When Michael Clancy clocked on for work at Dreamworld on October 25, 2016, he was a man with a big life.
- Michael Clancy lives with PTSD and anxiety after the 2016 Dreamworld tragedy
- Four people died when the Thunder River Rapids ride malfunctioned
- Parrots for Purpose has handed more than 500 companion birds to people in need
The guest services supervisor managed hundreds of visitors to the popular Gold Coast theme park, took care of his family, and juggled a huge social life.
But his world was changed after witnessing a horror accident which claimed four lives that day.
Theme park visitors Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozi Araghi died when one of the park's rides malfunctioned.
An inquest into the deaths later found that the design and construction of Dreamworld's Thunder River Rapids ride posed a "significant risk" to patrons' safety and the park's systems were "frighteningly unsophisticated".
Mr Clancy continued to work at Dreamworld for three months after the incident until he could not cope any longer.
"I was one of the first on the scene. What we saw that day was horrific and it had a huge imprint on me," he said.
He said his children were bullied at school.
"I was spat on, people were waiting at my car," he said.
"Security had to pull people off the guest services counter.
He said after three months he couldn't do it anymore.
"I lost all my faith in humankind and I really didn't value life at all after seeing what we saw," he said.
Mr Clancy sought professional help to deal with the crippling anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) he suffered.
At one stage he said he was taking 29 different tablets to cope with the symptoms.
"I was in a dark place," he said.
"I had hit rock bottom and for the first time in my life I was just not wanting to wake up in the morning."
He recognised that he needed something to get him out of bed each day, but was not yet ready for the social interaction that came with having a dog or another pet.
He bought a parrot for companionship and Archie became his purpose.
"You can't stay in bed with Archie in the house because the neighbours will knock on my door and ask me to turn the bird down," he said.
"It gave me a purpose to get out of bed."
Helping others one bird at a time
Archie's impact led to a self-funded social enterprise with hundreds of birds being reared in the family home to help others battling mental health issues.
At times, Mr Clancy, his wife and two children worked 16 hours a day to feed the 20 or 30 nesting birds every four hours.
"We gave our first 200 away free of charge," he said.
Darron Cameron, a military veteran diagnosed with PTSD, was a beneficiary of Mr Clancy's enterprise.
His parrot companion Senshi was rescued from the 2021 floods in Warwick, and is now a constant fixture on Mr Cameron's shoulder.
"Senshi has saved my life," he said.
"I would not be here if I didn't have him."
Mr Clancy is registering Parrots with Purpose as a charity and has moved the lounge-room aviary into an industrial area so he can expand the effort nationwide.
Tamara Dowdle lives with anxiety and is the 500th person to receive a companion bird.
She met Coco for the first time at the official opening of the headquarters or "nest" in the Gold Coast suburb of Ashmore.
"She is beautiful," Ms Dowdle said.
"I felt an instant connection with her, but I know it will take a little while for us to get to know each other."
Mr Clancy said birds had a special role in helping people with mental illness, particularly if leaving the house appeared too much at times.
"You can't put a dog or a cat on your shoulder and talk to it, and that is what a bird can do," he said.
"I can't change the world. The world is what it is. All we are trying to do is make the world a little bit better, one bird at a time."