Skip to content

John Kenworthy

Category seven – Injured worker achievement award

Traveling on a road he was unfamiliar with, Queensland Police Officer John Kenworthy was involved in a motorcycle incident while responding to a serious injury traffic response. Losing focus for only a split second, his motorcycle veered off the road, went through a low hedge and landed in a barbed wire fence. Following the delivery of first aid at the scene, John was flown from Mackay to Brisbane and placed in an induced coma.

John's injuries were substantial, and he underwent many surgeries in the days and months following the accident. He is now legally blind after sustaining serious injuries to his eyes, and he also received facial lacerations and fractures, injury to his right arm and bruising to his torso.

These injuries have had a significant impact on John's everyday life, and he was unable to perform most 'normal' tasks at home and in the workplace.

John participated in rehabilitation with Vision Australia (orientation ad mobility training), computer training, mobile phone training, iPad training, JAWS (voice activated software), fusion training and magnification on computer training. Occupational therapy assistance was provided around his house, and he also attended trauma focused psychology to maintain his mental health.

He was proactive in his return-to-work planning and identified suitable duties opportunities—returning to work for four hours a day, two days a week six months after his accident, and has gradually increased his time to 20 hours per week over three days. He was motivated to return to work because of the connections he had with colleagues and the organisation, and the recognition of the importance of having a purpose in work life and educating others through his experience. He has delivered presentations about his journey, provided support and mentored at-risk youth, given advice to junior police officers and been involved in other community activities.

RUN TIME: 3 mins 45 secs

My name's John Kenworthy. I'm a Senior Constable of police work here at Mango Hill North Lake Station. I suffered an injury as a result of a workplace motorcycle crash in 2020, where the police motorcycle that I was riding has left the road, gone off down a hill, through a barbed wire fence. The top wire of the barbed wire fence has come up over the top of the motorcycle fairing and into the visor section of the helmet.

The wires cut both eyeballs in half, and I've become blind. Over the first couple of weeks, I was in the hospital, and it was just, as you can imagine, it was just an overwhelming situation. And then we spent three months here in Brisbane.

Over those three months, we're constantly at the specialists doing rehab, learning how to walk with a cane, all those exciting things that you don't think about until you're blind. And then we get back to Mackay for the next, I don't know, nine months, I guess, six or nine months.

We were up there and finally got back here to Brisbane full time in July 2021, which is when I ended up here at the station. It was all on me. I wanted to come back to work, and I just made a point of it. I didn't want to sit at home. I didn't want to disconnect from the organisation. I just didn't see any value in it.

Now I'm involved in telephone intercepts. I'm involved in listening devices where I can sit there, and with a set of headphones, I can type up transcripts, so that can be presented in court and that's been huge, just being able to be recognised as contributing again.

The rehabilitation and return to work came in a lot of different ways. I've had a whole swag of people in that time, in the three years, WorkCover were fantastic. Queensland Police Injury Management specialists, and again, they're constantly on top of things and making sure that things get done.

And I have been at the point for quite some time now, I'd say probably eight or nine months, where I'm at 20 hours a week now. And as well as the other ongoing issues, as far as sleep fatigue, mental and physical fatigue.

I'm comfortable at 20 hours. I don't know that I can extend past those. The whole process was bit by bit by bit. These guys here at the station have been so supportive and so helpful. All the big bosses, all the brass they've been just incredible. Things that have happened in the background, that I'll probably never know about, never find out about that have helped me get to where I am here now. The initiative was always to reconnect with work. I could see that there was a massive impact that the work environment had on me. Gives me a sense of belonging. It gives me a sense of contribution.