The Murungidyal (Healing) Paddle

Murungidyal is the Wiradjuri People’s word for Healing. The aim of this initiative is to heal by:

  1. – Raise awareness of PTSD and Mental Health issues for both First Responders and Indigenous people. We need people to start talking and accept that Mental Illness is real and nothing to be ashamed of and to seek help.
  2. – Build trust and relationships between First Responders and the Indigenous Community by promoting an understanding of each other.
  3. – Showcase 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 Initiative was born from our previous Kayak Paddle from Walgett to Bourke in 2020 which raised approximately $12,000 for the Blackdog Institute.

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. 

The original concept for this event was to be the one 6 week marathon kayak paddle, from Bourke to Wentworth, traversing the entire length of the Darling River with people joining us along the way.  However, it is envisaged that by holding 3 annual two week events picking up and starting off from where the previous year’s event finished, we can cover the same distance and receive greater participation and build from year to year.  The major centres along the river are all approximately one week apart allowing for one week of kayaking with a layover in the middle. I would like to see this initiative become a regular event cycling back on itself every 3 years if started at Bourke or 4 years if we started at Walgett.  The legs of the paddle could be as follows:

  1. Walgett – Brewarrina – Bourke
  2. Bourke – Louth – Tilpa
  3. Tilpa – Wilcannia – Menindee
  4. Menindee – Pooncarie – Wentworth

So far, I have had approximately 90 responses to our limited promotion from across all first responder agencies and the Indigenous Community.  I have partnered with Blackroo Industries, who have graciously allowed the use of their Direct Gift Recipient Status (DGRS) to attract Corporate Sponsorship.  The paddle is timed to start 22 April 2024 not only to take advantage of the last week of NSW School Holidays, but so that it is towards the end of the Financial Year offering instant tax right off for Corporate Sponsorships.  So far we have support from SourceIndigenous Meat Co. and Dhinewan Mentoring headed by ex-NRL player Jonathan Wright. 

The event is also being publicised and supported by Way Ahead and Eora Health Messenger. The KARI Foundation has also indicated they will participate in some form as well.

My colleague Allan O’Brien, from Barabarang Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corp, is also promoting through his contacts and participating. Allan’s Grand Mother published author and former NSW Grandparent of the Year Di O’Brien, has agreed to be the patron for the event.  

Laurie Lawrence, a volunteer member of the NSW RFS and mentioned in this article, is one of our paddlers.

For more information take a look at the Facebook page or contact

– Geoff Kelty, Department of Communities and Justice

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