A new member for the
'Hall of Fame'
On International Women's Day in March, a handful of remarkable West Australians were inducted into the local "Women's Hall of Fame."
Among them, the first female Chief Judge of the WA District Court, an eminent Professor of Education and the General Manager of the most successful radio station in Australia.
On the list that day was a telemarketer from Stirling, who, like the other nominees, has also contributed greatly to the community. Why was she included? Because, despite facing some big challenges, this woman has achieved something many others take for granted - living a normal (and successful) life.
Linda Fistonich earned her place at that table of remarkable women through sheer determination - and her dogged refusal to understand the word "can't". She reacted to her award with her typical humility.
"I was kind of overwhelmed really, it was so unexpected," she told INSIDE EDGE.
Linda is blind and has severe hearing loss, yet she works on the phone in the busy headquarters of the W.A. Community Newspaper Group.
Despite an early lack of encouragement from her own teachers, she's a university graduate, having completed a degree in Psychology.
Linda's done volunteer work, helping migrants and the unemployed. As well, she's delivered many talks to children at schools.
Linda Fistonich "walks the talk", demonstrating that all that stands between people with disability and their dreams is determination.
"There's nothing that I really can't do except drive a car," she said.
"If I want something badly enough, be it a job or whatever, I believe that having a disability doesn't stop me from doing a lot of things."
Linda credits her family with instilling an unyielding self-belief.
"Coming from a Croatian background, my family are very determined and fierce, hardworking," she said. "They've never ever wanted me to give up so they were the only ones that really believed in me when I was little."
Linda's early teachers weren't so positive.
"I went to a school for the blind and if you weren't really, really clever or good at music or sports or something like that you were considered a nobody. They never praised me or said nice things about me," she said.
Moving into a mainstream college for high-school changed everything.
"I was the only blind student, but the nuns, the teachers and the girls were wonderful to me. I thought I was in a different world altogether - finally people loved me and accepted me and couldn't do enough for me!"
In the years since, Linda's delivered many talks at schools, trying to impress on children that people with disability are really no different.
"Living in 2012, a lot of people don't come in contact with disabled people," said Linda. "They don't know how we do things like tell the time or simple things & little children ask things like "how do you get dressed?"... and do I know anything about dreams or colours?"
For the past 18 years, Linda's been employed by WA's Community Newspaper Group - a job she loves.
EDGE acquired special computer equipment for Linda that reads text out loud to her. Another machine means everything she writes comes up in Braille first.
"I've got a lot of respect for Linda and I do think she's a role model for other women," said Anna MacMahon, EDGE Community Support Co-ordinator. "She's worked very hard her whole life and she is well respected around her office, she's independent."
Anna MacMahon acknowledged the efforts of the Community Newspaper Group.
"It's been fabulous the way they've accommodated Linda's needs and been open to identifying that there are different ways of doing a task - it doesn't matter how you get to that end point, just as long as you get to that end point. Community Newspapers have been very good at understanding that."
This month also notches up another important milestone for Linda Fistonich - turning 50 and looking forward to celebrating in style.
Linda's not content to simply let life "happen". Instead, she grabs life with both hands and makes the most of everything on offer.