When Nathan Parker was named 2021 NSW Young Australian of the Year he was still processing his shock at even being a nominee for the award.
He did not expect to win, however the deserved award confirms Nathan’s belief that “no matter what challenges or setbacks you face, just keep pursuing what you really want to do in life because you don’t know the impact you’re going to have on others along the way.”
Nathan faced his greatest challenge when he was severely injured in a bus rollover in 2015. He was returning from a training exercise as an Australian Defence Force Academy cadet, and suffered multiple injuries including the loss of his left hand. Re-learning how to do day-to-day tasks was his priority, however returning to fighter pilot training was never far from his mind.
An unexpected opportunity arose when he was introduced to adaptive sport. Nathan was impressed by what he saw at trials for the 2017 Invictus Games and dove straight in. “It was seeing everyone get in and have a crack at a variety of different sports, whether they had done it before or not, that struck me most,” says Nathan.
For Nathan, adaptive sport gave him a constant to focus on at a time when the Air Force was deciding that he would not be able to progress into the pilot’s course, closing the door on his dream career since childhood.
“I was unsure of what the future held but every time I went a little bit further on the rowing machine, or a little bit faster on the track, it gave me that sense I was still moving forward, still progressing and still getting better.”
Of his time in the Adaptive Sport Program Nathan says: “though I was able to represent Australia at a number of events, for me the biggest privilege was helping other people embark on that journey.”
Needless to say, VSA was delighted to be able to support Nathan at the Warrior Games Tampa Bay 2019 and is thrilled at all he achieved both then and since.
Sharing knowledge online
Nathan has been using some of his extra time this year to launch a YouTube video series called Parks’ Perspectives with the intention of helping others.
“I’ve learnt a lot of lessons and had really cool people teach me a bunch of cool things about how to confront challenges, and I wanted to make it easier to share with others,” says Nathan.
You can check out the videos at this link.
This year Nathan has achieved his Commercial Pilot’s License, his Multi-engine Instrument Rating, as well as his Aerobatics Endorsement. Flying for a living is once again a reality for him. He is also a mentor at an aviation based youth mentoring program, The Hangar, in Calboolture, north of Brisbane.
“I recently purchased my own plane that I can now do aerobatics more consistently in,” says Nathan. “Having always wanted to be a fighter pilot, pursuing aerobatics is as close as I can get outside the military.”
He is determined to progress through to aerobatics competitions and says: “it is my new sport, along with indoor rowing and sprinting, one that allows me to push my limits and see what I can still do, despite the injuries I have.”