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Craig retires after 41 years as a paramedic

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Rodney StevensClarence Valley Independent

Growing up as the son of a policeman, Craig Stalker almost followed in his father’s footsteps, but his decision to join Ambulance NSW as a paramedic saw him serve for 41 years around the state, culminating this week after 36 years stationed at Maclean.

“I was born in Bourke and dad was a policeman there, so we had a few transfers around the state,” Mr Stalker said.

“We went from Bourke to Patterson to Bulahdelah, then Coonamble, and that’s where I finished my schooling.”

When he finished school, Mr Stalker said he applied to join both the NSW Police and Ambulance NSW.

“I worked in a local supermarket and a local garage for a couple of years,” he said.

“I applied for both, but the Ambulance came up first, that was when I was 20, and I started on the 19th of October 1981,” he said.

After five weeks initial training at the Roselle Ambulance NSW campus, Mr Stalker said he spent 8 months as a probationary officer at a major station, then he went back to Roselle for three weeks of exams and scenarios, after which he was qualified as a level 2 paramedic.

First Mr Stalker said he was posted to Dubbo from 1981-1982, then Walgett from 1982-1983, and Coonamble from 1983 – 1986, before he was posted to Maclean in 1986 and “I liked it that much at Maclean that I stayed.”

“In 1989 I went to Sydney and did my specialist course, advanced life support, and have worked as an advanced life support paramedic specialist level 4 ever since,” he said.

“I was a four-wheel drive instructor for the Ambulance service for the past 20 years, it was a great gig teaching paramedics four-wheel driving.”

Over four decades Mr Stalker said he attended hundreds of fatalities and serious crashes including the horrific Cowper bus crash in 1989.

“We were first on scene at the Cowper bus crash, there were two Maclean cars with three paramedics that were first on the scene,” he said.

“It was chaos and as the first car on the scene everyone is pulling at you, wanting you to go here and there, and you just have to do the best you can till your backup or assistance arrives.

“You had 20 odd people dead, and the majority of the survivors had minor injuries, there were some very serious injuries there.

“They were all still trapped in the bus, and we had to get inside the bus which was pretty gruesome because one side had been taken out by the bull bar of a semi-trailer.”

Other incidents that stand out for Mr Stalker were when two pedestrians were killed in the same week in the Lower Clarence and a highway fatality involving a local doctor’s wife.

He said talking with his colleagues after any serious incident was a huge help in dealing with the trauma experienced on the job.

After 40 years in the Ambulance Service, Mr Stalker said a serious heart attack last year indicated it was time to slow down, so he officially retired on October 27.

“I have made many friends all around the state in the Ambulance service and I was reminded of them through all the messages I received when I retired this week,” he said.

Now Mr Stalker said he is looking forward to taking life as it comes, at a slower pace, combined with some travelling.

Clarence Valley Independent 9 November 2022

This article appeared in the Clarence Valley Independent, 9 November 2022.

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