Tony Walter

I was born in Toowoomba in 1974 with schooling to Grade 12 (1991), and I absolutely hated school (sport and partying were my priorities back then). As a result of my lack lustre schooling my first career was cooking. As an apprentice Chef I worked at Noosa, Great Keppel Island, then Cairns. I qualified as a Chef 1995 and v-lined out of Australia to travel the world. Originally I only planned for 1 year, but ended up staying overseas for nearly 5 years, and loved it. I was based in London mainly and worked very hard but also travelled heaps (visited 45 different countries) the experience of life, culture and work was very valuable.

The travel bug died and I could not wait to return home. I returned in 2001 and based myself in Brisbane. I thought I would try this new city. After returning I was shocked as to what poker machines (they were introduced in Qld while I was away) have done to the industry and was not happy with cooking any more (boring, long hours, poor working conditions etc) I had had enough and I was constantly saying I have to get out of this uneventful career. However, I was too scared and to change careers as I was in my late 20’s and of course the financial side of things. I was into scuba diving and had started to have sights on becoming a commercial diver (deep underwater wielding etc).

I had perfect hearing for nearly 30 years but one silly night out in Gympie changed all that in 2003. I fell off a fire escape ladder severely fracturing the base of my skull. I woke up in the intensive care unit Royal Brisbane Hospital 3 days later, totally deaf, very sore with tinnitus. It took a good 3 months for the soreness to subside and get my balance back. I had nothing to lose in trying out for left side cochlear implant. I didn’t know how to lip read at all and only communication was via pen and paper. Luckily, I had only 4 months of deafness unlike most people having a cochlear implant. My 3G switch on was an instant success and I was able to communicate with everyone present even my never heard audiologist. I tried out my new implant in the kitchen work environment but struggled in the noise plus the heat/moisture was not a good option for a 3G. So I sought out professional career help to try and find a career suited to me and the hearing impairment with a cochlear implant. It was narrowed down to Environmental Health Officer but it required 3 years tertiary studies. Everyone including a cochlear implant psychologist, family and even myself, doubted if I could handle university study. I enrolled in a 1 year university bridging course just to see if I could cope at university standard study and assist in getting a place into university. The bridging course was very scary and it required hours of work to bring me up to speed but I was determined to get into university and I found that I actually liked studying, to my surprise. I ended up with top marks with an equal OP6, easily getting a spot on my desired course.

So my studies began in 2005 Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health. When the government approved bilateral implants in 2006 on the Medicare list, I was one of the first in line to get it done. I had a 3G and Freedom combination all through the rest of my studies. Now I have completed my university education with a Grade Point Average = 6 out of a possible 7. I used my cochlear implants and my accident to drive me to succeed into something I wanted to do in my life. I applied to Townsville City Council before I completed university and they were very willing to take me on. Since accepting their offer, I have upgraded my 3G, so now I have Freedom in both ears.

My work in Townsville City Council in the Environmental Health Services includes looking after a number of issues such as food safety, enforcing the Environmental Protection Act in community environmental health and complaints, disaster management (cyclones etc). The work includes a lot of interaction with the community/businesses, hearing them and offering directions. It also involves constant use of the phone. I like Townsville as it has everything Brisbane has yet nearly 2 million people less, no traffic and only level 1 water restrictions.

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