Allan Sparkes CV,OAM is one of Australia's most highly decorated citizens and a leader in the shift toward the inclusion of lived experience in the areas of mental wellness and suicide prevention. Allan is one of just five Australian heroes in the past 43 years to be awarded Australia's highest bravery decoration and civil award, the Cross of Valour. In January 2017, Allan was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (0AM) for service to mental health support organisations and the community. In August 2016 he was further awarded Australia's 4th highest bravery decoration, The Commendation for Brave Conduct for saving the life of an aboriginal man who had fallen onto train tracks at Redfern Railway Station in Sydney. His life story is extraordinary. He is also a sailor who has crossed the globe, a survivor of PTSD and a best selling author with Penguin Books.
Allan is a renowned and sought-after inspirational speaker, exclusively represented by Claxton Speakers International. He has presented at many of the most significant corporate events throughout Australia. As a compelling storyteller, Allan will take you into a world of adrenaline, fear, achievement and redemption. His passion and raw honesty will leave you holding your breath and wiping your eyes – not with sadness, but with happiness, sharing in the joy of what he has achieved, leaving you truly inspired.
Allan can tailor his content for your next conference or event in consultation with you and is highly skilled at delivering powerful presentations on topics such as:
Challenge and Adventure
Awards for heroism
Allan Sparkes CV, OAM is one of Australia's most highly decorated citizens. He is one of only five Australians in the past 43 years to be awarded Australia's highest bravery decoration and highest civil award, the Cross of Valour, awarded for ‘acts of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme peril' for his part in the rescue of a small boy who had been washed 600 metres down a flooded storm water pipe at Coffs Harbour in May 1996. In January 2017, Allan was named in the Australia Day Honours List and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to mental health support organisations and the community. In August 2016, Allan was awarded Australia's fourth highest bravery decoration, the Commendation for Brave Conduct, for saving the life of a an aboriginal man who had fallen onto train tracks at Redfern Railway Station. In December 2012, Allan was one of only 10 Australians to be presented the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal. He is also the recipient of other significant awards for bravery, valour and service including the Royal Humane Society Galleghan Award and the New South Wales Police Commissioners Valour Award. An unfailing dedication to service Allan served for 20 years as a frontline police officer. He was involved in the horrific aftermath of the Hilton Bombing, arrested some of Australia's most notorious criminals and faced the tragedy of murdered colleagues.
Circumnavigating life—and the globe
The effects of Allan's work caused dramatic changes in his career, his relationships and his life. Allan set about rebuilding everything that mattered to him by commencing a process of recovery—a roller coaster of successes and challenges which lasted for many years. Since his childhood, growing up in western NSW, Allan's ambition was to one day sail across the oceans of the world. Allan knew this could be the critical factor in getting his life back on course.
In March 2009, Allan, his wife and two young children left Australia and set sail from England on their yacht. Even though Allan's wife and children had no blue water sailing experience, they sailed 16,000 nautical miles (30,000 klms) back to Australia, crossing the Atlantic Ocean, through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific Ocean—an adventure of a lifetime that few realise.
Spreading the word, sharing the journey
It is this spirit of achievement that underpins Allan’s philosophy on life, and as a speaker, his messages of hope. Allan will open your hearts and minds and draw you into his unique and compelling experiences. His story is a magnificent example of turning fear into courage and failure into success.
Allan's recovery from debilitating mental illness tested his resolve for more than a decade. With the unwavering support of his wife, he faced his demons and rebuilt his mind, body and soul. Today Allan is a Deputy Commissioner with the Mental Health Commission of NSW. He is also a BeyondBlue Ambassador, a Soldier On Ambassador, a Kookaburra Kids Ambassador and an Australia Day Ambassador. He is also a member of the Mental Health Commission of New South Wales Suicide Prevention Advisory Group and a member of the NSW Police Mental Health Intervention Team. Allan volunteers much of his own time travelling to events around Australia, telling his story about his experiences with PTSD, suicide and Depression and providing knowledge, hope and inspiration to others through his dynamic presentations.
Allan's book, 'The Cost of Bravery' was released on May 22, 2013 and reprinted in January 2015. The forword for the book was written by renowned Australian, Mr Ray Martin AM and is now in its second edition. Allan has appeared on national TV including 60 Minutes, Sunday Night and A Current Affair. He has also appeared on Richard Fidler's conversation hour and been interviewed on many other national radio programs.
