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Vale Tony Stevens, a champion of people with disabilities

You meet a lot of interesting people in this line of work. They’re the ones who made such an impression they will always be in your memory. In some ways it’s a reward for doing a job that too often can be a thankless task.

For me, Tony Stevens was one of those people.

To many people, especially local councils and some politicians, Tony was a cantankerous old man.

While I shared this view at times it was obvious that like all human beings Tony Stevens could not be dismissed as being one dimensional.

Tony, who shuffled off this mortal coil a few days ago – at noon on August 11 to be exact, was a lot more than that. He was 94 years and 10 months old when he died in hospital.

Tony, who became known as the roller skating grandpa after he roller skated all the way Canberra one year to push for the introduction of the NDIS, was short in stature but a giant in his actions.

He may not have been the main force behind the establishment of the national insurance scheme for people with disabilities, but without his involvement we may still be just talking about it.

Originally, Tony Stevens launched his “crusade for children’’ to change the law to protect those being killed or injured whilst roller skating on the roads and footpaths way back in 1960.

But partly because of personal circumstances his crusade eventually widened to include people with disabilities.

His aim was recognition for people with disabilities and support so they could live better lives and make a contribution to the community.

When I interviewed him for a profile in 2015 he confessed that while he was happy the NDIS was up and running his work was still not done.

Tony was a sprightly 92 year old at the time and I admit I marvelled at both his energy and wisdom.

He told me things about myself that were spot on even though we only knew each other professionally.

Tony Stevens was not a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but I have no doubt that when he died he left the world a better place than he found it at his birth.

Tony Stevens, mate, RIP.

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