Tim Fischer’s decision to step down from his position as Australia’s deputy prime minister in 1999 was met with an unusual wave of support from both sides of Parliament, after he revealed he was dedicating his time to supporting his son who had recently been diagnosed as autistic.
Now, speaking on ABC’s Australian Story, set to air on Monday night, he has revealed how Harrison has defied doctors’ predictions and gone on to embrace independence in adult life, giving him hope that he’ll be okay without him – as Tim now comes to terms with his own health battle.
The former politician, 72, has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia and admitted on the show that the prognosis is currently “not good”.
“It’s as it is. At three score plus 12, you take the cards that you’re dealt with, and hope and pray,” he told the program. It’s not the ex-politician’s first cancer fight as he was previously diagnosed with bladder cancer, prostate cancer and two melanomas – however this is the most serious.
The devastating news has forced both Tim and his wife Judy to focus on the possibility of him not being around in the future. Judy admitted: “Obviously when you’re facing an illness as serious as what Tim is going through at the moment, it does focus your mind on what happens in the future.”
Tim revealed on the show he believes the health blow could be down to exposure to the chemical Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam in the 1960s.
Unfortunately, Harrison finds it a lot harder to speak about the cancer than his father. He told the show: “I struggle to think about what he says with that, because it’s a bit sad that Dad’s not well and he could die any day, probably… It makes me feel really upset.”
Tim recently began a new round of chemotherapy in Melbourne and while his prognosis remains unknown, he said he has hope knowing that his sons Harrison and Dominic, will be successful and happy.
“I’m just so happy that Harrison has reached a degree of tranquillity and positive approach to his life,” he added, according to the ABC. “I will eventually leave this planet Earth, sooner or later, in the knowledge that Harrison is now far better placed than he was 10 years ago or 20 years ago.”
What’s your memory like? Harrison Fischer can rattle off AFL stats back to 1982! His flair for numbers and an incredible memory are part of his special talents as a young man with #autism | Watch ‘Call Me Harrison’ Monday #AustralianStory pic.twitter.com/dog7OSmUKH
— Australian Story (@AustralianStory) November 11, 2018
Tim and his wife first found out Harrison was autistic when he was just five-years-old, and Tim recalled the doctor’s “negative” tone while relaying the news at the time – apparently telling them it was unlikely he’d ever hold down a job or be able to live independently.
“It was shattering, it was disappointing, it was challenging. And initially I pushed back against it in a somewhat crazy way,” Tim explained.
It led to Tim realising he also had a mild form of autism himself, having had an unusual lifelong fascination with railways and transport. For Harrison, that fascination lies in politics – but unlike his father, he’s a Labor supporter.
The ABC revealed Harrison has since proved those doctors wrong and now works part-time as a technology assistant in a Victoria primary school, as well as working as a mentor to students with autism.
Call Me Harrison airs tonight, Monday, November 12, on Australian Story on ABC at 8pm AEDT.