Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Team

This is us!! Click on our respective names for more info:

Daniel Kotja

Prior to Dan's injury he served five years in the Australian regular army. Qualified as a paratrooper, APC tank and Unimog driver and scoober diver in the Signals corp.

He has experienced many expeditions throughout remote Australia in every state and territory including Cape York, the Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Territory and Western Australia. These journeys have been in many different types of transport from helicopters to large fishing boats. Dan has also completed his pilots license.

As a qualified secondary teacher Dan has had the fortune of teaching in many remote schools in Indigenous communities throughout Australia. However, his main activity prior to my injury was rock climbing and he is still climbing post injury. Although his climbing now is mainly overhung second top rope, which he enjoys more than breathing.

Since his injury Dan has had several notable climbs such as the east face of Uluru and the 'Dog Face' in the Blue Mountains. Dan continues to train and explore methods of assistive climbing using tailored aids such as modified cams etc.

Dan is also a practicing artist working predominantly in interactive sculpture through mediums of projection, photography, film making and installation. With a masters in education, visual arts, and professional practice, bachelor degree in fine arts and Honors 1st Class contemporary arts. Being a presenter at various contemporary arts seminars and placements such as artist in residence has enabled Dan to travel throughout remote Australia in Indigenous communities, as an invited artist working with youth at risk, and the general teacher cohort and community.

With a Diploma in film production UNSW 1st., and a Diploma film/video editing, (AFTRS NSW) Dan has no shortage of film-making experience. He has written and directed several short films receiving awards for both direction and editing. (some EGs would be good here) The latest exhibition works have won several awards including:

  • Blue Mountains Sculpture Award 1st place, 2013, 
  • Scenic World Sculpture Exhibtion 2014 2nd place 
  • 2015 MAP Exhibtion selection 'House of Representatives' Beachcomber House. 
  • 2015 Curated into 'Strange Embrace' Blue Mountains Cultural Center. 
  • 2015 Residency selection, Big C Artist Residency. 
  • 2015 Curated into 'A Geometric View' Everglades Gardens. Leura NSW. 
The next twelve months will see a focus on film based practice inspired by future travels to remote Australia.

Conrad Wansbrough

Conrad has dedicated his life to the pursuit of the many adventures the world has to offer. He strongly believes being surrounded by hardships the true beauty of nature floods the senses.

Growing up in the Blue Mountains of NSW Conrad found a natural attraction to exploring cliff lines discovering rock climbing at an early age.

Conrad went on to experience mountaineering and rock climbing in Patagonia, Europe and the New Zealand Alps. 

At the age of 30 Conrad was introduced to sailing as a professional crew member aboard a Tall Ship on an expedition to Antarctica. Following this Conrad purchased a small yacht in North Wales and sailed home to Australia single handed across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

In 2010 Conrad sustained a spinal injury and subsequent neck operation. Since then his road to recovery has been long and hard with lessons learned along the way. His focus turned to an education in risk management in order to work with his physical limitations to achieve the goals of an adventurous life for himself and others in similar circumstances.

Conrad now lives on the South Coast of NSW where he holds the position of safety officer for Marine Rescue Narooma, enjoys creative oil painting, exchanging tall story’s with good friends over coffee and long walks on the beach with his beautiful wife.

Walter Van Praag

Born in Holland with Cystic Fibrosis Walter was undiagnosed and labelled as a sickly child with a cough and diarrhea. When he had not grown past 35kg for three years Walter was finally diagnosed at age 10. His family migrated to Australia to escape the 'Cold War' and for him to get fresh air and get away from the cold and damp weather in Holland 
In Australia Walter became a keen bushwalker from High School bushwalks onwards to exploratory hikes in later teens.

However, it was while cycling around Tasmania to save the Lower Gordon River with Bob Brown and the newly founded Wilderness Society that he was bitten by the travel bug. Walter has scaled a Greek prison wall,  lived in a cave in Crete, took the Trans Siberian, contributed as a medic to the 911 emergency in New York and worked for Save the Children in New Zealand among many many other out there adventures.

Though Walter was often sick with Cystic Fibrosis related complications, coughing up blood and having chronic infection, diagnosed with CF related Diabetes, his life is dominated by exercise and therapy. Technically being on borrowed time, 'living on the wrong end of the bell curve', he is now an inspiration to the world CF community who got to know Walter after he cycled from Paris to Istanbul in 2007 for the cause. Money was donated to CF, media coverage included CNN, a book and a documentary (Coughing the Distance - <http://vimeo.com/1235023?pg=embed&sec=1235023>) resulted from this 3500km bicycle ride and that led to him being awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2009.

Following the cross Europe bike ride he climbed Mount Kinabalu in 2009, rode 1000kms from Sydney to Melbourne on a Dutch City Bike, completed a two month 5500km electric assisted bicycle ride from North Vietnam to Singapore and made a 1000km hike across Spain, the El Camino de Santiago from the French Pyrenees to Cape Finisterre. In 2015 he crossed the Nullarbor on an e-bike and hiked 1000km across WA on the Bibbulmun track with friends. 
Walter now lives in Tasmania.

Duncan Meerding

Born and bred in Hobart Duncan has had a keen interest in the environment for a long time. He is a furniture and lighting designer creating works inspired by the natural environment. The interest in how light performs through and around objects coupled with the highly tactile nature of his work reflects the alternative sensory world in which Duncan Designs, being legally blind.

