17 March 2023

Canberra firefighters to climb 'Everest' for second year running

| Travis Radford
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ACT Fire and Rescue acting chief officer Paul Flynn (left) and CEO of Lifeline Canberra Carrie-Ann Leeson (centre) with Firefighter Sean Guinard (right) who first proposed the event.

ACT Fire and Rescue’s Paul Flynn (left) and Lifeline Canberra’s Carrie-Ann Leeson (centre) with firefighter Sean Guinard (right). Photo: ACT Emergency Services Agency.

CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to suicide.

Five teams of five firefighters will return this weekend to conquer Canberra’s own Mount Ainslie for a good cause – but there’s a twist.

Team members will take turns climbing up and down Ainslie wearing 12 kilogram breathing apparatus backpacks to walk the equivalent 8849 metre elevation of Mount Everest.

Now in its second year, the event is the brainchild of Canberra firefighter Sean Guinard who says it is no easy feat.

“Anyone who’s hiked Mount Ainslie would know that one trip’s good exercise,” he says.

“[Climbing up and down] eight times with an uncomfortable backpack on, that makes it all that more difficult.

“Everything we do within emergency services is a team thing and that was a big reason we wanted to make it a team event.”

The more than $48,000 raised at the time of writing – before the event has even taken place – will go to Lifeline Canberra to support people in crisis.

ACT Fire and Rescue acting chief officer Paul Flynn says Lifeline’s vision of an Australia without suicide is close to his profession’s heart.

“Being first responders, our team has often seen the devastating effects that mental health can have,” he says.

“That is why we know the importance of services such as Lifeline in ensuring community safety.”

Lifeline Canberra CEO Carrie-Ann Leeson says Lifeline has the resources to answer about 85 per cent of the 1.2 million phone calls its receives each year.

“It means nationally that we don’t get to around 200,000 individuals when they find the courage to pick up the phone and ask for help,” she says.

However, Ms Leeson says an increase in suicide numbers in some Australian communities is putting pressure on the service.

The ACT’s suicide rate has increased from 6.2 people per 100,000 in 2012 to 13.8 people per 100,000 in 2021, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

This places the ACT just above the Bureau’s Australia-wide average suicide rate of 12 people per 100,000 in 2021, up from 11.2 people per 100,000 in 2012.

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Acting chief officer Flynn encouraged the community to go to Mount Ainslie on Saturday (18 March) and show their support for the firefighters and the cause.

Community activities will include a meet and greet with emergency services volunteers, commencing at the summit from 10 am.

“Your support will give [the firefighters] the extra push they need,” acting chief officer Flynn says.

“Of course there is no better support than donating to the Lifeline cause.”

Lifeline says it costs about $26 for it to answer a potentially life-saving phone call.

The fundraising goal of $50,000 is about $2000 away from being reached.

To donate, visit the Ainslie to Everest event page.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact:

Lifeline’s 24-hour crisis support line – 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800 or Kids Helpline
MensLine Australia – 1300 789 978 or MensLine.

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