Last week I had the pleasure to listen to an inspirational and entertaining speaker, Nicholas Gleeson, who shared his story of overcoming the challenges of living with blindness. Nick is an athlete, accessibility advocate, global adventurer, and all round top bloke! Nick was this year’s Australia Day Ambassador for the Murrurundi district.

Council held public information sessions in Merriwa, Murrurundi and Scone with Nick to contribute to a Disability Inclusion Action Plan for the Shire that Council is preparing over the next year. Nick’s visit was the first of a number of community consultations and targeted focus groups to discuss issues around key areas identified by people with a disability.

Cr Maurice Collison
Deputy Mayor
Upper Hunter Shire Council
May 2016


Dear Nick,
On behalf of residents and staff I would like to thank you once again for your inspirational talk.
You motivated many of the residents with your positive can do approach to life.   A number of them came up to me during the afternoon to ask more about you and whether or not you could come out again sometime to speak to them!
Just after you left, we organised the newer residents into groups. I asked them to think about you and how you might use an ATM, find your clothes for the day, go grocery shopping and cook dinner.   We then came back together and talked about what solutions they had found.   It was great to hear them talking outside their own world and problems and really think about someone else.   We hope this will help them to change their way of thinking and to draw strength from each other.
You touched many people in the room Nick.  
Thank you most sincerely for making the time to come and visit the residents and staff here at Odyssey House.
Best Regards
Margaret Noonan
Odyssey House McGrath Foundation
16th June 2014


“Nick has a wonderful gift in being able to motivate, inspire and captivate an audience by presenting a truly remarkable life of adventure, challenges and  exploration from a perspective of being a just another ordinary Australian.  His ability to capture his audience and deliver his message is complemented by the openness of his story, as it relates to everyday life, but, is intermingled with wit, audience participation and interaction.  His presentation is best summoned up by my personal observation of the audience and during his 90 minute session not one person wavered from listening, enjoying and admiring Nick’s ability to achieve things that most people would dream of doing.”

Feed back from participants’ included

Brilliant and inspiring
Absolutely brilliant! Nick is so inspirational and I really enjoyed listening to him and participating in the activities
Very inspiring, excellent speaker.
A big eye opener well done.
Really emotional, really got everyone feeling as one big team. Bonding! Thanks Nick.
Very insightful - Nick is a wonderful man and a wonderful soul with high personal development.

Best wishes

Neil Benjamin
Regional Administration Officer
Sydney North Region | Parks & Wildlife Group
NSW Department of Environment & Climate Change

On 1 December, the NSW Department of Finance & Services invited Nicholas Gleeson to be our guest speaker at our celebration of International Day of People with a Disability 2011.

The 50 staff present were inspired and enthralled by Nicholas's stories of global adventure. Nicholas is a fabulous speaker and is able to convey the challenges of disability with goodwill and humour.

He is truly inspirational and we very much recommend him as a terrific guest speaker to other organisations.

Maryanne Duggan
Organisational Development Consultant
Nicholas Gleeson and Maryanne Duggan at celebration of International Day of People with a Disability 2011

"Nick Gleeson is one of the most interesting and stimulating presenters I have seen. He possesses extraordinary ability to involve the audience and his power of description, humour and wit, brought his experiences to life - he inspires us to remember our capacity to do great things for ourselves and others."

Kate Alden
Price Waterhouse Coopers


"Nick's wonderful motivational talents have not only helped expand my own business but also assisted industry colleagues. Whether it be Rotary clubs, youth groups or sporting events Nick is always inspirational."

Gary Ross
Amalgamated Credit Managers


Nicholas's zest for life and his epic journeys are a fascination to everyone and highlight how nothing should stop you living life to its fullest...listening to him always leaves you feeling energized."

Micheline Ashdown
Corporate Performance Centre

St George Bank

"Your recent visit and presentation to our entire workforce was both compelling and inspirational.

Your content and delivery was discussed for many weeks afterwards.

Our mission was to raise awareness of our fragility and just how easily our lives can change as a result of an accident.

