How it all happened, who, why and how
In 2001 Coralie Wales initiated a group for clients she had worked with in her organisation “the Chronic Pain Group”. She was keen to ensure that after a program was completed her clients in pain would not be isolated, so invited them to join a “Chronic Pain Power Group”. Meetings were social and fun, and people who had started their pain management training met others who were also learning strategies for managing their pain. It was really powerful.
Understanding the value in providing group support, Coralie searched for an organisation in the community that was dedicated to supporting people in pain, holding the view that isolation could be prevented if people in pain were actively engaged with a community of others who understood the experience of living with pain and who could share hopeful stories of managing pain. She wanted to refer her clients there after she had completed pain management training with them. She was shocked when there was no such organisation in the community.
The implications were that there were people all over Australia who were isolated and in pain and the chances were that they experienced the consequences of poor community understanding about chronic pain and how it is different to acute pain. Somewhat alarmed, Coralie invited people in pain through her website to contact her and share their story. The stories started to arrive, among them many stories of distress and despair, and some people spoke of their intention to commit suicide. Coralie supported many people at risk of suicide over the next months, so much so that she started to feel overwhelmed with the urgency of the needs of people in pain and the lack of community care and support. When Lee Furlong, a great friend and long standing Rotarian, heard about the situation he suggested speaking to Rotary about the dilemma for people in pain, and within a couple of months Chronic Pain Australia was born.
Having incorporated in 2006, the journey continued. The Rotary Club of Thornleigh provided $7000 in seed funding to get the organisation off the ground. We made very good friends in Rotary, and when we ran our first conference in 2007 many of them helped out with the organisation and management of the event. This is when Mandy Nielsen became a member, later a board member and currently Vice President of Chronic Pain Australia.
Lee retired from the organisation in 2008, moving to the north coast of NSW. David Newman, who had learned pain management from Coralie in the early 2000’s, became involved as a volunteer to set up our phone service in the early days. David and Lee made an enormous contribution to Chronic Pain Australia, functioning as office and general managers during the first two or three years. Their legacy is still with us, as they remain consultants to Chronic Pain Australia.