Australian Brooke Franklin celebrates a personal milestone this month.
The Perth girl not only bucked the trend of the Irish invasion of her homeland by moving to Derry 12 months ago, she also overcame a serious disability to do so.
Brooke told the ‘Journal’: “I was born with Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy. I walk with a limp and find it hard to do things most people take for granted.
“Since moving to Derry I have made an amazing life for myself and I honestly feel it has changed me for the better. It has taken me moving here to prove that I can live independently. In fact, I would hate it if I had to move home.”
Brooke’s emigration is all the more impressive considering she underwent serious surgery to lengthen her hamstrings just prior to the move. The rehabilitation meant learning to walk again. “It wasn’t easy but it is good now.”
Derry proved a culture shock for the Firstsource employee, but in a good way.
“If someone sees me struggling in the street in Derry they are willing to help me. That isn’t often the case at home. I just don’t get that helpful vibe in Australia. Socially I am accepted here. The culture is so much different compared to Australia.”
Initially Brooke visited for a six month holiday. Having fallen in love with Derry she decided to stay. “I was trying to figure out how to make that happen as I felt a part of something here. Then, suddenly out of the blue, my mother phoned me to say my great-grandfather was born in the UK. That allowed me to apply for an ancestral visa. I had to go home to apply but since returning again I’m loving it. I have a great circle of friends and am really living life in Derry.”
Despite the fact her own family have always been “100% supportive” the move has given Brooke a new take on life.
“I couldn’t have been this independent in Perth. Here I have an apartment of my own, I work full time and I have a good social life. I relied on the disability pension in Australia but I have to work to eat here. “Sometimes I miss work due to my condition and that can be hard financially. Even though it is a struggle sometimes, I make the most of my situation every day. Cerebral Palsy means I’ve had to improvise every day of my life, even descending the steps from my apartment building is a challenge. So every day starts with a challenge before I walk to work.”
The new outlook and lifestyle has led Brooke to even consider a sponsored run or walk for charity. “It would be a struggle but I am determined to prove disabled people are not incapable. Just because we have disabilities doesn’t mean we are not able to do things and I really want to help others. So if anyone needs help with a good cause, let me know.”
Life here hasn’t always been a ray of sunshine for Brooke though: “Derry has bi-polar when it comes to the weather, that is my least favourite thing here. The biggest shock was all the hills; no one told me Derry was built on a hill! I wasn’t expecting that at all. It is hard enough to navigate kerbstones, never mind the hills.
“I think the friendliness of the people, from work to strangers is really special. That would be the best thing in this town. My family are visiting me in August and I really can’t wait for them to experience all that I have.”