I spent 15 years in the Australian Defence Force and like most, I knew I had found my place, my purpose. I prided myself on wearing the uniform, serving our nation and adhering to all of its values. Courage, initiative, teamwork and integrity.
In 2014, after my medical discharge, I appreciated more than ever the impact of these values. I realised that they were not just principles I followed – they were a part of me, my identity. But, I was no longer surrounded by those wearing the same uniform (which in itself provided connection). I felt more alone than I have ever felt, despite being comforted by friends and family.
It took more courage than I had ever drawn on to admit and acknowledge that I was struggling with my mental health. Then, whilst battling my inner demons, I was invited to participate in the inaugural INVICTUS Games in London (where my mate Harry presented me with two gold medals). The support, encouragement, connection and camaraderie felt so familiar. That feeling of being connected and belonging. It saved me.
My desire to serve remains strong. I wanted to do more and began thinking of ways to extend my reach to help others struggling with their everyday. My experience at the games still resonated with me and the parts of this event that helped me.
The goal of The Great Aussie Hike is to help strengthen the mental well-being of those who participate, whilst they fulfil their need to help others – their teammates, the East Gippsland community, an organisation they choose to fundraise for. Completing the training regime and event in teams will focus on exercise, goal setting and human connection – three elements that research shows are extremely beneficial for those suffering depression and anxiety.
Our program provides participants with goals, connections and hope. Hope being the main deterrent to suicide. Elements such as mateship, helping others, giving back, endurance, being part of a team – The Great Aussie Hike purposely ticks all these boxes.
I know only too well that the hardest part is getting started. I can’t encourage you enough to join our community. We promise to be by your side every step of the way. I invite you to start your journey today.
Co-Founder, The Great Aussie Hike