Former student now in Hall of Fame
ONE of the city’s favourite sons has been honoured a year and a half after his death.
Disability advocate Matt Laffan was last week inducted into the Coffs Harbour High School’s Hall of Fame, with his proud parents, Dick and Jenny Laffan, taking centre stage at the ceremony.
“The whole thing was quite surprising for us. From the earliest we decided to treat Matt as normally as possible and we just regarded everything he did as normal,” Mrs Laffan said.
Matt was born with a rare genetic disorder and doctors predicted he would only live a week. Confined to a wheelchair he concealed chronic pain behind a sunny face, quick wit and his famously friendly and flirtatious nature.
Aside from overcoming adversity few of us can imagine, Matt also completed combined arts and law degrees to become a crown prosecutor with the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, a member of the Law Council of NSW, a board member of the NSW Rugby Union judiciary and the Disability Council of NSW. Matt also ran for office as Sydney’s Lord Mayor in 2004, losing by a narrow margin to Clover Moore MLC.
His mother told the assembly she hoped that students who ‘felt a bit down, maybe something had gone wrong at home, could go up to the Hall of Fame and look at Matt’s photo and say, I’m stronger than you, I’m bigger than you, I’m just as smart as you. If you can do it, I can do it’.
“I was really impressed. Two beautiful girls came up to me quietly after the assembly and said we’d like to express our sympathy for your loss, and I don’t think I said anything sensible.”
School principal Patti Kerans said Matt was the sixth former student to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“His story tells the kids about choices and what we do with the deck of cards we’re dealt with. Some don’t cope as well with adversity as others do,” she said.
Matt Laffan died in March 2009 aged 38.