From experiencing homelessness as a child, to serving his country in the defence force and now sharing his experience of mental health issues after deployment, Australian of the Year Local Hero nominee Paul Walker has come a long way.
Originally from Queensland and a descendent of the Waanyi people, covering the border of NT and QLD, Mr Walker now calls Katherine home with his wife and two kids.
After suffering homelessness and substance abuse issues as a child, Mr Walker decided to join the army in 1996.
During his second deployment overseas in East Timor, Mr Walker came under fire by militia, saving a mate who had been shot in the leg.
When he returned home, Mr Walker was suffering serious emotional impacts of his time serving and was diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety.
Now, Mr Walker has been recognised for his work as a mental health ambassador, speaking at events and to schools about his experiences as a way to help others.
"I haven't conquered anything," he said.
"When I do my talks, I don't talk as if I've completely beaten it. It's just a passenger on the bus now.
"I talk about just never giving up no matter what happens [and] going from being a homeless kid right through to serving our country."
Mr Walker said it was important for the issue of veteran's mental health to be given a platform, especially in light of the recently established Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.
"It's extremely important for me because there's been many times when I've felt hopeless," he said.
"It's also important for me as an Australian Aboriginal veteran.
"I'm a proud Australian and I'm proud of my Indigenous heritage as well."
Regardless of whether he wins or not, Mr Walker said he was thrilled to have been nominated.
"Honestly I feel really humbled and honoured of course," he said.
"It doesn't matter what happens with this award, I'm a finalist.
"I wish I knew who my nominator was so I could thank them."
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Katherine Times, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling your stories. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great area.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
- Bookmark katherinetimes.com.au
- Make sure you are signed up for our breaking and regular headlines newsletters
- Follow us on Twitter: @KatherineTimes
- Follow us on Instagram @katherinetimes
- Follow us on Google News
- Contact us at email@example.com
- You can also receive updates straight to your inbox each Friday at 6am from the Katherine Times. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, sign up here.
DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY?: Send letters to the editor or story tips to firstname.lastname@example.org