The Trust’s Beginnings

When a fall resulted in paraplegia for Professor Alan Clarke, Dean of the Christchurch School of Medicine, he discovered rehabilitation during his ten weeks in the Burwood Spinal Unit as he had never understood it before…that the severely under-resourced rehabilitation process was a low priority within the health sector.

In 1994, with some persuasion from Christine Smith, General Manager of Burwood Hospital, Professor Clarke gave up his Deanship to become Director of the Burwood Spinal Unit, and that same year, established the New Zealand Spinal Trust. Christine was the first chair of the Trust; Alan the first executive director.

Today the Allan Bean Centre for Research and Learning, the home of the New Zealand Spinal Trust, stands as a testament to a man who believed that rehabilitation and independent living should be controlled by those recovering rather than the health sector.

The Trust undertook fundraising for projects which delivered information, research in rehabilitation and support for independent living. During the next ten years the Trust evolved its positive philosophy: “It’s great to be alive” and a vision that one day society will forsake its preoccupation with disability and better understand human diversity, with the result that no human being is regarded as “damaged” or is patronised.

The Trust’s immediate mission has always been to improve the quality of rehabilitation and independent living of all recovering people through disciplined research.

Over 2.5 million dollars has been raised for a variety of projects. The Allan Bean Centre, the largest of these projects, is now fully staffed for its role in providing high quality information to recovering people, their families and their health professionals, both on the Burwood campus and in the community. The Allan Bean Centre houses a number of rehabilitation focused programmes including our globally pioneering Kaleidoscope Vocational Rehabilitation programme., the Connecting People – Peer & Family Support programme, the Useful People programme (Burwood Hospital and NZ Spinal Trust Volunteers), the editorial office of Spinal Network News and the administrative centre of the Trust.

The Allan Bean Centre is for everybody, but rehabilitating people have first priority. Around the activities of the Allan Bean Centre the Trust, working with Canterbury District Health Board, has set up the Burwood Academy of Independent Living to coordinate learning activities and research.

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