Executive Board Communications Corner

How did someone from a little fishing, quarrying and dairy farming town south of Sydney, Australia, end up as the Head of Training for WFTGA? 


Steve grew up in a little town called Kiama, Australia, moved to Sydney to study pharmacy at university (Steve says he thought he would look good in a white coat) but instead became a high school Science Teacher, a biology specialist.


His main job now is as guide and senior trainer at the Sydney Opera House.  If this seems a strange place for a biologist, consider that he was once the Head of Education at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. Here, he trained the zoo’s guides – 400 of them, all volunteers, at two locations five hours drive from each other.


"Yes, it was a challenge, says Steve.


"But I also had the good luck to get up close with pandas, lion cubs and platypuses – and also to be dribbled/peed on by a baby giraffe while I was trying to bottle feed it."


Eventually Steve moved on and obtained a job at the Opera House as a Tourist Guide.  He's been there for 12 years and does all types of tours from regular “Roll ups”, to Backstage, to Specialist Tours for the blind and people who are disabled in other ways.


Steve's introduction to WFTGA came via his partner Peter Wagner, a WFTGA Lead International Trainer.   Courses taken at WFTGA's Cyprus International Training Center led to status as an International Trainer.  He was promoted to Lead International Trainer after fulfilling all the requirements for advancement.  Steve credits his voluntary service to help train Iranian guides in preparation for the Tehran convention as an important factor toward advances in his training career.


Since becoming a Lead International Trainer, Steve has trained guides in Saudi Arabia and Papua New Guinea - the latter one involved the site of an active volcano in Rabul.  (See photo of Steve - 2nd from right in white shirt - with course participants and volcano.)


"Training overseas can be a challenge but the positives far outweigh the negatives - meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, seeing new places and learning so many new pieces of information about these places. And mostly, having  the satisfaction of seeing so many new guides and new trainers with big smiles on their faces."


Being a member of WFTGA is still a real thrill to Steve.  He has attended conferences in Bali, Macau, Prague and Tehran  – and found them all very different and all very exciting.  At the last conference in Tehran, he stood successfully for election to ExBo and was immediately offered the Training Portfolio -  with little time to learn the job. 


"It was necessary to hit the ground running, but luckily I had the help of the Training Committee and ExBo.  The biggest challenge is juggling my own work with that of WFTGA.  After more than a year, I think I almost have it right."


Despite a very intensive schedule, he makes sure to have some free time.  He lives only ten minutes from a small marine reserve bay and beach and goes snorkelling almost every day.  

"Just a few days ago I swam through a school of about 1,000 garfish, the skinny ones with the pointy beaks. (Then I remembered I had just eaten them a couple of days before at a local restaurant.)"


He also loves theatre and feels lucky to work at the Opera House where he sees as many shows as possible, with Opera his favourite.


A couple of years ago he trained as an audio describer for people who have low vision or are blind. They come to the theatre and he communicates with them through a small earpiece and (very briefly between on-stage dialog) describes what is happening.


Steve has faced challenges he might have avoided had he decided to follow through on that white coat job, but not much can compare to the skills he gained through WFTGA and the excitement of a career in tourism and travel.