If you’re here for long enough you’re bound to bump in to Bob and Vickie Chaffey tending their beloved farm where they have lived since 1983. But take a closer look and it quickly becomes apparent that this is no ordinary farm.
69-year-old Bob Chaffey has lived in Somerton since he was a child. His family were nominated for a 650 acre block of land after the Second World War in what was known as a Soldiers Settlement Lease designed to attract discharged soldiers to the bush. They quickly set about building a house and establishing a farm.
Farming, says Bob, is in his blood and all he ever wanted to do. Despite gaining a place at Sydney University when he graduated from high school, he went straight to work on the family farm at the age of 18.
“I have a deep love for the land and will work this farm until I no longer physically can. I’d go mad if I had to move into town and at the end of the day I’m happy just making a contribution to farm life,” says Bob.
On a routine visit to his dentist in 1980, Bob met and fell in love with Vickie who was working as a dental nurse. The feeling was mutual, in 1983 they married and later went on to have three children. Life on the land was good for this young family and their future was bright. All that changed though, just nine years later when a farming accident almost cost Bob his life.
A traumatic injury
It was a day in June 1992 that began like most others in Somerton; but would end dramatically. It was a sunny but blustery day and NSW was in the depth of a drought. Bob was preparing to feed his livestock when the drawstring on his jacket became entangled in a power-take-off-shaft connected to a feed mill which is used in times of drought. He lost both arms that day.
Such a traumatic injury would see Bob spend time firstly in Tamworth Hospital, then six weeks in Sydney where doctors were unsure how to treat him both physically and psychologically. The workers compensation process was just as complex for the family.
“There were no guidelines on how to deal with the injury and only minimal rehabilitation. It was only years later when icare took over that things changed so much for the better for us,” says Vickie.
“icare has been a breath of fresh air and they are so easy to deal with. Our case manager has been terrific, and we were able to get to know her really well. To this day we talk on a monthly basis and they have even visited us here at home,” says Bob.
Since taking over Bob’s claim, icare has worked with the family to ensure that he can continue to enjoy his first passion, farming. Since Bob’s accident, a lot of his farming equipment has been modified including a foot accelerator on a quad runner bike, pedals to control the hydraulics in the tractor and front-end loader and a spinning ring on the steering wheel of his car which Bob can hook in to.
“Under the old WorkCover system, I was constantly being encouraged to just retire and give up farming but icare actively encourages me to keep going. They are keen for me to keep working for as long as I want to and are happy that I’m still so active on the farm. Our case manager regularly checks in to see if there’s anything else they can do to help,” says Bob.
After 25 years of his claim being managed under the previous system, Bob was transferred to icare’s Workers Care program two years ago due to the severity of his injury. Workers Care is a unique program set up by icare in 2015. Modelled off the Lifetime Care and Support Scheme, Workers Care is a model that uses specialised service providers who understand severe injury to provide personalised care, treatment and support services to workers and their families.
In all the years since the accident, Bob and Vickie have been apart for just two days. Now, thanks to icare, their future together is assured.