Senator John 'Wacka' Williams reveals Parkinson's diagnosis

LIFELINE: Local man Brian Sullivan hopes Senator Williams' profile will help raise awareness of Parkinson's disease, as he takes an exercise class at Rural Fit to help manage the symptoms. Photo: Peter Hardin

LIFELINE: Local man Brian Sullivan hopes Senator Williams' profile will help raise awareness of Parkinson's disease, as he takes an exercise class at Rural Fit to help manage the symptoms. Photo: Peter Hardin

LOCAL sufferers of Parkinson’s disease are hopeful Senator John ‘Wacka’ Williams’ diagnosis with the degenerative disorder will help raise awareness of it. 

Senator Williams, an Inverell-based shearer-senator, revealed on Friday he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 12 months earlier, a neurological condition that had begun to affect his mobility.

Senator Williams is using his profile to encourage other men to see their doctor if they encountered health problems in a move welcomed by locals. 

Nationals senator John Williams in his office at Parliament House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Nationals senator John Williams in his office at Parliament House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Tamworth’s Brian Sullivan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 10 years ago. 

“I went up to the outpatients with chest pain about 10 years ago,” he said.

“The young intern said, your heart’s okay, but how long have you had Parkinson’s? It was a bit of a shock. I’d never really heard of it.”

Mr Sullivan, a member of the Tamworth Parkinson’s Support Group, said Senator Williams’ profile could help encourage other locals to not ignore symptoms.

“It’s good he has come out,” Mr Sullivan said.

“I think it will raise awareness. 

“(If you’re worried), get checked out because the symptoms vary dramatically.”

Mr Sullivan, 76, is one of 70,000 Australians living with Parkinson’s.

“The main aspect is to keep the mind and body busy,” he said.

“I can be hobbling around the place, shaking, but as soon as you’re busy, it disappears.”

John Crosby, Tamworth Parkinson’s Support Group publicity officer, said it was sad to hear of Senator Williams’ diagnosis, but hoped it would start a conversation in the area.

“My thoughts go to anybody who lives with it,” he said.

“(But) given his profile, it ould be very useful (in raising awareness).”

Mr Crosby, who’s lived with Parkinson’s for eight years, pointed to the success of high-profile cricketer Glenn McGrath campaigning for breast cancer awareness as an example of what a powerful voice could achieve.

“We don’t have that profile, despite it being more prevalent in the local community,” he said. 

“Part of the problem is we’re probably an older profile in the community.”

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