August 28, 2017
Last week I returned to Central Australia to lead a dozen supporters on a six-day fundraising walk for the Luke Batty Foundation, in partnership with Huma Charity Challenge, along Australia’s most iconic desert trek, the Larapinta Trail.
It was only on arrival that I realised we were already connected. Whether it was a family member, a friend, or a deeply personal experience of our own – we were all living with the impact of family violence. It was a deeply moving realisation.
The Larapinta Trail is one of the seven Great Walks of Australia and has recently joined the ranks of the top 10 walks in the entire world.
The people who had agreed to come along on this epic walk had been brought together, by their shared passion and life experience. Everyone was anxious and excited to show their support by joining me and raising money for the many victims of family violence who were unable to be there with us.
For some of the participants it was the first time they had done anything like this. It was a challenge: not only a physical challenge but also a deeply moving personal challenge.
It was something we were doing for ourselves. We were putting our own health and wellbeing at the centre of this journey to support all victims.
We shared the experiences of our lives and what had brought us here. We reflected, laughed cried and, most important of all, we bonded.
It achieved everything I hoped it would.
We are close to raising $30,000 for the Foundation and that’s a significant achievement and a huge effort.
The Foundation intends to invest the money raised into a program for Aboriginal women and will update you when that has been progressed.
I’m so pleased to be able to share this very personal reflection from one of my new friends on the trip:
In the days since returning from the trek, my mind continually wandered to the people I had the privilege to meet and spend time with. We all had our own story. Some known and some shared, others held close. We all had our own reasons for being there whether it was for ourselves, for others or to demonstrate support, but we were all there for the same overarching reason – to raise funds and awareness, bringing an end to family violence.
As I was thinking about the walks and what we saw, I remembered the surface of the towering -red oxidised gorge walls, when another similarity struck me. I recalled marvelling how some trees were able to take root on the vertical face of the rock, far from water, with only small crevices to reach into, in order to anchor themselves and stand stoically to face the elements that this part of the world has to offer. I thought, if I had intentionally planted a tree in the same place, the likelihood of it surviving without constant tending, would be slim. In fact, I never would have considered planting on a rock face as there was little to no soil and hard to get water too, yet these self-sown wonders speckled the gorge walls, white trunks supporting umbrellas of branches and healthy green leaves and defiantly surviving, despite the odds. Like the people on this trip.
I cannot speak for others, though I suspect most may be able to relate. When living in circumstances no one would ever wish upon themselves, and in an environment that is not the safe place that home should be, it is so tempting to give in or give up but something stops us. Like the trees in the rock face, we plant our fragile roots and do everything we can to hold solid for our children and ourselves. As the trees face the diversity of nature, we too face our own battering elements which present as fear, self- doubt, shame and powerlessness. To the outside world we read a script, present with a smile and work to appear like all others, except we know our vulnerable roots are exposed to the surface, working to reach across the cliff face searching for ground and water to bury into.
Despite the uncertainty, fear and grief which have formed our histories, a group of remarkable women gathered for the trek. Women I discovered who were quick to laugh, especially at themselves, and found reasons to look on the positive side of things, whereas no one would have blamed them if they chose to retreat from the world and see only the uncertain. Women who you think would find it hard to give more of themselves, because so much has been taken from them. Yet, like the landscape we walked through which hid sources of water and sustenance, they learnt where to look to nourish themselves in order to continue and have the energy to look out for others. I heard the voice of these amazing women and witnessed how their experiences strengthened each other in sometimes unexpected ways, and saw how collectively we can give greater voice to the unacceptability of family violence and the light of hope for change to others.
From now on, when I see a flower blooming in a pavement crack, a plant thriving in the mortar of a brick wall, or a tree growing in rock, I will be reminded of the amazing women I met at Larapinta and of the countless others who find themselves in inhospitable terrain, yet still forge ahead and give voice and support to others who have not the strength, and are silently crying for help and for change.
What a humbling experience with amazing people who choose not to let the ugliness of family violence define who they are.
We are intending to do another trip and invite you to express interest if you would like to come along too, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The world is our oyster and I can guarantee you will have the experience of a lifetime.