Allan is one of only five Australians in the past 43 years to be awarded Australia's highest bravery decoration, the Cross of Valour. He is the only Australian to receive the Cross of Valour and a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) and a subsequent Australian Bravery Decoration, The Commendation for Brave Conduct.
With the unwavering support of his wife and children, he faced his demons and rebuilt his mind, body and soul.
Hannah Rose, Partner , Sparke Helmore Lawyers
Wow, what an incredible human being. We were so privileged at Sparke Helmore Lawyers to have the opportunity to hear from Allan about his lived experience of PTSD and depression, and his incredible road to recovery and his ongoing simple and practical methodology for maintaining well-being. His persentation was powerful and authentic, and has sparked conversations around how we as an organisation can be more open and ensure we are actively supporting the wellbeing of staff, how we can sparke some change in the legal industry more broadly and how each and every one of us can take some simple steps to prioritise and take responsibility for our own wellbeing. Allan reminded us that NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN OUR HEALTH and have us the COURAGE TO CARE. I will personally be forever grateful for his contribution to discourse around mental wellbeing at Sparke Helmore - another incredible example of his very significant contribution to our society. If you get the chance to hear from Allan, don't miss it!
Anita Kenny, Corporate Partnership Manager - Kookaburra Kids
I have had the honour of working with Allan Sparkes CV, OAM, VA, on a number of occasions where he has acted as MC and/or keynote speaker, for major events including corporate lunches and fundraising dinners. Allan is a true professional, presenting to large audiences with courtesy and dignity, and adding humour tastefully where appropriate. Allan goes the extra mile to ensure he is knowledgeable of not only the cause and the objective of the event, but also guests in attendance, including acknowledging high profile VIPs and specific protocols which may align with this. Allan is a master at keeping audiences engaged, no matter the size of the room, and ensuring the agenda runs smoothly and program kept to time. I would highly recommend Allan as a presenter, MC and keynote speaker. Allan's ability to engage with people at a variety of levels will ensure any event receives great feedback from guests, VIP's and your event team.
Patrick Kidd OBE, CEO, Invictus Games Sydney 2018
One of the great Australians. The team from Invictus Games Sydney 2018 were privileged to be joined by Allan who talked about health and well being in the work place and at home. Beautifully communicated, he delivered a powerful message about this challenging area with an honesty and simplicity that had significant and immediate impact. Thank you. Patrick Kidd
Fiona Kelly, HR Advisor, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
“We have had feedback from attendees that Allan’s presentation was the best staff have seen on this subject, he was informative, and very engaging. Although his real life experience was confronting at times, it was very powerful in terms of highlighting the impact mental health can have on individuals and their families. Along with the wide range of resources available on our internal intranet site, Allan linked his presentation to our Mental Health Strategy along with the important work the Institute undertakes in related research data”
Leigh Sellers - General Manager QLD & WA, BUPA Australia
“We had the pleasure of hearing Allan Sparkes CV, VA give the keynote speech on his life journey with Mental Illness and championing the removal of stigma attached to mental health in society. His address by any measure was outstanding, well delivered, thoughtful and sincere. Allan took us on an emotional journey of his past, dissecting how heroic achievements can lead us down a dark path. His story captivated the audience and bought the room to tears with his raw, open and honest commentary on his personal experience with mental illness. It is rare you come across a key note speaker that can have such a profound effect on every person in the room. I commend his authenticity and his ability to connect with his audience. Allan is a natural born speaker, whom I would highly recommend.” - Leigh Sellers, General Manager QLD & WA, Sales & Growth, Bupa Australia
Superintendent Chris Craner, NSW Police Force
Erica Blake, Events and Promotions Officer, Dept of Fire and Emergency ServicesAllan Sparkes was a keynote speaker at the WA Fire and Emergency Services Conference held in Perth in September 2015. Over 700 fire and emergency services personnel and volunteers attended theconference. Allan’s story was captivating and inspiring. He had everyone’s attention from the first word to the last, and he received a standing ovation at the end of the session.Allan hit the right chord with many of our volunteers who have similar experiences in their volunteer work. He was happy to engage with volunteers before and after his presentation, and the feedback we have received has been extremely positive. Allan is an outstanding presenter and we would highly recommend him to anyone who is looking for a genuine, positive and inspirational speaker.
