Her local Facebook group page was the portal that kept Breakfast Point residents connected throughout lockdown. We meet the delightful local paying it forward to the community she loves
Story by Anna Rizzo-Tassone
Ever the optimist, Nicole Bradshaw counts herself as one lucky person, albeit ‘with a few little bits’ that haven’t been ideal along the way. But challenges have never stopped this Breakfast Point resident from seeking adventure and connections – whether she was on stage performing comedy, travelling extensively through Europe, or even penning an unpublished book. Before the latest COVID-19 lockdown put everyone’s social lives on hold, you could find Nicole in Sydney’s CBD several nights a week enjoying the theatre or what she playfully terms a progressive meal – where you start with wine at one venue, then move to a new place for each course that follows.
It’s that love for being out that makes Nicole – a wheelchair user – even more grateful for City of Sydney’s well-considered mobility planning.
“A lot of people don’t realise that one little step can entirely stop someone in a wheelchair or scooter,” notes Nicole, who has always been a passionate advocate for people with disabilities who need extra accessibility options. She recently applied to be on the Advisory Committee for the City of Sydney and the Canada Bay Council, and when she lived in Huntleys Point on the Lower North Shore prior to moving to Breakfast Point, she sat on the Access Committee for Hunters Hill Council. “By contacting the council, you can initiate change that can be life-changing for someone,” she explains. “I have had footpaths fixed and curb ramps put in and I’ve even lobbied for a pool hoist in the Breakfast Point Country Club to make the it accessible for everyone.”
Since being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of seven, Nicole has been the recipient of many acts of kindness in her life and has, in turn, made it her priority to help others any way she can. “I had a friend assist me in my wheelchair around Europe for three months,” she says. “For years, I’ve received blood products from strangers and I’ve even had neighbours jump over balconies for me when I was in trouble.” It was this desire to give back that led her to start the Breakfast Point Community Facebook page in 2018. “I started the page with the intention of creating a place where locals could access community-based information easily and meet their neighbours online in
a safe environment.”
But until COVID-19 swept through and Sydney was put into lockdown, first in 2020, then again in 2021, she didn’t realise just how much her page would become an important touchpoint for the community. “When Sydney went into lockdown I was worried about the local restaurants and cafes, so I called each and every one to ask them how our community can help.
I thought I could let the locals know if they planned to stay open, offer contactless delivery, and whether they would have weekly specials or offer drive-through options. The owners were so thankful for the support but also fearful of their businesses being decimated. It was heartbreaking.”
Nicole was also concerned about isolation and the mental health issues that lockdown could potentially cause individuals in the community. “I’ve struggled with clinical depression and anxiety disorder and know how difficult it can be when you feel alone.
I wanted people to know that there is a kind place to reach out to if they needed help.”
The pandemic has been taxing on everyone but for an immunocompromised person, its challenges are exponentially greater. “Every four weeks I go to Concord Hospital to treat my immune system and every single person there is immunocompromised. The staff are worried about bringing COVID-19 into the hospital and everyone is wearing masks. A friend of mine’s face is cut from wearing masks all day.”
Despite medical challenges and multiple operations that have seen her spend long stints in hospital since childhood, meaning much of her schooling was done through correspondence, Nicole graduated from university and became an inbound travel specialist for people with disabilities. As well as being deeply fulfilling, the profession has given her an impressive knowledge of Sydney’s social offerings. “My friends are always asking for advice on what show to see and what to do in our town,” she says.
Despite her love for her work, Nicole’s favourite role is being the world’s greatest auntie, an accolade bestowed on her by her five nieces and nephews.
“I had to go to Service NSW to renew my licence and have an eye test during the lockdown. My brother’s 19-year-old son Ben told me he wanted to escort me. He handled everything, and I was so blown away by his support, but to be honest I’m proud to say all my nieces and nephews are like that.”
Nicole moved to Breakfast Point in 2006 with her mother and has lived in two homes during her precinct years. She’ll never forget the joy she felt seeing the uninterrupted views of the fireworks over the city on their first New Year’s Eve as residents.
She also recalls feeling immediately welcomed by the Breakfast Point community.
While managing a community Facebook page daily can be challenging and almost a full-time job, Nicole loves seeing people connect and help each other.
“We have never in our lives had such wonderful neighbours,” she says. “We have been on weekends away and holidays with them. We have Christmases with them and lots of dinners out. During lockdown, it was over-the-fence drinks and they’re always checking to see if we need anything when they go up to the shops. It’s just pure kindness.” That’s exactly the kind of inclusive community feeling Nicole endeavours to promote daily online. While managing a community Facebook page daily can be challenging and almost a full-time job, Nicole loves seeing people connect and help each other. “During the lockdown, someone was asking about public transport to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and people were offering ideas. Then someone offered to give them a lift, which they couldn’t do because of COVID-19 restrictions, but a complete stranger offering to help is the sort of thing that lifts everyone up and makes me glad I’m doing this.”
If you are a Breakfast Point local and would like to join the group, search Breakfast Point Community then click on the group’s pink sunrise icon. Nicole strongly encourages only kindness from members of the page and invites the community to share their local information and insights, including things to do, new businesses, restaurant and cafe reviews, lost pet appeals, and recommendations of trusted local trades people.
But most of all, she hopes it’s a place where members can connect with friends, new and old.