Game, set, print: How one match led to a lifelong career.


May 28, 2024

It was a single game of table tennis – a sport Bruce both didn’t enjoy nor claimed to be any good at – that led him to a 37-year career in the print industry, where he met his now wife and found his voice for disability activism.

At the young age of 20, during a game of table tennis, a friend recommended Bruce to apply for a job at Tadpac, one of Uniting’s social enterprises. Established in 1965 by a group of people living with disabilities, Tadpac is a Uniting owned printing service based in Tasmania.

Bruce, who has used a wheelchair since birth, began working in reception at Tadpac’s joinery office. After several years this office was closed as the service decided to focus on print, he was then moved to the sales department and finally ended his career as Tadpac Supervisor.

“Back when I started, Tadpac had around 15 supported employees and about five non-supported employees,” says Bruce. “Everyone was treated equally. Tadpac has always been that way but probably even more so since Uniting took over.

“If you’ve got the ability, they will give you the opportunity. Unfortunately, there are a lot of places that won’t do that. Some people, they see a disability and think ‘you can’t do that’.”

Throughout his career at Tadpac, Bruce has blossomed into a dedicated activist.

Tirelessly advocating for the rights and voices of those living with disabilities.

“Bruce is a strong champion for our supported employees,” says Uniting Disability Services Coordinator, Vanessa.

“He is really committed to sharing his life experiences with the other supported employees to encourage them to pursue any dream they have. To not let their disability hold them back from anything.”

For Bruce, leading by example has always been important.

“I think words aren’t always as powerful as actions,” he says. “When the employees with disabilities see that someone like me, in a wheelchair, can do this job and hold a management role it gives them hope.

“It teaches them that if you work hard, you can achieve anything.”

Underneath Bruce’s kind and friendly demeanour there is a fire in his belly, a passion to spark change in the face of injustice.

“Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can treat me like the fool because I’m going to show you that I’m not,” he says.

“If I feel like the other employees are treated in a way they shouldn’t be, I’d go in to fight for them too.”

Over the years Bruce has witnessed employees flourishing during their time at Tadpac.

“I’ve seen it over and over at Tadpac. You get these people who haven’t been treated the way they should, and they come in with no confidence but they just grow and grow the longer they’re here,” he says.

“One guy when he first started at Tadpac, was very quiet and withdrawn. But when he left he was so confident. He became our best bindery person and his confidence just grew.”

When reflecting back on his life, Bruce has no regrets.

“Looking back, playing table tennis was probably one of the smartest things I ever did because I got a job at Tadpac where I met my wife,” reflects Bruce.

“My wife, Jo, she has always looked past my wheelchair. She just saw the person.”

After 39 years together, Bruce still holds his wife, Jo, as one of his greatest motivators.

“Jo gives me the strength to go on. When she was younger, she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour and given 12 months to live,” says Bruce.

“She was determined to prove everyone wrong. And she did. I take a lot of my inspiration from Jo.”

Unfortunately, after almost four decades at Tadpac Bruce’s health began to decline, and he could no longer manage full-time hours around his doctors appointments. With years of experience and lots more to give, Bruce decided to return to Tadpac as a volunteer.

“After an amazing 37-year career, I wanted to give back to Tadpac,” he says. “I want to thank them for having faith in me and my ability.”

Bruce continues to advocate for those living with a disability with unapologetic pride.

“Just go for it. Go for your dreams, go for your goals. Don’t try and let anyone try and talk you out of them,” he says.

Learn more about working with Tadpac.

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