Chatting with Paul Dunworth, and hearing his incredible stories, we just had to ask him to share some of them with our readers. Paul is someone who has experienced many ups and downs; he has come out an amazing advocate for mental health awareness and many other charities, and generally is just a wonderful example of paying it forward.
Hey Paul. What brought you to the Coffs Coast, and why is it the place you like to call home?
My wife, Michelle and I moved here about 25 years ago with our children, Natalie and Adam; it was a time for a change. I had spent much of the previous two years recovering from a serious assault at work and had been medically discharged from the NSW Police Force as a result. We knew no one when we moved here, only having holidayed here a few times, but after 12 years in the Central West – I needed a beach! We are spoilt rotten here, with almost everything you could ever want right at our doorstep. I can’t think of a more perfect place to live.
Your career started off in the music industry as a bass player; who did you play for?
I was best mates at school with Tony Henry and Anthony Field. Anthony taught me bass guitar, so that three of us could play together in a band. In 1979, along with Paul and John Field, we formed “The Cockroaches”. It was a blast; we played anywhere that we could find a gig – pubs, clubs, university parties, school dances, even 21sts. Once when we were the support act for Mental as Anything, I got to play the opening number with them, The Nips are Getting Bigger, as Pete O’Doherty, the Mental’s bass player, was running late.
We hear you had some involvement with kick starting the Wiggles?
Sort of. I was in hospital in Sydney for a month, and Anthony would come and visit. He told me about his ideas, as we listened to a demo tape he had. He said they had sent it to the “regular” labels, but had been rejected by them all. I asked about ABC, as my kids watched it for all that type of content. None of them had even given ABC a thought. I think it was on his third or fourth visit that I handed him back the tape, along with a letter addressed to ABC just needing his signature. With nothing to lose and in order to shut me up, he eventually sent it off – and the rest is history! A percentage would have been nice, but at least I never had to pay for any Wiggles merchandise or concert tickets!
You are a big believer in donating to charities and helping others. What are some of the charity organisations and groups you are involved with on the Coffs Coast?
I am very passionate about helping people and lending a hand wherever possible, and it doesn’t have to cost you anything. I am secretary of the local Disabled Surfers Association and have been on the committee for about five years. It is just amazing to be a part of putting smiles upon the dials of not only the participants, but everyone involved. I have done Shave for a Cure, Relay for Life and will try and get behind any worthwhile project. Through the Coffs Harbour Groupers Golden Oldies Rugby we raise funds for local juniors, as well as helping Al and Julie McCabe to purchase something he might need or getting together for a working bee at their place (Google “The House that Coffs Built”).
You have a story that could only be described as a lottery win for one special little girl. Could you please tell us about your role in this?
My role in this was nothing in comparison to hers, and I’d say that I was the one who won the lottery. Twenty something years ago I joined the Bone Marrow Donor Registry after my brother’s wife died from Leukemia, and then thought nothing further about it. Then in late 2016 I received a call out of the blue, asking if I was still interested in being on the registry. The story then unfolded that there was a young girl from the U.K. in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. No relative was a match, so the search had gone worldwide. Of the more than 30 million people on the registry, I was the only compatible donor. In May 2017, I had my bone marrow harvested at Westmead Hospital. It was flown to the U.K. and transfused into her in less than 24 hours. In November last year, I received word that she had made a full recovery. It is an amazing feeling and an honour to have that kind of opportunity.
Why is it so important for you to give your time to others and lend a helping hand?
I believe that whatever you give out, you will receive back tenfold. I have been helped by so many people when I have been in need, that I will never be able to repay the debt. If at anytime you can “pay it forward”, do so.
R U OK day is also one of your favourite organisations. What advice would you give someone who may be suffering with some sort of depression?
I have personally battled PTSD and Depression for about 25 years and for much of that time didn’t even know what it was. I abused alcohol and drugs and hurt everyone close to me, hitting rock bottom many times. If not for the support and encouragement of family and friends, I would not be here today. Nowadays there are some wonderful support programs about. I very nearly left it too long. Don’t do the same thing; ASK FOR HELP!