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Sub category: Dreamstarter
14 August 2014

Bringing a dream to life as a social entrepreneur

Ever been inspired to quit your day job and bring your dream to life? Dreamstarter participant Trish Leonard shares her story of why she pursued her dream and how it has been so worthwhile. 

Trish, tell us a bit about UPSTANDING Project

UPSTANDING Project is a social enterprise which helps physically disabled children and adults with spinal cord injuries and acquired brain injuries – like a stroke – stand and move using robotic neuro-rehabilitation technology. We will also educate Australians about the value of neuro-rehabilitation.

How did you get started with your social enterprise?

When my mother had a stroke, I went from Little Miss Lawyer to spending 3 months in a rehabilitation hospital. After she passed away, I thought I’d go back to the devil I knew, but I realised… I can’t get out of bed in the morning for just this!

I decided to give up my job to focus 100% of my energy on getting UPSTANDING Project up and running. I started a conversation with neuro-rehabilitation professionals I respected and admired about what the problems are and how we can make a difference. They are now all part of the UPSTANDING Project advisory team.

Also, being accepted into the School for Social Entrepreneurs and having the support of a business mentor from ING DIRECT has been invaluable to the development of my social enterprise.

Why do you do what you do? 

The human body was designed to stand up and move. I’ve witnessed first-hand the health benefits of standing and moving on a paralysed body. Rehabilitation exercises are the frontline defence against disability! There’s awesome technology by Hocoma and Ekso Bionics out there, and it’s absolutely the most amazing experience when you’re with someone who hasn’t stood up for maybe months, maybe years – and they actually stand up and take steps for the first time and interact with their loved ones. It’s that first eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart interaction… it’s just beyond words to express.

What’s next on the agenda for Upstanding?  

Raising $1 million dollars to bring our first set of robotic technology into Australia to start improving the quality of life of Australians living with physical disabilities. We are working towards bringing together an alliance of peak organisations like Brain Injury Australia, Spinal Cord Injuries Australia, Australasian Rehabilitation Outcomes Centre and will also extend an invitation to Alex McKinnon’s Foundation, the National Stroke Foundation and Cerebral Palsy Alliance (to name a few), to create a national awareness campaign about neuro-rehabilitation and explore a best practice model for community neuro-rehabilitation services.

 ING DIRECT’s Dreamstarter initiative provides funding support to selected StartSomeGood campaigns and helps Australia’s most inspiring go-getters make a positive change in Australian communities. To find out more about the program and how to apply visit

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