Tom overcomes adversity and inspires others.

Tom O’Brien defied the doctors and pulled through after a horrific accident. Nowadays, he is inspiring others with his phenomenal story and kicking goals.

Tom O’Brien was 12 years old when he was hit by a car and suffered a severe brain injury.

He was badly hurt and the doctors told his family he might not make it.

When Tom woke up in hospital, he didn’t know who his parents were or who he was.

It was a long and difficult road to recovery. Tom had to relearn everything, including how to walk again.

But he defied the doctors and pulled through, eventually going on to complete his schooling.

After high school, Tom and his family decided Chisholm TAFE was the right place for him to further his education.

“We were really worried about Tom going to Frankston Chisholm – it felt a bit outside of our comfort zone,” says Tom’s mum Gayle. “But it couldn’t have been better.”

Over the years, Tom has completed several Work Education qualifications, including the Certificate I in Transition Education, the Certificate II in Work Education and the Certificate I in Initial Adult Literacy and Numeracy.

He considers himself a lifelong learner and loves TAFE.

“The teachers have been very supportive,” says Tom. “If there’s something I’m not quite getting, they will explain it again and teach it a different way.”

“It’s the perfect mix,” adds Gayle. “For Tom, if he doesn’t use it, he loses it. With TAFE, Tom can keep learning and enjoying the courses.”

Tom is a valued, much-loved student at Chisholm. He has great sense of humour and can have a whole room of people laughing in minutes.

He often shares his story and is frequently asked to be a motivational speaker at Chisholm and at other organisations. Tom has given talks at local schools, at Swinburne University, to second-year physiotherapists at Monash University, and as part of a driving program.

“Sometimes I’ll be sitting in my classroom doing my work and someone will knock on the door and ask to borrow me,” says Tom with a laugh. “I’ll think, ‘here we go, I have to go give a motivational talk to a random class’.

“I enjoy doing it.”

Outside of TAFE, Tom works two days a week at Outlook in Mornington, a recycled goods shop. Tom’s winning personality and strong work ethic won his employer over during work placement and they offered him a job.

On the weekends, Tom likes going bowling and riding his quad bike when the family head to their property in Bonnie Doon. Tom lives at home with his family and enjoys spending time with his younger sister, Amber.

Tom has a great bunch of friends supporting him – the same ones he was mates with when the accident happened all those years ago.

He still struggles with his vision and fatigue. But he doesn’t let life get him down. His capacity to see the glass half full is truly inspiring.

“I was given a second chance at life, and I say to myself, ‘you know what, you have to live’,” says Tom.

“All of those people said I would never be bike riding again, that I would never do anything. I proved them all wrong. Look at me now.”

For his extraordinary determination and hard work, Tom was nominated as Foundation Student of the Year at the 2023 Chisholm Education Awards.

Tom and his family wished to thank his teacher’s aid, Stav Mihelakos, who has worked with Tom for nine years.