He spent thirty two days in an isolation ward at Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital in Victoria without his parents or siblings able to visit but fortunately has no memory of this time.

“I only know about my early polio history as a result of looking up my medical records last year. I became really curious about the disease when the anti-vaccination movement started to gain ground. I wanted to try and understand why anyone would risk having their child go through the sorts of things I went through as a child and continue to endure each day.”

Gary’s polio has meant he’s had several hospitalisations over the years and more than six major operations. He’s also lost the use of about 80-90% of his legs and about 30% of both arms.

As a child Gary attended Yooralla Special School and every year went to the Channel 9 studios when they ran their annual telethon raising funds for the school.

“One year, when I was 12 or 13 a mate and I wandered off and found ourselves outside the 3AK radio studio. We thought the man in the booth was waving us in and we couldn’t believe it – the man was Pete Smith – turns out he was waving in the two fellows behind us but he was really generous with us.”

That chance encounter turned into both an important friendship and a later a career in commercial radio.

Gary has four children and six grandchildren and is so thankful that they’re all protected against polio.

“Now we need to get rid of it once and for all not just for Australians (Australia has been polio free since 2000) but globally. We’re so close. People in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are risking their lives in war torn areas to get vaccines to children in remote villages, that’s how important it is.”

Gary Newton

He is all too aware that people who contracted polio before the Salk vaccine didn’t have a choice to prevent this disease and eliminate the on-going suffering of the late effects of polio like we do today as Gary works as a volunteer for Polio Australia who are working to encourage polio survivors to join the polio register https://www.australianpolioregister.org.au/

“The cost is only about fourteen cents to vaccinate a child, I know that my parents would happily have paid that and much more to protect me and I would hope we would do the same for children of the world. But it’s not just children, this is an illness that affects people throughout their entire lives and if we can prevent that kind of suffering for future generations with One Last Push then we should most definitely do it.”