6 November 2022

UPDATED: We made it! Menslink Great Walk ends with fundraising success

| Genevieve Jacobs
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group at Parliament House

Back where they began! The Menslink Great Walk team finish their 140-km trek. Photo: Threesides Marketing.

UPDATED 5 November, 4:30 pm: Some strolled, others limped and there was sheer relief etched on every face as the Menslink Great Walk team walked onto the lawns at Parliament House, five days after setting off on a 140-kilometre course around the ACT.

While the injury toll has been a little lower this year than in 2021, there are some extremely uncomfortable feet and leg muscles. Just a few kms from the end, Southside Physio’s Bjarne Krahe performed some last-minute neck treatment on the picnic table at Endeavour Park, Red Hill.

Family, friends and a lot of dogs joined for the final stretch, although Region Media HR superstar Tobi, who completed almost the entire course, had “pawsed” for a rest by this point.

Joining us on the final leg was Federal Member for Bean, Dave Smith. Among his roles is the Parliamentary Friends of Policing committee and he says that among the obvious social benefits provided by Menslink, their supportive, non-judgemental intervention also relieves pressure on all resources across justice systems.

man massaging neck

Bjarne Krahe works on Colonel Mark Coyle’s neck on a picnic table at Red Hill. Photo: G Jacobs.

“I’ve got two sons and in the ages between 13 and 20, things sometimes just don’t go the way you might expect,” he told Region Media. “You need extra support and assistance to get on track, and for someone to be there as a role model, to share their experiences and how their paths have unfolded can make a huge difference.”

The walk has had strong support from ACT Policing and from Corrections Commissioner Ray Johnson, who has trekked the full 140 kms. Commander Jo Cameron, who has worked extensively in domestic and family violence prevention was with us for the last leg, along with her Labrador Barney after a very long engagement with Menslink and its preventative work.

The fundraising total sits at $325,000 thanks to generous families, friends and colleagues who also believe that young men and boys are worth saving when they’re headed towards trouble, in the interests of creating the next generation of decent, good men.

You can continue to contribute until the end of November as the Menslink team hopes to reach a $350,000 target. Find out more here – and if you meet a walker, let them know how much you value their contribution. It was a long, hard slog, but worth it for the kids and young men it’ll help.

group of walkers

The Menslink walkers at Galilee School, Kambah. Photo: G Jacobs.

UPDATED 4 November, 4:30 pm: There’s one more day of walking for the Menslink walking team, who spent the day climbing through Coombs, Duffy and Chapman before we emerged on the Kambah Pool Rd and reached Galilee School.

We saw the first snake somewhere at the back of Chapman Ridge and plunged through several surefire “shortcuts” in the horse paddocks that would be better described as bottomless mud pits. But it was a spectacularly beautiful walk along the blue hills and lush paddocks where the Murrumbidgee winds through the valley.

Everyone is hurting, some more than others, and the queue for Bjarne Krahe’s physio treatments grows longer every day. Even Tobi the Labrador is flat out by this stage.

But waiting for us at lunch was a reminder of why this walk is so important. Galilee School principal Tim McNiven has worked closely with Menslink and Communities at Work, supporting students who have run out of other options to complete school.

The walkers ate a delicious lunch of chile con carne, fruit, muffins and snacks prepared by the hospitality course students before hearing from the principal about how education and the proper support can change young lives.

Woman and two men standing

Eve from Communities at Work, Galilee School principal Tim McNiven and Menslink CEO Martin Fisk. Photo: G Jacobs.

“The students arrive with us not having found success, having a very negative view of themselves and the future,” he told the group.

“If we can turn that around and get them talking about hope for the future, about aspirations, the expression of gratitude that comes to us from their families can be very humbling.

“I love it, and I know I speak on behalf of all the staff.”

After lunch, the crew walked on to Tuggeranong for our final night together before tomorrow’s finish at Parliament House. The fundraising total has now passed $300,000 from 1288 individual donors, who gave an average of $214 each.

You can contribute to individual walkers here as we edge closer to the $350,000 target that will help support boys and young men across Canberra. Look out for us tomorrow as we walk from Tuggeranong to Parliament House through the inner south and give us a hand.

Four men leaning against fence

Peter Whowell from ACT Police, Scott Eulenstein (Spinifex Tennis), Corrections Commissioner Ray Johnson and Adash Janiszewski (Providence Consulting). Photo: Region.

UPDATED: 3 November, 3 pm

On Day Three of a 140 km walk, it either all swings into place or every.single.thing starts to hurt.

Southside Physio’s Bjarne Krahe is doing a roaring trade each afternoon with the walkers, and one or two people might be regretting their somewhat breezy approach to training.

Today the walkers started from Belconnen, looped around the AIS, and across the O’Connor Ridge to Black Mountain and the Arboretum. We ended the day at Coombs, walking along the Molonglo in full spate.

Sunny skies accompanied us all the way but there’s no doubt that the rubble-strewn tracks around the mountain’s base and some unnavigable quagmires along the way were challenging.

Coming the other way, we met a group from Hall Rotary Club’s Aussie Peace Walk, out on a recce ahead of their event next March. They’ll be raising funds for Rob de Castella’s Indigenous Marathon Foundation and we paused briefly to share war stories and pass on warnings (fellas, the Cork Oak forest at the Arboretum was nowhere near as bad as you made out).

group of walkers

Hall Rotary Club peace walkers and Menslink team members meet somewhere at the bar of Black Mountain. Photo: G Jacobs.