Ceara Fox, George P Johnson
Allan’s story is inspiring and his presentation skills and personality are warm and engaging. I especially loved the team building exercise that pushed us out of our comfort zone and reinforced the practical importance of collaboration, teamwork and communication.
Gerald Foley, Managing Director - National Mortgage Brokers
Allan Sparkes spoke at our National Conference held on the Gold Coast in March 2015. Allan’s approach was relaxed and informal but highly engaging. He spoke openly, honestly and with sincerity. Allan held everyone’s attention from beginning to end and everyone left with the utmost respect for the man himself, and importantly the message he delivered. Allan spent plenty of time with our delegates both before and after his presentation. The feedback we’ve received since was that Allan was a wonderful choice, a brilliant and inspiring speaker. He was a delight to deal with and I’d highly recommend Allan to anyone looking for an inspirational speaker. Gerald Foley Managing Director National Mortgage Brokers
Dr Tim Sharp, The Happiness Institute
I've been lucky enough to meet many inspirational people in my work but Al would have to be close to the top of the list. If his own achievements weren't impressive and courageous enough, he now dedicates much of his time to inspiring others to achieve their own meaningful achievements. Al's story is truly amazing and his ongoing work is just so valuable. I feel honoured to know Allan Sparkes and would highly recommend him to anyone looking for a genuine, authentic story-telling speaker.
Barry Sandison CEO, Australian Institute of Health and Welfre
Staff who attended found your presentation engaging,informative and powerful in terms of highlighting the impact mental health can have on individuals and their families. The AIHW has a strong focus on raising awareness to support our staff in relation to mental health. Sharing your experiences as a beyondblue Ambassador and Deputy Commissioner with Mental Health NSW will help us maintain a culture that supports all staff. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare appreciates your support. Thank you again for your time and efforts.
Tilda Khoshaba, Partner, Sports Wellbeing International
Having Allan speak at the Beyond the Game Conference was quite a humbling experience and an honour as he shared his story and his challenges with mental health. To share his experiences is something that we can all learn from, particularly in developing our own resilience. I would encourage all organisations to give their staff the opportunity to learn and engage with Allan as I believe he is someone who can not only change lives but change our society for the better.
Sophie Hart, Director, The Serenity Collective
There is only word I can use to describe Al’s presentation at our event, and that word is…WOW! I’m not one little bit surprised that Allan received a standing ovation at the end of his session – he was an absolute highlight of our entire two-day event. During his session, Allan took us all on an emotional journey speaking openly and authentically about his own experiences. He left us absolutely in awe of everything he’s achieved and overcome. But Al’s story is more than purely inspirational - Allan left people with vast new knowledge and tangible ways that leaders can totally transform their own lives and those around them. We absolutely loved working with Al on the lead up to the event and at the event itself. An incredibly humble and passionate individual, Allan took the time to immerse himself fully in the two days, connecting with participants and throwing himself into our purpose 110%. Al’s story is transferable to any business or social context and I wholeheartedly recommend him for any speaking engagement. You won’t regret it!!
Cait McMahon OAM, Managing Director, Dart Centre, Asia Pacific
Allan's presentation to the Australian Broadcasting Corporations Peer Supporters group was nothing short inspirational, deeply moving and challenging. Allan's warm and engaging way of presenting allowed the group to reflect on their own experiences and learn important lesson of self-care, and leadership in the face of trauma exposure. Allan's honest sharing of his own experiences, coupled with input on adrenal fatigue and leadership armed the group with new found information to carry forward in the roles as peer supporters for journalists and other media professionals exposed to traumatic events. Thank you so much Allan. You were fabulous. Cait McMahon
Nicolette Hughes, Director of Conference and International Events, The Association of Superannuation Funds of AustraliaAllan Sparkes was an absolute pleasure to work with both pre event and on the day of our event. His commitment to achieving the right outcome for the client, in this instance ASFA was second to none. I have secured hundreds of professional speakers, both locally and internationally, and I would have to say that this session with Allan Sparkes, Ciaran Gribbin and Mark Donaldson VC will be amongst my most special career moments. Likewise, the 1500 delegates will remember this presentation forever, being privileged to join Allan on this journey.