Your story was certainly worthy of our cause and we thank you for sharing this with us.

Best of luck in all of your future endeavours."



Brad Waun

EHS Manager

GE Energy Services

Australia & New Zealand

“Nick Gleeson was amazing at being able to provide insight into what the key issues maybe for someone who has vision loss as well as the additional strategies to consider when someone is totally blind”
Kim Repcak
Sensory Education & Advocacy Services
Nick was one of the most moving presenters I have ever listened to. His remarkable story challenges us all to realise that we are not confounded by our circumstances but by the choices we make every day. Nick's attitude to embrace all that life has to offer and to accept challenges that most would never dare considering is inspiring. With his humility, genuine care for others, combined with honesty and humour, he totally captivated the room. 
Nick is someone who will remain in my mind for some time to come. He left me with a feeling of gratitude, that we all have the capacity to achieve great things and a reminder of what is most important in life. Thank you Nick!
John Burstow
Bayer Australia Ltd

By Ray Chesterton
The Sunday Telegraph, Page 78

Imagine climbing Mt Everest and running up the Empire State Building when you're blind. Ray Chesterton profiles a remarkable man Ray Chesterton.
In the end, Nick Gleeson got it right by going left. It stopped him falling off Mt Everest into a 5000m icy, black canyon and slicing through some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world for mountain climbers.

It was two years ago, but the memory of that near fatal mishap in the snow can still send a cold shiver down his spine. Gleeson, who is blind, and his party of five, had climbed past base camp to around 5600m up Everest and were about 100m into their descent along a narrow path when his trekking pole collapsed. The final words spoken by his Sherpa before the descent began flashed through Gleeson's mind.

"Stay to the left, Nick. Whatever happens stay to the left. " Gleeson remembers: "I tried to push to the left when the pole collapsed and I just made it. But only because the Sherpa helped by pulling me back by my knapsack.

"They told me later that I was a foot away from a 5000m sheer drop on my right. "The Sherpa was like a cheetah. They said he just seemed to fly through the air and grabbed my knapsack. " The group made it safely back to camp after 11 nights on the mountain and it became another story carried on the winds about adventurer Nick Gleeson, 51, who lost his sight aged seven when a closing electronic door at a supermarket hit him in the head, detaching the retina in each eye.

This year, Gleeson is one of 16 ambassadors spreading word of the NSW Government's ninth Don't Dis My Ability campaign highlighting the positive aspects of people with a disability. Nick lost his sight but not the vision of what could be achieved by determination, confidence and fearlessness. He also climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in South Africa, played with the NSW, Victoria and Australian blind cricket teams and ran competitively with great distinction at the Paralympics and in marathons.

Somewhere, somehow he also squeezed in a Bachelor of Arts degree at Melbourne University, overcoming the steep learning curve of having to tape lectures and transcribe them at home, doubling the work load. "Plato, Socrates and Descartes. It was a nightmare. Bad enough listening to it once," he says Nick represented Australia in the 100m and 400m at the 1984 Paralympic Games, has run in three New York marathons and raced up the 1576 stairs of the Empire State Building.

He has also completed the 90km route of the world's most gruelling run, the Comrades Marathon in South Africa, from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, in blazing heat. Even now the New York marathon is a lure. "I've run nine marathons, but New York is extraordinary. It's always pulling me back.

It's so motivating. " For Gleeson, the ambassadorship is another chapter in a life filled with excitement, drama, near misses and uplifting triumphs of the soul. The kind of thing that makes able bodied people cringe as they sit idly watching television, knowing their most pronounced physical efforts are jumping to conclusions and side-stepping calls to do something more strenuous.

Like Paralympic heroes Kurt Fearnley, who crawled for 10 days over viciously hostile terrain to conquer the Kokoda Trail, wheelchair racer Louise Sauvage and sailing gold medallist Liesl Tesch, Gleeson possesses uncommon valour and an uncompromising insistence on making the world bend to their will, no matter how outrageous their demands. "I told my wife when we married that I loved sport and it would be a big part in my life," Gleeson says.