In 2005 at the age of 18, Duncan lost his central vision due to a condition call Lebers Heretarary Optic Neuropathy (LHON), leaving his Legally Blind, with less than 5% vision concentrated around the periphery.

Duncan has won a number of awards including:
  • 2010 Designed Objects Tasmania (DOT) Springboard Scholarship
  • 2011 The (Tasmanian) Ministers Biennial Youth Arts Prize – which enabled him to undertake a mentorship in New Zealand under the internationally renowned Designer David Trubridge,
  • 2011 Top 10 Finalist Bombay Sapphire Design Discovery Award 
  • 2014 ‘Most Sustainable Design’ – The Edge Competition
  • 2014 2nd Place in Lighting Architecture Movement Project – an international lighting design competition 
  • 2014 MAIB Disability Achievement Award for the Tasmanian Community Achievement Awards. 
He has spoken at national conferences organised by Arts Access Australia (2010 and 2012) and has been part of a number of exhibitions, including his own solo show earlier this year, Duncan has attained a range of national and international media attention.

Duncan has been featured on the
  • ABC TV’s New Inventors (2010), Channel 10’s Forest Designs Documentary (2012), 
  • ABC’s Radio National (2012) feature length biographical documentary), 
  • The Sydney Morning Herald (2010) 
  • The Australian Newspaper (2012), 
  • Australian House and Garden (2013) 
  • Belle Magazine (2014) and 
  • The Vancouver Sun (2014). 

As well as his practise Duncan partakes in adventures and activities including tandum bike riding, kayaking, bush walking and rock climbing. Rock climbing is one of Duncan’s central passions. He has climbed in a number of places including Paynes Ford and Kawakawa Bay – Lake Taupo (New Zealand), Frog Butress (Queensland), Mt Arapilies (Victoria) and a number of locations in Tasmania. One of his favourite styles, prevalent in Tasmania, is Crack Climbing. Duncan has done some leading on routes and was able to do a first ascent with Paul Pritchard in 2010 of ‘The Blind Leading the Crippled’ 16, at Waterworks near Hobart.

Duncan worked with Kanthari in India in 2012. Kanthari has a strong aim about empowerment and disability, something which Duncan is quite passionate about himself. His practise embodies his disability, it does not hamper or dominate it but influences his design aesthetic. Equally his life is influenced by his disability, but has made it turn in some interesting and unique directions.

Paul Pritchard

Paul was a cutting-edge rock climber/mountaineer; adventuring in the Himalaya, Karakoram, Patagonia, Baffin Island, the Pamirs and the European Alps.

Notable first ascents include:
  • The Central Tower of Paine, Patagonia.  Trango Tower in Karakorum, Pakistan.  
  • El Capitan, Yosemite, California.
  • Mount Asgard, Baffin Island.
  • The Wall of Dykes, Ak-Su Valley, Khirgizistan.

His first book Deep Play (Baton/Wicks), published in 1997, garnered the Boardman/Tasker Award for Mountain Literature and was translated into four languages. Deep Play was republished in 2012 by (Vertebrate). 

During a 1998 world mountaineering trip Paul acquired a brain injury when a boulder fell on his head whilst climbing the Totem Pole in Tasmania. The accident resulted in hemiplegia and he lost the power of speech for many months. Being in hospital for a year gave him the impetus to write his second book: The Totem Pole (Constable/Robinson) in 2000. This narrative about his personal journey through hemiplegia also won the Boardman/Tasker prize and the Banff Mountain Book Festival Grand Prize and was translated into four languages. The Longest Climb (Constable/Robinson) followed in 2005.

Since His accident Paul has continued to lead a challenging life, climbing Kilimanjaro, caving, sea kayaking, river rafting and, in 2009, lead rock climbing again. In 2011 I cycled across Tibet to Everest Base Camp. The 2013 film The Journey covers this epic tricycle ride.

Pritchard has been the subject of the following films documenting his adventures:
  • Gogarth Alun Hughes1987
  • Strone Ulladale Alun Hughes 1988
  • Wild Climbs Tasmania BBC1 2000
  • Extreme Adventure Emergency BBC2 2003
  • The Longest Climb BBC1 2004
  • Kilimanjaro Going for Broke Winner Graz Film Festival 2005
  • She Saved my Life Channel 9 Australia in 2009
  • The Ditch, Matthew Newton 2009
  • To The Rainbow - Bamboo Chicken Productions 2009 winner Ljubljana. The Journey Griffon Media 2013 winner Edinburgh.

He has given book readings at The Edinburgh International Book Festival (2005) and the
Chicago Book Fair (2000), and lectured and read from his books in Berkley, Washington
DC, Toronto (2000) and Milan, Ljubljana, Chamonix and for the Hong Kong Royal Geographical Society (2009 and 2014). The Journey has screened at approximately twenty film festivals world-wide in 2013-14 including Domzale, Huaraz, Bankso, Edinburgh, Zakopane and Calgary.
Added to this, Paul is an ambassador for Headway Rebuilding Lives  (Hobart) and a patron of HemiHelp (London) and Llanberis Mountain Film Festival (Wales).

He lives in Tasmania and is a seasoned international lecturer on the lessons he has learned through adventure and how they have helped him live with, not overcome, disability. Paul aims to write a chapter of his forthcoming book about this expedition.

Challenging (dis)ability through Adventure

An expedition comprising of 5 people with significant disabilities riding human powered tricycles from Australia’s geographical lowest point...