Mark was born in Fiji, the eldest of 7 children to parents of Tongan descent. His family immigrated to Sydney where he attended Homebush Boys High School. Mark left school disillusioned at 15 years old and drifted into labouring work; he later found purpose and enrolled in TAFE and joined the Sydney University Regiment (Army Reserve) a move that instilled self-confidence and discipline.
Mark rediscovered his love for rugby; he trained daily and studied at nights to complete a diploma of business and later a degree in business management (majoring in accountancy) in 2007. Mark’s training paid off and he soon realised he was strong and fit enough to play grade rugby for the West Harbour Pirates. Mark was content playing in lower grades but was often called up to play a double and substitute for higher grades.
On 13 May 2008 during a routine training exercise Mark suffered a C4 injury and became a tretaplegic requiring 24-hour care. Since his injury, Mark has become committed to raise awareness and campaigning for disability rights. This includes advocating for a raise in the taxi transport subsidiary scheme and for increasing accessibility to public area like a lift for Artarmon Station.
He is passionate about improving the quality of life of people with disability, and envisions a dramatic increase in recognition and rights of his fellow members in the disability community. Mark is committed to seeking, developing and implementing new strategies for advocacy and raising community awareness. His previous 10 years employment spans the Australian Corporate sector in finance and accounting.
Mark is also a committee member of Willoughby Council Access Committee and on the board of ParaQuad. A liaison officer for the Hearts in Union Rugby Foundation and Mark Tonga Foundation, Mark has become committed to raising awareness and campaigning for disability rights.
In 2013 Mark was awarded a Club NSW Heart of Community Ambassador, made an Ambassador for Lifestart Kayak for Kids and Hearts in Union Rugby Foundation and became a finalist judge for the Better Business Partnership Award. He also graduated from Leaders For Tomorrow Program and completed the Macarthur Disability Services Leadership Development Program.
Mark’s hobbies include cheering on the Wallabies and the Waratahs, reading and reciting poetry, and you can often find him at the Opera or the Art Gallery.
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