Jackson's story Print

This page is a brief biography of Jackson. The Sixty Minutes video also contains a brief overview of Jackson's early life.

The early years

Mac and Jackson, age about 12 monthsJackson was born on the first of January 1986 to Sally Richards and Mac West in Canberra, Australia, the third of four boys.

Jackson would never have survived his infancy without the intervention of modern medicine. Jackson's very early life was troubled and extremely difficult for everyone with many hospitalisations before the age of 2. He was treated vigorously for several life-threatening chest infections, had a kidney removed at 10 months, pins inserted in both ankles, a hernia repair, a triple arthrodesis on his left ankle and general anaesthetics for dental work and nasal cauterisations.

Jackson was slow to develop. He didn't sit up until 18 months and couldn't make eye contact at all. He gave every indication of being both deaf and blind although he is neither. When Jackson was about 12 weeks old, Sally realised that there was something very seriously wrong with him. It was clear to her that he was disabled, but it was not yet clear how profound his disability would be.

Jackson's fourth birthday!

Jackson at Malkara school, aged 6

In 1988 when Jackson was nearly 3 years old Mac suffered his second debilitating depression and spent 6 weeks in the psychiatric ward of Calvary Hospital.

In 1989 Jackson started at Malkara, a segregated school for children with a disability. He was placed in the groups for the highest-need and most profoundly disabled students. He was still not walking but took his first steps at the Christmas concert at the end of the 1989 school year.

Shared care

With four children under 7 and Mac in and out of hospital, Sally was struggling to keep the family together. In 1991 Sally finally managed to forge a partnership between Barnados, Lorraine and John Wright, Child Welfare and herself to create a shared-care arrangement with Lorraine and John. Jackson lived two weeks at home in Yarralumla and two weeks with Lorraine and John in Queanbeyan. This arrangement continued for the next fourteen years.

Family portrait, 1992

These were good years for the whole family. Lorraine and John were generous and loving foster-parents, and the breathing space they granted Sally and Mac allowed them to give Tim, Duncan and Lewis an upbringing that they all remember as trouble-free and happy.

When he was 13 Jackson graduated from Malkara and moved on to Black Mountain School (formerly Koomarri) a secondary segregated school. He attended Black Mountain for the next 7 years.

Leaving school, moving home

Once Jackson turned 19 the shared-care arrangement with Lorraine and John ended and he moved home full-time.

Jackson finished school in December 2006 and Sally quit her job as an ESL teacher of adult migrants at the Canberra Institute of Technology to care for him, establish JACKmail and plan for his future.

A career

In February 2007, Sally, Mac and Jackson launched JACKmail, a mail delivery business operating in the inner south of Canberra. Sally drove the van, built up the business and supported Jackson in his job for the first 10 weeks. The business rapidly became successful, winning the Judges Choice award at the ACT Inclusion Awards in 2008. JACKmail continues to offer good-value and professional service. You can read more about JACKmail here. Jackson and the JACKmail van, early 2007

The present and the future

 You can read more about Jackson's present life here