Nurse Matthew Walters

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I have always been interested in the environment and in the way our human interaction with nature influences the circumstances we live in. However this commitment has presented many challenges.

I concentrated on mathematics and sciences in my senior high school years. However, with a broad range of interests, I chose to study English and Geography at university.

During my first years at university I was involved with clubs (bushwalking in particular) student political movements and editing the university magazine. I dabbled in public radio and journalism, and researched widely in areas to do with environmental current affairs. I even went to the Philippines as a student member with an Australian Journalists Association study group. I loved exploring ideas, developing coherent arguments and assisting in environmental lobbying.

However, my academic performance was less than desirable to say the least. I had changed campus and course twice and struggled to present good analysis in my subjects, especially in exams. Part of this academic performance must be put down to a serious health condition, which was finally diagnosed six years after I left school. I had experienced symptoms of fatigue when I was under stress. Sometimes my studies would go well for weeks, then fall in a hole.

So, after three years of university, I was kind of meandering in the second year of an Arts degree studying Geography, Politics, Botany and Zoology. The content interested me greatly, but the challenge of passing was too much, given my distractions and occasional poor health.

I had gained wide experience in a variety of jobs, such as draughting, printing, market research, and administrative work. I had a very good working knowledge of biogeography, especially in arid environs and forest areas. However, after several years of low-level employment in these areas, and of active involvement in the Greens movement, I decided to stand back a bit.

My academic results gave me little leverage in gaining good employment in a tight job market. Meanwhile, my health needs had heightened my interest in healthcare. I changed career focus, and completed a nursing degree over the next two years.

My interest in environmental issues remains, as does my focus on the higher order issues of legislation, tax, social justice, land rights and so on. With the benefit of my healthcare knowledge, I am beginning to recognise areas of 'health geography', where aspects of soil effects, and other geographic factors can impact, health.

Geography has been a continuing interest over the years, and has certainly heightened my awareness of environmental issues. Only time will tell where it takes me to in the future.