A place to call home

ONE-punch victim, Jake Brooks, is set to move into a granny flat, built at the back of his parent’s place in Bellingen.

This construction has been designed specifically for Jake’s needs and aims to increase his independence while offering a little extra space for Jakes parents, Liz and Aaron Brooks.

Three years ago Jake was knocked to the ground in Dorrigo. The aspiring diesel mechanic and army officer now requires 24-hour care and has the understanding of a three-year-old.

Since his release from hospital the onus of care has fallen onto his parents, and after a prolonged fight, the Brooks family obtained government assistance to build the dwelling.

Liz says that, excluding weather and paperwork interruptions, the building should be complete by June.

“My house looks like a bomb hit it so it will be great to get everything back in place, but, importantly this is a step in encouraging Jake to build his confidence and improve his independence,” she said.

It has been a long road for the Brooks family.

Jake needed to be re-taught how to eat, go to the toilet and learn basic communication skills.

His ability to control emotions remains limited and consequently, Liz has endured violent attacks and outbursts of verbal abuse.

“I have had two broken wrists and the threat of physical danger is always present. This is on top of all the fights and arguments you can expect from a person with a cognitive level of a three to six-year-old child,” Liz told the Courier-Sun.

This behaviour has limited the ability to find long-term carers and makes respite impossible for the Brooks family.

“This is seven days a week, 24-hour care for us. It’s hard to get carers that are properly qualified to work with brain injured persons and on top of that, Jake needs a carer with a certain personality – otherwise his behaviour worsens,” Liz said.

“My husband and I take holidays independently of each other, so that a family member is always at home with him. This granny flat will give us just a slight breather for the day.”

While the emotional toll is apparent, this has been combined with the inordinate financial costs.

Jake’s medical bills have been large and continuous.  There has been limited help offered by the Government and the Brooks’ family has been struggling to make all the payments.

“Extended family members have had to help out but it’s an ongoing battle to cover costs. All occupational, speech and physiotherapy are paid by us. We have been in debt and continue to face financial difficulties. Needless to say, the grant for the granny flat has been a game changer,” Liz said.

* Liz is a strong campaigner for the NSW Government’s proposed one-punch laws.

These reforms will take into the account not only the victims who are killed or injured but also the ruined lives of all involved.

Under the changes, ‘king hits’, will attract a minimum eight-year jail sentence and there will be minimal penalties for all alcohol fuelled assaults.

“These reforms will take into account the victim’s family and all the lives they destroy. Jake survived the attack but this is not living like it should be,” she said.

Liz was also particularly concerned that the recent attention of one-punch hits had focused on metropolitan areas.

“It’s time that all families across the country, regardless of where you live or how wealthy you are, all get the support and help they need.”

Jake is the face of the Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Awareness month, an advocacy program that reflects the needs and priorities of people with an ABI and their families.

To follow Jake's story and his family, go to

www.facebook.com/groups/134328046594472/

To read his story see www.jakebrook.com.au.