Colin Ovenden nominated for Brass Blokes resilience award, 45 years after being crushed by bulldozer

"I'm just an ordinary old bloke": Colin Ovenden was told by doctors that he'd never walk again after a serious workplace accident at 23. Picture: Lachlan Leeming
"I'm just an ordinary old bloke": Colin Ovenden was told by doctors that he'd never walk again after a serious workplace accident at 23. Picture: Lachlan Leeming

Colin Ovenden was 23-years-old, newly married and with two young daughters, when he nearly lost his life at work. 

A foreman on a construction site more than 40 years ago, Colin was parking a dodgy bulldozer when the seat snapped, sending him plummeting headfirst to the ground.

In a daze, Colin couldn’t move as he was caught underneath and crushed by the slow moving tracks of the 11-tonne vehicle.

He was rushed to the Cavalry Mater Hospital in Newcastle, NSW where the prognosis was grim; among the injuries, his pelvis was broken in 47 places and three vertebrae were crushed. Worst of all, his “side was pretty much missing” because of a gaping wound across his torso.

“The doctors said the extent of the injuries was terminal, but obviously they mustn’t have been,” the 69-year-old Woodberry man smiled.

“It set me back a bit.” 

Doctors, shocked that he would survive, predicted he would never walk or work again. Colin, amazingly, did both. 

Things were tough at the beginning. He had trouble getting a job – “I couldn’t pass any medicals” – so he started a string of businesses, including professional fishing on a trawler and recycling materials, before finding permanent work doing hydraulic and mechanical repairs for Coles. 

The workplace accident isn’t the only setback Colin’s faced.

When helping his wife through a battle with breast cancer several years ago, Colin himself suffered a serious heart attack. Contributing to the adage that bad luck comes in threes, Colin’s business was taken over around the same time. 

However, the couple pulled through, with a budding family including three kids, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, to show for it.  

It’s this determination that has seen Colin nominated for the Hunter Brass Blokes awards, an initiative by Lifeline highlighting men who have been through adversity yet still find the time, courage and inspiration to give back to the community.

Colin’s nomination came as a shock to him. 

“I’m just an ordinary bloke. I do what I can for my family,” he said. 

Colin, who will attend the award announcement dinner on Friday night, said he had a simple mantra regarding tough times. 

“You just have to stay positive, there’s always people worse off. It’s about looking at things in a positive way and being thankful for what you’ve got,” he said.

The Maitland Mercury