Ausnew Home Care | NDIS project helps SA disability pensioner record journey on postie bike across Australia

NDIS project helps SA disability pensioner record journey on postie bike across Australia

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Four decades ago, a motocross crash left Tumby Bay's Michael Kammann with a permanent limp and restricted use of his left side, but the 61-year-old disability pensioner has charged ahead at whatever life's thrown up at him. 

He's now added singer to his list of achievements launching a website business to market a journal and a song called Postie on the Cruise that he wrote about crossing Australia on a postie bike in 2007.

Mr Kammann has spent his life tackling hurdles with energy and never giving up — a bit like the little Honda postie bike he took across the Nullarbor, a little rough on the edges, burning a fair bit of oil but chugging on to the finish line.

Mr Kammann developed the website project under the NDIS and hopes to share his love of postie bikes with others through the lyrics that came to him on his 4550-kilometre journey from Bundaberg to his hometown of Manjimup in WA.

It was quite a feat even riding a motorbike after almost dying in the motocross crash at Northam, WA, when he was just 19 years of age.

Man standing near a postie bike with box, swag and helmet on the bag, holds up shopping bag and smiles.
Michael Kammann and his Honda postie bike loaded up ready for travel. (Supplied: Michael Kammann)

He was in a coma for two weeks with a brain injury that damaged his left side mobility, ending his apprenticeship as a crane driver.

"I had the crap belted out of me, and I had a head injury," he said.

Mr Kammann spent a year in rehab and then got on with life.

"Nothing would stop me," he said.

Newspaper article with photo of smiling man on bike with dog on the back. Article headline, Spike and Milligan plug on.
Michael Kammann rode from Perth to Broome on a pushbike four years after his crash. (Supplied: Michael Kammann)

"It wouldn't matter if I was walking on my ankle — my picture was to get where I wanted to go and achieve what I wanted to achieve."

Mr Kammann returned to the Manjimup Motorcycle Club and was soon involved behind the scenes in various committee roles.

Twenty years after the accident, he became the president of the club.

Bald man standing next to a yellow dirt bike with number 473, in front of white bus.
Michael Kammann and his 80cc motocross bike that he raced after his accident. (Supplied: Michael Kammann)

Courageous return

He got back to racing on an 80cc bike at club level in 1989, and his courage was rewarded by his peers with the most improved rider that season.

"[Riding a motorbike] was pretty difficult, but it's the determination. It's what you've got in your belly," he said.

Mr Kammann worked on the family farm and "ended up getting fit enough to get into the packing sheds in town packing potatoes and apples".

After running a courier service in Broome, he moved to Queensland in 2004, living in Bundaberg, where he bought the old postie bike for "a couple of hundred dollars".

Man and woman standing at gate in front of home and tree, number 19 on the gate, pink chairs, shrubs in background.
Michael Kammann and Janine Johns have created a home with minimal means. (ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton)

He hadn't been on a motorbike for quite a few years, but the joy of riding hadn't left him, so he mapped a course across Australia based on riding 200km each day.

"I got a swag, water bottle, and some tools and put a box on the back," Mr Kammann said.

"When I took off, it was me versus the rest of the world keeping the bike going.

"Riding along, I just started singing some one-liners to myself, and then after I got back, I wrote the story. I thought, 'I'm going to put these into some lyrics,'" he said.

His brother-in-law, Vic Kaarilaakso, provided encouragement, the music, and recorded the song.

Mr Kammann was inspired by the tenacity of his postie bike.

"Once you were in the saddle and you had it sitting on the sweet spot, there was no other place on earth like it," he said.

He allowed 21 days for the trip travelling at about 90 kilometres an hour, but in his typical style did it in 17 days, including two rest days.

"By the time I got to Eucla, I thought this bike's going to make it. I just had to keep putting oil in it," Mr Kamman said.

"Oil was running out the exhaust pipe."

Man holding washing basket in from of bus, sunny day, blue sky.
Michael Kammann and the bus that was home for three and a half years. (Supplied: Michael Kammann)

Love at first sight

His partner Janine Johns encouraged him to get his story and song off the bookshelf and publish it after it lay collecting dust for 15 years.

The couple met in Manjimup outside a laundromat and say it was love at first sight.

They travelled Australia in a bus for three years, clocking up 36,000km, surviving from pension day to pension day, driving with tailwinds, and living off damper and soup.

When they broke down as they rolled into the small seaside Eyre Peninsula town of Tumby Bay five years ago, they decided to stay.

They sold the bus and settled into a hut in the local caravan park.

Man with arm around woman both smiling at camera in front of lattice paneling with sign saying Storm Buoy.
Michael Kammann and Janine Johns love their slice of paradise. (ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton)

Easing off the throttle

Mr Kammann has built most of their furniture from wood offcuts found in kerbside collections and second-hand purchases.

But they love their slice of paradise.

For Mr Kammann, he's hoping to "ease off on the throttle" and catch some fish for tea.

"We've got a little hut here, but thank God we're not paying a housing loan," he said.

"It's not easy, and you've got to rely on your home-making skills and your practical ability to survive like anyone."

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