South-west residents ready to tackle Kokoda Trail in support of Let's Talk

READY TO GO: South-west residents are ready to tackle the Kokoda Trail in support of mental health initiative Let's Talk. Picture: Rob Gunstone
READY TO GO: South-west residents are ready to tackle the Kokoda Trail in support of mental health initiative Let's Talk. Picture: Rob Gunstone

AFTER months of training a group of south-west residents are about to undertake the trip of a lifetime.

Twenty-four people have joined together in support of Let’s Talk and will walk the Kokoda Trail.

Let’s Talk was founded in memory of Ellerslie’s Sam Fitzgibbon who took his own life last year. 

The foundation aims to break the stigma surrounding mental health, and urges people to speak out.

St John of God Hospital mental health and community relations manager and Let’s Talk spokesman John Parkinson said the group would leave Australia on Monday.

The trail is 96-kilometres long and takes trekkers through mountainous country with rainforests and jungles which are home to rare species of ferns, orchids and birds. 

“Some of us have been training for three months,” Mr Parkinson said.

“We have been uphill, downhill, through sand, and doing lunges. We’ve been carrying our packs out in front of our arms as well.”

The trekkers will be accompanied by guide Mick O’Malley from Australia Kokoda Tours.

Mr O’Malley has been coming down to Warrnambool to help train the walkers every fortnight.

Last week the group walked to Koroit and back along the rail trail.

“Everyone has their reasons for walking,” Mr Parkinson said.

“We already have signed up nine people to do it next year.”

Mr Parkinson said the group was looking forward to the trail.

“We’ve already bonded hugely over the training sessions,” he said. The group will trek the trail for 10 days.

This year is the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign.

“Mick is very well-versed in the campaign, so we will be learning about it,” Mr Parkinson said.

He said the Let’s Talk initiative would look to make the walk an annual event.

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