This is a man who doesn't shy away from life. He hugs it with such an embrace that he leaves it defeated and slumped on the ground breathless. He felt much the same way after the Durban to Pietermaritzburg marathon, a gruelling run created in a fiendish mind to demolish competitors emotionally, physically and psychologically. The maximum time for the run is 12 hours.

After that officials callously close the finish line and later runners are not registered as completing the race. "I did 11 hours, 14 minutes and 11 seconds," he laughs. "It's tattooed on my mind. " Gleeson and his blind mate Charlie McConnell, their arms tied to two sighted runners and in a group of six, were an isolated outpost in an army of 23,000 competitors.

Mountain climbing followed after a meeting with Sir Edmund Hillary, the original conqueror of Mt Everest in 1953 with his Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. "It was in 2006, a couple of years before he died," Gleeson says. "It started the spark in me to try to climb Everest. " With a solid background in mountain climbing, Gleeson was in Auckland bushwalking with a mate when he rang Sir Edmund, who invited the pair to have afternoon tea with him and his wife, June.

"He was the most humble person I've ever met," Gleeson says. "All he wanted was to talk about me and my life. And all I wanted was to talk to him about his (life). " Their link was climbing mountains.

Men pitting their lives against sudden snow storms and the treachery of nature with death or serious injury as frightening consequences. Even the lead-up to the climb was worrying. The vast majority of prospective climbers of Mt Everest catch a plane from Katmandu to high altitude Lukla, one of the most dangerous airports in the world. "Nineteen people were killed in a plane crash there last month," Gleeson says.

"Three weeks before we arrived in 2009, 20 people were killed. Making the plane trip was as concerning as making the climb. " Accompanied by three Sherpa and his blind mate McConnell, the party climbed past base camp to 5600m (more than two-and-a-half times the height of Mt Kosciuszko) before turning back as scheduled. Gleeson and McConnell, wearing backpacks, climbed without ropes, relying on their guides to call "rock on the left" on the flatter lower sections of the mountain or "keep left" and "keep right" as the gradient became more steep.

Then came the Sherpa's dramatic dive to snatch Gleeson's life back from the abyss. Nowadays, Gleeson is married to blind former Paralympian Heather, whom he met through athletics in the 1980s, and is the father of Belinda, 21, and Peter, 17. He is also a sought-after motivational speaker and an adviser to commerce about the advantages of hiring people with a disability.

After all these years he can still remember the bizarre circumstances of his blindness and the collision with the closing electronic door. The initial indication as he got up and dusted himself off was that it was nothing more serious than a boyhood mishap. Then at home later yelling "I can't see" to his terrified parents Ray and Mary, whose other son, Maurice, was already blind after a freakish collision with another person at school.

And Gleeson remembers his sight gradually fading forever into blackness as he sat bewildered between Ray and Mary on the car trip to hospital and the operations that could do nothing. "My mother's face was the last thing I ever saw," he remembers.


Letter of Recommendation for Nick Gleeson

In May 2013, Nick Gleeson together with his wonderful companion Unity, delivered a wonderful speech to the troops at Sibelco in Lilydale (outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne). Nick described to us how he lost his sight and how he had to deal with dramatic changes to his life. Dealing with change was the main focus for Nick’s speech as this site is scheduled to cease its mining activities in approximately 12 months time, and it was timely that Nick speak to the troops about dealing with change and accepting the challenge. All the while staying focussed whilst on the job.

Throughout his speech, Nick used humour together with serious conversation. The combination was well used and presented and in short his speech was excellent and all the feedback has been outstanding and everyone who attended (which was an equally record crowd) took something away from his talk.
Nick had an immediate rapport with the audience and not through the fact he was blind, but mainly through the fact he connected with people through his friendly and honest speaking. Everyone was captive and virtually hanging off every word Nick spoke.

I would recommend Nick to speak at any conference or toolbox talk. His presence and speech is worth gold and as stated previously, his speech was excellent as was the feedback from the group.

Wayne McCoy
Safety Coordinator

Sibelco Australia Limited