbs, large skull and prominent forehead.
She said many dwarfs had skeletal problems and she had experienced spinal problems since the age of 14.
Helen Romeo is of average size and there is no history of dwarfism in her family, yet she and her average-size husband had April, a short-statured four-year-old, as well as an average-size child.
The association’s main aim is to provide equal opportunities for short-statured people.

Rohan keeps a Bright attitude despite a life of arthritic pain
Daily Telegraph (New South Wales, Australia), 20 November 2010, p. 22.
Author: James Mitchell

IT HAS long been thought a disease for the aged but young arthritis sufferer Rohan Bright braves the condition with a winning spirit.
At 12, Rohan has juvenile arthritis, a disease that affects one in every 1000 children up to 16 years as the immune system attacks healthy joints.
Rohan’s mother Louise Bright said the trouble started five years ago.
“He woke up one morning screaming and couldn’t get out of bed,” Ms Bright said.
“ The night before I realised both his knees were swollen”.
The causes are still unclear, although some children have a genetic link to the disease. Rohan’s father Tony has lupus, which affects his immune system.
Despite Rohan’s physical challenges — he also has hypochondroplasia, a form of dwarfism — he is fighting fit on the sports field, winning five gold medals for athletics.
“Long jump can be difficult but I soldier through,” the Year 6 Mt Ku-ring-gai Public School pupil said.
In 2007 Access Economics estimated one in five Australians suffered arthritis — 60 per cent of them working age.
This month the Federal Government added drug Humira to its Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
The medicine, delivered by pre-filled injection, helps parents by giving them more options, said Sydney paediatric rheumatologist Dr Jeffrey Chiatow, who treats Rohan at Sydney Adventist Hospital.
“The injection is taken once a fortnight and relieves pain by blocking part of the inflammatory pathway,” he said.
“It has been very successful with the children.”
Half of all child sufferers go into remission before they reach adulthood.

Laffan in hall of fame
Coffs Coast Advocate (New South Wales, Australia), 24 November 2010, p. 7.

A YEAR after his death, a former school vice-captain is to be inducted into the Coffs Harbour High School Hall of Fame next week.
Although only attending the school for two years, Matt Laffan’s popularity and debating skills led to his election as vice-captain.
Those same assets led him through combined arts and law degrees into a crown prosecutor role with the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions.
He also ran for the post of lord mayor and councillor with the council of the City of Sydney in 2004, losing by a narrow margin to Clover Moore. These accomplishments pale next to his personal achievement of living past his predicted lifespan of one week and his good humour, sharp wit and a staggering capacity for friendship, despite a lifetime of severe disability and pain.
When he was born with a rare genetic disorder, a type of dwarfism, doctors predicted he would only live a week.
Until his death in 2009, Matt had been a board member of the NSW Rugby Union judiciary and the Disability Council of NSW for many years. His posthumous induction to the Hall of Fame will see him join the ranks of Cr Allen Hogbin, Lee Winkler, Dr Rosemary Bayliss and Alison Page. Former teachers and students are invited to attend the ceremony with Matt’s parents, Dick and Jenny Laffan.
Bookings for the event, starting 11.45am on Friday, December 3, were essential on 66523466.

Talented teenager forced to bide time for national bid
Toowoomba Chronicle (Queensland, Australia), 4 December 2010, p. 57.
Author: Ben Drewe

FOR an athlete determined to represent Australia in their chosen sport, being told you’re not good enough is a tough realisation.
But for an athlete who has produced the results good enough to warrant selection, being notified you won’t be considered for a place in an Australian team is frustrating.
That is the situation facing Claire Keefer.
The 15-year-old St Ursula’s College student has her sights set on representing Australia in the T40 classification for athletes with a disability in shot put and discus at next year’s World Championships and the 2012 London Paralympics.
Keefer last month performed exceptionally at the Australian Athletes With a Disability Championships in Canberra.
Open classes were also staged during the event and Keefer was invited to step up from the under 16 age group to open women’s divisions.
She made the most of the invitation by winning the discus and finishing second in the shot put.
This should have been enough to qualify Keefer for Australia’s squad for next year’s World Championships, but that is not the case.
In the T40 classification, athletes need to be 18 to compete internationally regardless of throwing distances.
Keefer was born with achondroplasia, a condition characterised by a normal length body and disproportionately short arms and legs.
Competitions in this classification are determined by ratios of limb length to height and as such, the sport’s governing bodies prevent athletes under 18 from competing internationally as they may still be growing.
This also rules Keefer out of the London Paralympics as she will be 17 when the Games are staged in 2012.
“It’s really frustrating because I’ve put in the work and my goal was the World Champs first up and then I got told I wasn’t going,” Keefer said.
But the 15-year-old is continuing to work on her throwing regardless and is using the situation as motivation to improve ahead of what appears a certain international debut when she turns 18.
Keefer will persist with training over summer in preparation for next year’s state and national carnivals, which involves training at home, in the gym at the University of Southern Queensland and in Brisbane once per week with coach Panais Negropontis.

Author: Angela Pownall
30 September 2010, p. 2.
Author: Phillip Playford


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