Alex Taskun gave up a comfortable banking job to become a plumber at age 30. Picture: Instagram @gtplumbingnsw
Alex Taskun gave up a comfortable banking job to become a plumber at age 30. Picture: Instagram @gtplumbingnsw

Hero tradie’s ‘crazy’ six-figure gamble

Alex Taskun was a 24-year-old bank trainee with a comfortable job and a bright future when he got caught up in a brutal knife attack that would change his life.

It was 2004, and he was on his way to work one morning when he noticed one man chasing another down a western Sydney street.

At first, he thought one of the men was wearing long red sleeves - but he soon realised it was actually blood, and he had stumbled upon a vicious attack.

The knife-wielding criminal had stabbed his victim multiple times, and Mr Taskun knew he had to act.

"Instinct kicked in and I tried to save the guy … It was full-on and pretty intense, but that's the way life is," he told news.com.au.

Mr Taskun gave chase and managed to overcome and disarm the attacker, narrowly avoiding being stabbed himself.

"There were people around me but nobody did anything," he said.

"The guy was on the ground with his guts out … he lost more than a litre of blood."

Eventually, bystanders stepped in, and they and Mr Taskun fashioned some sticky tape into a tourniquet to staunch the man's bleeding before an ambulance arrived.

The victim needed almost 900 stitches, and a judge later found the attacker was criminally insane.

Alex Taskun gave up a six-figure salary ... Picture: Instagram @gtplumbingnsw
Alex Taskun gave up a six-figure salary ... Picture: Instagram @gtplumbingnsw

Mr Taskun was awarded three medals for his courage, including the Commonwealth's highest bravery award, the Gold Stanhope Medal.

But it was just the beginning of the Sydney man's selfless deeds.

He remained at the bank for the next few years, but when he was asked one day at a training session where he wanted to be in five years, he stunned his colleagues by revealing he wanted to move into charity work.

"They thought I was crazy, they had invested so much in me," he said.

"I was in a very secure job on a six-digit salary - it was big money."

Mr Taskun had also come to the realisation that one of the most meaningful ways to improve people's lives was through clean water and sanitation - and so, at the age of 30, he decided to leave his comfortable banking job and take a gamble by starting a plumbing apprenticeship.

He also founded his own charity, Wold Orphan Fund, at around the same time in 2010.

The charity is focused on helping underprivileged communities in Cambodia, as Mr Taskun believed the country did not receive the same levels of attention as other countries in the region.

… and scraped by on an apprentice’s wage for four years while launching a charity. Picture: Instagram @gtplumbingnsw
… and scraped by on an apprentice’s wage for four years while launching a charity. Picture: Instagram @gtplumbingnsw

He also believed the nation's small population would allow him to make more of a difference.

For the next four years, he divided his time between his apprenticeship - "scraping through" on less than $40,000 - and travelling to Cambodia to get the charity off the ground while also caring for his father, who had stage four cancer.

"My brother said, 'I know you're going to fail - prove us wrong', but he meant it as a way of motivation," Mr Taskun said.

His new-found plumbing skills helped him to improve access to clean water in Cambodia, as much of its water supply had been contaminated.

"What is the difference between a First World country and a Third World country? Clean water," he said.

"Water is life - without plumbers, there's no showers and without showers, the whole household gets sick. Doctors treat symptoms, but plumbers actually prevent sickness - if you've got clean water and a sewerage system, 80 per cent of diseases go away."

Mr Taskun, now 40, resigned from the charity around 18 months ago, and it is now managed by others.

These days, he's focused on his own company, GT Plumbing, and he now has a team of seven working for him, with a projected $1 million turnover in the current financial year alone.

He also has a five-star rating on find-a-tradie website ServiceSeeking, where he has "100 per cent positive feedback".

However, he said he was "not in it to be a millionaire", and he lived a "very humble life".

"I don't have many clothes … I don't have a fancy car, and I don't have my own house," he said.

He said the key to his successful new career came down to three elements.

"You've got to put the best interests of your customers first, before yours, establish long-term relationships and realise you're not there to make a quick buck."

Continue the conversation @carey_alexis | alexis.carey@news.com.au

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