Disability pensioner Wes Walker, 58, was never going to fade quietly into the background when his long fight for toilets at the Gatton pads in Queensland looked like it had reached a deadlock.
The man whose 15-month campaign for truckies finally paid off with the recent arrival of two portaloos on site has fought and won a host of personal battles for much of his adult life.
Just seven years ago the once in-demand plasterer suffered a brain aneurism that he wasn’t expected to survive.
Walker had collapsed while wandering to the toilet in the early hours of the morning and woke up six weeks later in the hospital.
“Normally they go through the groin, but they had to cut my skull open to get to it,” said Walker.
“They wanted to do a lot of rehab afterwards, but I said there are lot more worse off than me, just let me go home.”
The only physical trace of his near-death experience is a loss of smell and an irritable bowel that has Walker hypervigilant of what he eats for fear of being caught short while out and about.
Today, his main physical issues arise from an unrelated essential tremor, a nervous system disorder that manifests itself for Walker with involuntary shaking in his right hand.
The condition can also affect his balance at times forcing Walker to rely on a cane when the condition deteriorates.
“But it’s not a big deal. I’m happy. There is worse off people in this world than me.”
Typical Walker – he picks himself up and dusts himself off after setbacks that would derail most others.
After his wife of 29 years left him without warning one day, he says his thriving plastering business collapsed because of an irrecoverable financial hit, and he suffered debilitating depression. A few years earlier he also had to make the heartbreaking call to tell doctors to turn off the life support system for his brother Andrew after the Coffs Harbour trucking company owner was coward-punched at a Christmas function. But the father-of-three says his biggest life-changing moment came years earlier when he lost a daughter at birth.
Walker said that tragic moment set him on the course he is on today, fighting for the underdog and helping others.
“When we lost our little one, I turned my life around from being a rebel and I just help all the time,” said Walker who thinks nothing of giving stranded truckies a bed for the night in the caravan he calls home.
Walker says the Gatton issue came into his crosshairs because of his many mates who are truckies but does now admit to a closer industry link than he’s spoken about before.
“I tell a little bit of a furfie about not being a truck driver. At 18 I was driving an Isuzu 6-tonne up and down the highway distributing our own product [ornamental cornices],” said Walker.
“My father only wanted me to work 25 hours a day, eight days a week. I did it for a bit under two years, put the keys on the fridge and drove off into the sunset and talked to him six months later.
“He was going to kill me. Lindsay Brothers back in the day thought we had six trucks.
“I’d go from Coffs Harbour as far as Batemans Bay, out as far as Dubbo and the Sunshine Coast.”
So now he’s got the portaloos on site, will truckies see less of his signature black Chevy Silverado at the pads?
Not a chance, promises Walker, who isn’t letting up on the Department of Transport and Main Roads until there is a more permanent two toilet/two shower unit in place.
He’s already picked out the spot, with a power box in place, and now is busy getting quotes that he believes will be the most cost-effective solution anyone can find.
“Organisations and the government have got to be held accountable for the way they treat these drivers, and companies, and I have not seen anyone held accountable, would that be fair?
Just don’t call Walker a hero while he’s at it.
“’Thanks mate’, that’s all I want. The truckies are the legends and the heroes, not me. I didn’t do it for my own self-esteem.
“Because I’m on a pension, I’m giving back to the people who pay me, and that’s the taxpayer.”
Help Walker keep the toilets clean
TMR may have finally splashed out for the hireage of two portaloos at the Gatton pads, but it’s still Wes Walker who is paying to keep them smelling like roses.
Each day Walker stops by with cleaners and sprays he buys himself, generously donating his time and diesel to get to and from the site.
When Big Rigs asked TMR what they were doing to help on that front, and what the future plans were, we got the below emailed response from a ‘spokesperson’.
“The Gatton Heavy Vehicle Decoupling Facility is a breakdown pad, not a rest stop. The biohazard issues around installing permanent toilets remain,” the statement said.
“The portable toilets are being provided and maintained by our local maintenance contractors. TMR is currently paying these costs.
“The maintenance schedule currently provides twice-weekly cleaning. The schedule is being monitored and will be revised if required.”
Well, we don’t think that’s good enough, and have launched a GoFundMe page to help offset the cleaning and other associated costs for Walker while TMR gets its act together.
Click here to show your support.