Following a 30 year career in the life insurance industry including terms as CEO at AMP, Tower and Suncorp, I shifted my focus from preparing people for an untimely death to a philanthropic endeavour to help Australians get more out of living. My various mentoring roles have given me exposure to, and inspiration from, many kind and socially minded Australians across commerce, charities and government.
My heritage is proudly steeped in the area of service. Going back to the early part of the 20th century, I had three great uncles serving in WW1. This led to my interest in Australian history (particularly military) where I learned about an amazing story called the Coo-ee March.
Inspired by their story in mid-March 2021 I will be departing Gilgandra in Western NSW and walking solo the original 520km Coo-ee March route (see below). My walk is about commemorating this patriotic and noble call to arms and is a tribute to the men who answered the call of “Coo-ee! Come and join us!”, and fell into line in the towns and villages along the route of the 320 miles (520 km) march, that left Gilgandra with 25 men on 10th October, 1915, and arrived in Martin Place, Sydney on 12th November, 1915 with 263 recruits.
I’m keen to combine what I believe will be a fun yet challenging walk with doing a little bit to raise awareness of, and funding for mental health issues.
A couple of years ago I wrote a book (“Love in the Valley of Death”) set around World War 1 and featured the amazing sacrifices of my great uncles Jack and Will Jensen and Sydney Campbell who fought at Gallipoli and the Western front and returned home with debilitating Post Traumatic Stress syndrome. This was a crippling, misunderstood and largely unrecognised condition which defined their post war lives. What has been heartening over the last 100 years is how awareness of this and many other mental health conditions has leapt forward. There as so many great agencies and not-for-profits who are leading the charge here.
So, for my walk I’m asking friends, family and supporters to consider helping a cause that's close to my heart. Its Batyr, a for-purpose, preventative mental health organisation, created and driven by young people, for young people. They operate in schools and universities throughout regional and urban NSW.
What I did not know was that of every 30 students in Australia, seven will be dealing with a mental health issue, yet only two will reach out for support, leaving five suffering in silence. Sadly, most young people dealing with mental health issues do not reach out for help, largely due to stigma.
If you are able to support, your donation will go a long way to help Batyr reach more young Australians through their engaging programs where at risk youth participate in workshops with relatable peers who have walked in their shoes and have the empathy to connect and the stories to provide hope for those who are vulnerable and at risk.
A $100 donation will enable batyr to reach out to these at risk youth providing them with the knowledge and skills to take charge of their mental health. I like the idea of smashing the stigma surrounding mental ill-health to empower young people to reach out for support. Imagine if our diggers had this when they returned from the First war and tried to re-integrate into normal life?
20 Mar 2021 - 10 May 2021
26 May 2021 - 31 Jul 2021