Dr Jason Pace MBBS BSc(Med) FRANZCP , Director, The Hills Clinic
The Hills District Mental Health Week Seminar "For several years, The Hills Clinic has hosted a free community seminar during mental health week. The highlight of these seminars is typically our keynote speaker, who shares their personal experience with mental illness and can offer hope and inspiration. Over the years we have been lucky enough to have some fantastic speakers such as; John Brogden, Neil Jenman and Graeme Cowan to name a few. When Allan Sparkes was proposed as this year’s keynote speaker, few people in our organisation had heard of him or his story, but reading about his story online, it certainly seemed that he fit the bill. A week before our event, Allan generously, made himself available to meet with local newspapers to help promote the event, also allowing him to meet with our group. I was immediately impressed with his warm, relaxed and professional manner. His presentation was intimate and inspirational. Apart from two brief videos clip, no other visual aids where used but despite this, he held the 100 plus audience on every word of his story of courage, heart ache and triumph. Allan is someone who everyone in the audience could identify with. His is a natural story teller who understands how to structure a presentation and take the audience on a journey. Allan’s presentation was the pinnacle point of our 2012 seminar, receiving a standing ovation from all present. I feel privileged to have met and heard Allan story and recommend him gladly to anyone looking to inspire an audience. I look forward to reading his upcoming book and wish him all the very best in the future."
Michelle Aubert, Conference Manager, Coffs Coast Marketing
Allan spoke at both my Local Government Information Technology Conference and my Local Government Executives conference. Allan's presentation was amazing - he opened up to a room of strangers about his personal life which saw his life fall apart and then went on to explain how he reinvented himself with the help of his wonderful wife and children. I found myself holding my breath and wiping my eyes at the same time. All of my delegates enjoyed Allan's presentation and I believe it was the best one on the program.Do yourselves a favor and book Allan for your next conference.
Scott Lovett, Director, Business Events, Tourism NT, Association of Australian Conference Bureaus Annual Conference
In a world full of hype and hyperbole, it was great to hear a real story told straight from the heart. Al’s story full of raw emotion captivated our group and had everyone on the edge of their seats with not a dry eye in the house. Al received a standing ovation from our group of hardened conference veterans—the first I have ever seen.
Russell Mason, Committee member, ASFA Conference
Allan was one of the keynote speakers at the Grand Finale lunch. In front of 1,500 delegates, Allan told his story of heroism and resilience in a way that was incredibly moving and at the same time up-lifting and inspiring. Allan spoke with an honesty and sincerity that had everyone in the room holding on to each word.
Praise for The Cost of Bravery
Find reviews of readers of Allan's book from Goodreads, including this 5 Star review Everyone should read this book; it’s an amazing story! It’s gripping from the beginning, and once you start you can’t put it down. And once you’ve finished,…..you’ll never be the same again. It made me laugh, and cry, and at times although I felt paralysed with fear, I was driven to keep turning the pages and read on. There were times throughout the journey I was painfully aware at how humbling and brutally honest Allan Sparkes was in retelling this part of his life, and grateful that he shared it. I feel enriched and enlightened for having read it. It’s a truly powerful and inspirational read, and I’d love to see the Education Department take this on for all High School students as a must read.
Read reviews of Allan's book, the Cost of Bravery from Amazon.com, this is just an example; "The Cost of Bravery by Allan Sparkes is a must read for Law Enforcement, their families and anyone interested in policing. It is honest, powerful and has brought me tears of sadness and joy. PTSD, as with other psychological conditions, are understated battles people face made even worse if you are a police officer. His courage throughout his ordeal should be commended. His resilience and strength to overcome it should be celebrated. It gives you hope and even though I’m a civilian, it was the first time I truly did not feel alone as I battle my own demons. He has inspired me to keep fighting and to strive to achieve my goals and dreams. I cannot recommend his book enough."
'In his hard-to-put-down autobiography, Sparkes tells of the rollercoaster ride his life took from decorated cop to the depths of post traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts to happy, healthy, world sailor ... Raw and confronting.'
‘Frank and compelling.’