On this day in 1986, a young Tony Walker began his career as a paramedic. What he didn’t know then of course, is that he’d go on to become Ambulance Victoria’s Chief Executive Officer and play a pivotal role in reshaping the modern ambulance service. To mark the milestone, we sat down with Tony and asked him for a few reflections on his career so far.
What were your first thoughts on the first day on the job 35 years ago? My first day was at the Ambulance Officers Training Centre in Vale Street East Melbourne, on the 10th February, 1986. It was a day of mixed emotions. Pride in putting on my uniform for the first time, excitement at what was ahead and a bit of apprehension of the newness of it all.
What is your most memorable moment as a paramedic? I’ve had a number of memorable moments throughout my career. Probably the one that has stayed with me the most has been the Walsh Street murders, where I was one of the first crew at the scene. The tragic loss of life of two young police officers under such dreadful circumstances is something that you never forget.
What has been your biggest challenge as CEO? The biggest challenge for me as CEO is knowing that despite all our best efforts I can’t make the workplace completely safe from occupational violence. I’ve seen the dreadful impacts our staff being assaulted at work has had on them and their families and in some cases it has been career ending.
What does 2021 look like for AV? 2021 is certainly looking better than 2020. The sacrifices our community made last year have allowed us to move to a place in which our lives are relatively normal and with vaccination against COVID19 just around the corner, I am feeling very positive about the year ahead. That said, we are seeing an increasing growth in demand for our ambulance services which is putting us under pressure and our staff are tired and still dealing with the personal impacts of 2020 which is going to challenge us.
What does the future look like for AV, for both your people and patients? We have some work to do this year to get ourselves back on track after a difficult 2020, but I am an optimist by nature and feel the future for our patients and our people is looking very bright. We have an incredibly talented workforce, strong insights into the emergency health needs of the community and have developed a range of new service models over the past few years. These provide a strong foundation for us to build on over the next few years as we continue to adapt to meet the changing needs of our people and the community.