ACT Police executive GM corporate Peter Whowell, who joined the walking team today, says the importance of Menslink is obvious.

“It’s so much better to prevent young blokes going off the rails in the first place than deal with the aftermath”, he told Region.

“Police see themselves as part of the community and knowing there’s an organisation like Menslink that tries to sort out the root of the problems is a huge help”.

For Proximity chair Kerri Hartland, supporting single mothers who are coping with these situations is vital, with the knowledge that there is often a history of domestic violence in the background.

The fundraising total now stands at more than $280,000 and you can contribute to the walkers here. We have two more days to go on this epic journey.

Tomorrow the team is in Tuggeranong, walking from Coombs through to Kambah Pool Rd and Galilee School. Say hello if you see us walking by, and perhaps give this great cause a helping hand too.

walking group

Walkers Sam Colman, Penny Burns and Martin Fisk (Menslink), Minister Emma Davidson, Menslink chair Mike Batenally, Michael McGoogan, Todd Wright, Genevieve Jacobs and Rachel Wright. Photo: Threesides.

UPDATED: 2 November, 4:30 pm

It was sunshine all the way for today’s Menslink Great Walk participants – albeit with a starting temperature at 8 am that felt like minus 2.5. In November. And with a wind straight off the snow-dusted Brindabellas.

Undeterred, the walkers set out for a full lap of Lake Burley Griffin, beginning at the Boathouse and circling westwards past Scrivener Dam. This is, by far, the easiest bit of navigation the team will face. It consists of keeping the lake on your left and walking until you get back to where you began.

Nevertheless, one walker was well on her way to Woden before being reeled in by the team. It’s now a grand walk tradition for someone to get incomprehensibly and completely lost, although it’s usually members of the strata industry who take startling detours.

On the positive side, fundraising has now crossed the $270,000 mark, edging closer every day to the team’s $350,000 goal. For many walkers, it’s become a personal crusade after Menslink has changed lives close to them.

Nektaria Makas from Narrabundah Family Grocer says she would do “anything it takes” to help the organisation she’s supported for years. She is delighted to be on the walk this year after the pandemic kept her away in 2021.

Corrective Services Commissioner Ray Johnson, one of the “retreads” from 2021, is sharply aware of how easy it is for young lives to go off the rails without practical intervention of the kind Menslink provides. First-time walker Nick McNaughton from Campus Plus was driven to get involved after witnessing several mental health crises among young men he knows well.

Mental Health Services Minister Emma Davidson, herself a keen fan of the long, reflective walk, joined the team this afternoon.

“What you’re all doing is fantastic to support boys and young men, to provide them with mentoring and support and to do so by getting out and enjoying this part of the country is wonderful,” she said.

“It shows how passionate and committed people are to the cause in this community.”

Tomorrow, the walkers travel from Belconnen through the National Arboretum to Coombs. More adventures are certainly ahead. We’ll update you every day live on Facebook and you can support the fundraising effort here.

Walkers in front of Parliament House

Menslink Great Walk walkers: last year they rasied $350,000 for Menslink. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

1 November, 4:30 pm

It rained, it hailed, the sun shone and the wind blew as this year’s Menslink Great Walk team set off from Parliament House for the 2022 fundraising event.

More than 30 walkers joined us this year after the hugely successful inaugural event in 2021, which raised more than $350,000.

The walk supports Menslink’s work with vulnerable boys and young men who are provided with mentoring and support that also helps their families. Business and community leaders from across Canberra are participating, from Geocon CEO Nick Georgalis to Corrective Services Commissioner Ray Johnson.

But with a forecast of 11 degrees maximum and 100 per cent chance of rain, this year was never going to be a stroll in the park.

Many Centenary Trail paths have been closed by this spring’s constant deluges and plenty of walkers lay awake last night listening to the roaring wind and pounding rain, wondering what we’d got ourselves into. Waking this morning to reports of flash flooding across the South East was also not reassuring.

But undaunted and helped by friends and supporters, including Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan, Member for Bean Dave Smith and Greens leader Shane Rattenbury, the Menslink family gathered at Parliament for a welcome to country from Aunty Violet Sheridan before setting off into what felt like four seasons in one day.

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Crossing Kings Avenue, the wind blew, and the sun shone, but things really got interesting past the War Memorial and Mt Ainslie.

After heavy rains, water is literally pouring out of the mountainside, creating fast-running small creeks across the network of paths. Staying dry was well nigh impossible as walkers abandoned all hope of keeping the water out of our shoes.

walkers in rain

Team Region heads off on the Menslink Great Walk. Photo: Michelle Kroll

Team Region (co-CEO Michael McGoogan, me and Region HR crew member Tobi the Labrador) have survived the first day relatively intact thanks to plenty of training and support, fittingly since the walk is all about resilience – the same resilience that Menslink hopes to build in young men and boys who need our help as a community.

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Tomorrow’s initial plan to walk One Tree Hill has been abandoned due to washed-out slippery tracks. Instead, we’ll take on a 27 km lap around Lake Burley Griffin. Sing out and say hello if you see us in the distinctive Menslink blue jackets.

You can find out more about the walk and the critically important work Menslink does with the community here, and donate to individual walkers. Watch out for our updates throughout the walk.

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