Rhiannon Tracey – Founder
On September 18, 2009, Rhiannon Tracey awoke with elation on a warm, blissful day in Bali on a dream holiday. Little did she know that the day was to end in tragedy; after diving into a pool, Rhiannon’s life would change forever. A spinal cord injury from the accident meant that Rhiannon was diagnosed as a C-5 quadriplegic. She was given only the faintest of hope of being able to walk again, just a few months away from turning 21.
After the accident, Rhiannon’s emergency surgery was delayed by nine hours due to a horrific earthquake on Indonesian shores. She was moments from death after her lungs had collapsed, and a hospital ward was left deserted as people ran for cover. Later, two nurses were flown in from Australia under her travel insurance, and they treated her for the huge amounts of water that were in her lungs. Then finally two weeks after, she was flown to an Australian hospital and underwent two more lifesaving surgeries.
With a strong love for animals, Rhiannon worked as a veterinary nurse before the accident, and was an aspiring singer. Her outgoing and bubbly personality was contagious, and an extremely bright future lay ahead of her. But when doctors told her she would never walk again, they advised her to sell her beloved RAV4, as she would never be physically able to drive it again. Being the tenacious person she is, Rhiannon would not simply accept this, and she set out to prove them wrong.
Her only ambition from then on was to able to regain her independence. In 2011, two years after her accident, Rhiannon proved the doctors wrong and and can can now walk short distances with crutches, and can drive her modified RAV4.
Rhiannon is living proof of the limitless potential of the human spirit. For long distances, she still requires a wheelchair, but through her hard work and commitment she has surprised doctors and proved that anything is possible.
Since her injury, Rhiannon decided to use her experience to create a positive outcome for others living with spinal cord injuries. In 2012 Rhiannon, with the help of her mother Sharyn, founded The Next Step (TNS) as a not-for-profit organisation, and opened The Next Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Centre in 2014 in Thomastown, Victoria. The Next Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Centre is a recovery facility for those with neurological disorders who want to obtain a greater quality of life and regain their independence.
Since her accident and founding TNS, Rhiannon has dedicated her life to helping others and building awareness for an injury that could happen to anyone. In 2012, Rhiannon joined SpinChat, which saw her visiting Victorian schools to raise awareness, promote prevention and educate students about spinal cord injury. Later that year, she was recognised for her work and awarded the title of Young Australian of the Year.
Rhiannon has also been awarded a string of other prestigious accolades. In 2013, she was nominated for a Women of the Future award, and in 2014 was the recipient of two Australia Day Awards for Access & Inclusion. In 2015, Rhiannon was made an ambassador for the Wings for Life World Run, a position she further took up again in 2016.
Malcom Scott – Director
It was a nice sunny Saturday when Mals life changed forever.
Riding home on his motorcycle down a suburban street in Ringwood like he’d done many times before, a car driving straight through a stop sign knocked Mal from his motorbike leaving him unconscious with multiple injuries, but the worst, a T12 complete spinal cord injury and acquired brain injury.
Mal spent three weeks in an induced coma followed by months in both hospital and rehabilitation.
Upon returning home from hospital Mal spent a year trying to put the pieces of his life back together.
Mal became a devoted client of TNS, completing the 12 week Fast Start Program upon opening of the facility where he began showing huge improvements in his overall quality of life. His biggest achievement to date is being able to stand in our parallel bars.
Given his dedication and passion to our facility and belief in our mission, Mal became a company Director in July of 2015 helping to drive The Next Step towards being a successful and innovative recovery facility that will enable all people living with spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders the chance for optimal recovery results which will enable them to live an independent and for filled life style.
Bill Mitchell – Board Member
Bill joins The Next Step as a Committee Member incorporating providing financial guidance and advice along with planning business direction both operationally and strategically.
He has a strong financial and business background having joined the ANZ Bank in 1956 and going on to pursue a banking career that spanned 40 years. His many roles included branch management, a number of executive administrative positions, regional management in business banking and head of the Australian Treasury client servicing operations. He retired from ANZ Bank in 1996.
In the years following retirement he undertook a number of consultancies with various small businesses as well as pursuing his passion for thoroughbred horse racing by forming and managing a horse racing syndicate business.
In 2005 Bill’s wife suffered a serious stroke which left her partially paralysed and confined to a wheelchair. Bill took up the role of full time carer and continued these responsibilities until his wife sadly passed away in 2015. This role gave Bill great empathy with the challenges that disabled people face in day to day life and his arrival at The Next Step in a voluntary capacity fulfilled a desire within him to impart his business knowledge in a way that could help The Next Step make a difference.
Emma Dayman – SCI Training Facilitator
Emma Dayman works on the philosophy of holistic health. She developed NeuroMax training for the purpose of helping those with a neurological injury to achieve their personal, career and life goals, increase independence, increase function and reduce neurological pain. The growing scientific knowledge and potential for improvement in the neurological field is constantly changing, growing and evolving. NeuroMax training is also constantly updated to reflect the latest discoveries in clinical results.
