2019 Festival storyteller Tom

'War and its after effects have been kept secret.  Now, thankfully, that is changing.'

Speaking publicly about the profound effects of war has become an important part of Tom’s life. Known for his candid discussions, Tom will often start a talk by stating, ‘You can ask me anything you want.’

Born in Malaney, Tom is the middle child of a farming family. Leaving school at fourteen, Tom did odd jobs until joining the army in 1959. The army gave him further education, and he trained as a mechanic, eventually gaining Associate Diplomas in Aircraft Engineering and Training and Development. In 1969 Tom was posted to Vietnam and served for 1 year, 1 week and 3 days. He had to leave his wife Sandy and three small children behind.

Returning home, Sandy could see how Tom had changed. ‘Tom craved solitude, he felt disconnected,’ Sandy says. Tom eventually found help in early 2000 for his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His journey back to health has been a catalyst for his public speaking. Tom’s driving force is to support families as they re-adjust to post-service life.

Recognising men’s reluctance to speak about their feelings, Tom is open about his own recovery. Having found a way to move through profound trauma, he understands how important it is to have good support.

Tom is president of his Unit Association (Victoria Branch); he is presently organizing the 54th year reunion. He has served as President of the RSL, Legacy and as Secretary of the RAAF Association (Ballarat).

We’d never heard of PTSD,’ Tom says. ‘Now, thankfully, services are a lot better.’

Tom loves building and flying model aircraft and ‘tinkering’ in the shed. He adores the company of his children and grandchildren. He is an avid gardener and looks after his wife Sandy. They have been married 54 years.

Tom now lives in Mt. Pleasant which has spectacular views. ‘I can watch the fireworks on the lake from my lounge room window,’ he says smiling. ‘It’s a wonderful place.’