Community radio changed his life

FROM the refuge of a studio at Tamworth’s 88.9FM, Troy Orton sounds untouchable.

RIGHT WAVELENGTH: Kootingal man Troy Orton, who is legally blind, has changed his life thanks to community radio. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 2305GOA01

RIGHT WAVELENGTH: Kootingal man Troy Orton, who is legally blind, has changed his life thanks to community radio. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 2305GOA01

His Saturday afternoon rock show has a cult following and Mr Orton, 30, introduces the music with the resonant voice of a seasoned professional.

But his on-air persona masks a life punctuated with sadness.

Mr Orton, who is legally blind, also lives with epilepsy and mild paraplegia.

His journey from tormented teen to confident young man is a testament to the power of community radio.

He says his time at Peel High was “pure hell” – other students physically assaulting him and routinely making fun of his disability.

“I’d walk in of a morning and want to walk out straight away,” Mr Orton said.

“I had very few friends and everyone else just pushed me aside ... I did it very tough.”

The isolation forced Mr Orton to lash out at the world, earning him detentions, suspensions and a reputation as a trouble-maker.

“I was just in mental damage control and I was lashing out physically,” he said.

After leaving school, the troubled young man continued to challenge authority, losing his first job after six weeks and his second job after a day.

But an unexpected saviour was in the air, or in this case, on the air.

In 2005, Mr Orton started as a volunteer at community radio station 88.9FM. His path to redemption had begun.

“At first, no one wanted me here because they thought I wasn’t capable,” Mr Orton said.

“But I fought and fought and eventually they backed down.

“It has changed my life, it really has. I’m so much more confident now. If there was a problem in the past, I was too afraid to approach anyone to tell them –  but not anymore.”

Ironically, some of his tormenters from high school are now listeners to his show.

88.9FM operations manager George Frame said it was “inspiring” to see Mr Orton’s transformation.

“Troy was destined to do this,” Mr Frame said.

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