Paddling to raise awareness for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in First Responders.
In 2020, Geoff Kelty and Wayne Cole, two corrective services officers, undertook an epic 500km paddle from Walgett to Bourke along the Darling River over 14 days, to not only enjoy the experience but to raise awareness about PTSD, depression and anxiety amongst first responders and their families.
Along the way they raised $12,000 for the Black Dog Institute to go towards research into mental illnesses.
Geoff has said that “the 2020 event was so life changing for both Wayne and myself that we just wanted to keep going and not come back. Once you are out on the water experiencing the NSW Outback, getting your feet dirty and getting back in touch with country, it really does put everything into perspective and as Wayne and I discovered it really does reset your mind and way of thinking”.
It’s because of that experience that a new initiative has been born, the Murungidyal Paddle, Murungidyal is the Wiradjuri People’s word for Healing.
The aim of the initiative is to heal by:
- raising awareness of PTSD and Mental Health issues for both First Responders and First Nations people. We need people to start talking and accept that Mental Illness is real and nothing to be ashamed of and to seek help.
- building trust and relationships between First Responders and the Indigenous Community by promoting an understanding of each other.
- showcasing NSW First Responder agencies to the community. Hopefully, this will spark an interest in gaining employment or volunteering with one of the agencies. Even volunteering for the RFS, SES and VRA should assist with strengthening a sense of belonging to the greater community, leading to lower anti-social behaviours.
The original concept for this paddle was to be a single 6 week marathon paddle, from Bourke to Wentworth, traversing the entire length of the Darling River with people joining along the way. This has morphed into a format where an annual two week paddle will be staged, traversing a dedicated section of the river, each year picking up from where the previous year’s event finished (so it will take 3 years to complete the full section from Bourke to Wentworth).
The annual stages are likely to be:
- Bourke -> Louth -> Tilpa
- Tilpa -> Wilcannia -> Menindee
- Menindee -> Pooncarie -> Wentworth
PaddleNSW is proud to support this paddling initiative as it aligns to our own Reconciliation Action Plan for First Nations people.
It should be noted that the Murungidyal Paddle is a recreational marathon event, where talking and sharing experiences are more important than who paddles the fastest.
If you’d like to read about Geoff and Wayne’s 2020 trip, this article from the Brewarrina News gives a really good insight to their trip.