Tony Walker remembers the laughter and fun he used to have with his grandkids– throwing them in the air and catching them, but that was before the stroke that nearly took his life.

A former pack-a -day smoker, Tony, 58 of Modbury North and a Narungga man, continues to receive rehabilitation on his right arm and leg after having a stroke more than 12 months ago.

“I never thought it would happen to me. But it did,” he said.

“I suppose it really woke me up and convinced me to change my life for the better.”

A father of four and grandfather of six, Tony said after his stroke all he could think about was being around longer so he could be there for his kids and grandkids.

“The average age for Aboriginal males is something like 54. I am way past that, but I want to continue on to see my grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up,” he said.

“My grandkids are all I have got. I lost my wife to cancer five years ago.

“When my family first visited me in the hospital I could see the concern in their faces.

“I thought, gee there might not be a next time, so I have to quit now or I may be gone too.”

Tony said when he first started smoking at 16 years of age he felt invincible, but he couldn’t play a game of footy without a smoke.

“I had one before the game, quarter time, half time, after the game. Cigarettes were like an energizer to me. That is how addicted I was,” he said.

“But in those days everyone smoked, drank. . . it was our mob’s way of life.”

Tony still has restricted movement in his right arm due to the stroke, but since giving up smoking he has regained his fitness and is breathing a lot easier.

“I would encourage all of our mob to give quitting a go. It is never too late to try. I was always out of breath, but now I am walking more and enjoying life playing with my grandkids,” he said.

“Smoking, drinking, drugs . . . it is slowly killing our people.  I want to see the survival of our race. It is time everyone gives up.”