Jake Mennuni – Team Leader & Exercise Physiologist (AEP)
Jake is our Senior Exercise Physiologist who is passionate about helping people through exercise and physical therapy. Training our TNS athletes who are now unable to complete the things they love such as playing football, driving a car or riding their bike, motivates him to help the them build their strength and confidence to return to thriving in the community.
“The TNS athletes have all been through something traumatic and they continually find strength to keep pushing themselves and improve their quality of life. Seeing this on a daily basis and hearing their stories motivates me to not take things for granted and to keep helping them achieve their goals. When the clients stand for the first time, do something new or return to something such as driving or playing a sport; really makes it a rewarding job.”
Jake has been a therapist at The Next Step for over two years now and has the passion and drive to continue learning and developing his skills as a recovery specialist and facility manager.
Tayla Dinuccio – Exercise Physiologist (AEP)
Tayla is an accredited Exercise Physiologist who is dedicated towards educating individuals with the exercises and skills required to help maintain, recover, and rebuild their lives. Discovering her passion for neurological conditions throughout her studies, she completed her university placement with the TNS team. Throughout her time at TNS, she reaffirmed the reasons why she loves working with and helping those with a spinal cord injury, as she continues to adapt and improve in a field that is continually changing and evolving. Feeling right at home, she has since continued working alongside TNS, with the aim of further developing as an AEP towards achieving each client’s personal and life goals.
“The effort and commitment these clients show towards their training, health, and life is astounding and is an absolute inspiration! Every day, these clients motivate me to continue pushing me towards bettering myself and achieving my own dreams and goals.”
Outside of TNS, Tayla enjoys coaching competitive youth gymnastics, playing Australian Rules Football and spending time with her family and friends.
Sheree Wood – Exercise Physiologist (AEP)
Sheree is an accredited Exercise Physiology graduate from Deakin Universities’ Masters of Clinical Exercise Physiology. Sheree first became interested in exercise physiology when it gave her the ability to make a difference in people’s lives and allow them to live life to the fullest. Early in her career she developed a strong interest in helping people regain their independence, especially in returning to standing and walking, it was this that attracted Sheree to the field of spinal cord injury recovery.
Sheree says; “It is seeing first hand the improvements in confidence, independence and the sheer determination in those living with spinal cord injuries that are working themselves towards their recoveries that inspire me to continue my work within this field.”
Mitch Lucas – Exercise Physiologist (AEP)
Mitch completed placement with us as an exercise physiology student studying at Deakin University and has now joined our team as a dedicated Exercise Physiologist and TNS Trainer. At TNS each client is unique and presents differently which is what attracted Mitch to working with people with neurological conditions. Mitch enjoys using creativity to modify exercises to suit the individual client and make the sessions enjoyable and engaging.
“Another day, another step closer to helping someone progress to a goal that once may not have seemed possible. There is never a dull moment in the next step, always trying to come up with alternative and new ways to enhance recovery. I feel very special to be a part of an amazing team that strives to help people achieve amazing things. It’s an environment that continually brings a smile to my face.”
Clinical Health Specialists
Michelle Donoghue – Massage Therapist
Michelle brings more than 15 years of tactile and complementary massage therapy experience to us. In that time she has worked predominately in the aged care sector, day spa centres and mobile massage service. After completing her studies in Massage Therapy, Michelle furthered her studies at the Melbourne College of Natural Medicine gaining qualifications in Aromatherapy and Herbal Medicine and is now expanding that knowledge in the studies of Myotherapy. With a passion for all things natural, Michelle also makes and sells a range of aromatherapy products under her label ‘Synaroma’. A caring, nurturing and intuitive individual, Michelle believes a holistic approach to healing, incorporating mind, body and soul promotes good health and creates general wellbeing. “The healing power of aromatic touch never ceases to amaze me!”
Di Scott – Nutritionist
Di Scott specialise’s in nutrition and wellbeing for optimal health, including permanent weight loss solutions, nutritional testing and hormone imbalances.
She is a qualified Nutrition & Weight Loss Coach, Hormone Enhancement Coach with previous roles in the Health, Fitness and Wellness Industry as a Fitness Instructor and Massage Therapist. She is a member of the Australian Institute of Weight Management.
Di is passionate about helping people with chronic health issues or who have been struggling with their nutritional health, energy levels and weight for a long time.
Sally Barbeta – Administration
In May 2017 Sally wheeled into TNS for the first time and she says her life changed forever!
“Prior to this I was at a loss, no positive direction in regards to a progressive recovery and my mindset was not allowing me to develop or build with the treatment I was receiving. TNS gave me direction hope and a purpose.
For the first time I felt like I could control my life again the positive energy that comes from every session made me believe I could be stronger”.