Canberra teams prepare to walk the Larapinta Trail

Karyn Starmer 22 February 2021
Amelda Keys, Glenn Keys, Rhys Hill and Charlie Blue.

From left: Amelda Keys, Glenn Keys, Rhys Hill (resident) and Charlie Blue (resident) from Project Independence. Photo: Supplied.

The invitation went out to Canberra’s business community at the end of 2020 offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something inspiring for others. Generous hands went up and a hardy group have now gathered for a special mission requiring months of preparation and training.

In May 2021, two teams of enthusiastic adventurers will embark on a very special five-day trek along the Northern Territory’s Larapinta Trail, one of Australia’s greatest multi-day walks, as part of Outback Challenge 2021. Starting in Alice Springs, the group will walk sections of the 230km trail along the spine of West MacDonnell Ranges while accompanying two extraordinary young men with intellectual disabilities on the adventure of a lifetime.

As the teams follow the paths and steep descents across red desert and ancient mountains, and camp in the desert each night, they will raise much-needed funds for Project Independence, Canberra’s home ownership program for people with intellectual disability.


READ MORE: Project Independence proves ROI to government with new KPMG report


Project Independence was established in 2013 in response to a need to an alternative to government social housing. The social housing model provides a place for people with an intellectual disability to grow their independence, both financially and socially, with guidance and support while living within a sustainable, safe and caring community.

Under the Project Independence model, rather than pay rent, participants pay for a share of the equity in the shared home as a step towards independently living in their own property.

Outback Challenge 2021 is part fundraising efforts to help build the next block of Project Independence houses. Both residents going on the trek will have the support of their own carer and a team of three staff members each from corporate sponsors Infinite Networks and Aspen Medical, which have also generously sponsored the costs of the trek.

Larapinta Trail in Northern Territory.

The Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory is one of Australia’s greatest multi-day walks. Photo: Karyn Starmer.

Project Independence general manager Nathalie Maconachie says organising 18 people on an amazing seven-day adventure has required months of preparation. The group is now in training to ensure it will be well prepared to explore some of the most arduous but spectacular sections of the rocky trail, surrounded by unforgettable panoramic views of the Australian desert landscape.

Infinite Networks founding partner Anthony Bortolotto says the opportunity to support the Larapinta trek struck a chord with the Infinite Networks team.

“Our business values teamwork and we actively encourage our staff to participate in the community as volunteers,” he says. “We are long-term supporters of Project Independence so this opportunity ticked all the boxes for us.”

The group from Infinite Networks have already met Project Independence resident Rhys Hill and his father, David. Team Hill is now in training for the adventure.

“We have been out for our first training walks together and we are working our way up to 15km a day before the big walk in June,” says David.

Project Independence Outback Challenge 2021 participants.

Project Independence Outback Challenge 2021 participants (from left): Glenn Keys, Helen Blue, Amelda Keys, Dan, Charlie Blue, Carolyn Ludovici, Tauhid Islam, Andrea Ho, Richard Ludovici, Nathalie Maconachie, Rhys Hill, David Hill, Anthony Bortolotto and Jon McLean. Photo: Supplied.

Aspen Medical business development manager Tauhid Islam says he literally and figuratively won the lottery to be part of Outback Challenge 2021. The staff at Aspen Medical were so keen to participate they had to run a ballot to pick three staff from almost 30 people who were keen to go.

Tauhid says he enjoys walking and has never been to the Northern Territory.

“This is for a great cause,” he says. “Project Independence is making a big difference to people’s lives.”

The Aspen Medical crew is part of Team Blue supporting Charlie Blue on the trek.

“We had our first 5km training walk around Mulligans Flat,” says Tauhid. “We are certainly all going to get to know each other. I am excited – we will be sleeping in swags and tents and will get to witness the beauty of the Northern Territory.”

As well as the corporate teams, there are eight individuals who have signed up to take on the Larapinta Trail and raise funds for Project Independence. Monaro Workwear has generously sponsored participants’ trek wear and JC Travel has sponsored the travel costs.

There are further events planned for the Project Independence fundraiser, including a cocktail party in May.

All of the funds raised on the Outback Challenge 2021 adventure will go towards building more Project Independence homes, and help Australians with intellectual disabilities to attain home ownership and gain their independence.

You can donate by heading to Project Independence Outback Challenge 2021.

For more information on the cocktail party fundraiser on Saturday, 22 May, contact Nathalie Maconachie on 0417 286 219 or email nmaconachie@projectindependence.com.au.


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