“The lessons of the Aboriginal stories right across the country are about helping people, about safety and taking care of each other…Thats how culture has been my biggest healer. Not the practice of culture… (but) the stories of culture. It has taught me about values around love, care, respect, humility and compassion. Everyone can live with these values.”
Joe Williams would be the first to agree that he won the genetic lottery in a lot of respects.
A proud Wiradjuri man, born in Cowra, west of the Blue Mountains in NSW, he was spotted early as a naturally gifted rugby player. Joe was recruited at thirteen years old and played with the NRL between 2004 to 2008. After switching to boxing in 2009, Joe won 2 World Boxing Federation World Junior Welterweight titles.
But the biggest challenge for him hasn’t been an athletic one – it’s been the battle with mental illness, addiction and acquired brain injury. Now 35, Joe has written a book called Defying the Enemy Within.
The first part of the book is his story, in fine detail. The behaviours that might have been a red flag for mental illness to those who knew him, were routinely passed off as simply bad behaviour. His eventual suicide attempt led not only to help, but to a new career travelling the world inspiring people to pay attention to their mental health.
The second part of the book is a no-nonsense guide to the stages of recovery from mental illness – literally defying the enemy within. This conversation, Rare Air 28, was recorded with Joe sitting roadside in his car on a long drive in to Sydney.