Ru­ral heartland by wa­ter

The Free Press (Corowa) - - FRONT PAGE - BY SARAH DEAN

You don’t need lots of money to have a great hol­i­day and visit many in­ter­est­ing places, just ask Kev Cook.

The South Aus­tralian res­i­dent from a town called Mor­gan is kayak­ing 2500 kilo­me­tres along the Mur­ray River as he raises aware­ness of Aus­tralia’s ru­ral heartland.

The 2017 Mighty Mur­ray River Kayak Trek is directly help­ing the Aus­tralian Hori­zons Foun­da­tion, a na­tional char­ity with a fo­cus on en­sur­ing small towns are both so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally sus­tain­able, with men­tal health high on its agenda.

Mr Cook, who says he is lucky enough not to have suf­fered from men­tal health per­son­ally, is pas­sion­ate about help­ing those who do.

“We de­cided to raise aware­ness for men­tal health is­sues within re­mote towns and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties be­cause farmer sui­cides are quite high,” he said.

“It’s about not go­ing to Bali for a hol­i­day and spend­ing a thou­sand dol­lars, in­stead come to Corowa and spend a thou­sand dol­lars on a hol­i­day.”

The three month trek started from Brin- gen­brong Bridge, in the up­per reaches of the Mur­ray on Septem­ber 2 and is planned to fin­ish at Goolwa more than 60 days later on Novem­ber 3.

The Free Press caught up with Mr Cook when he ar­rived in Corowa on Septem­ber 7.

“The head­wind has been the big­gest chal­lenge so far, it knocks you about a lot be­cause you sort of pad­dle in one spot some­times,” he said.

Mel­bourne co­me­dian ‘Flemo’ has come on board and is stop­ping at the towns along with the crew to host com­edy nights at pubs and clubs along the jour­ney.

Strong crowds fea­tured at How­long Golf Re­sort, Corowa Golf Club and Club Mul­wala last week.

Mr Cook said the com­edy nights were about hav­ing a laugh and get­ting res­i­dents to put aside any wor­ries they might have.

An­other high­light of the trek is trans­port­ing a mes­sage stick from the Wi­rad­juri na­tion, which will be on board the en­tire jour­ney.

To help with the mes­sage stick jour­ney, Wi­rad­juri men Peter White and Neil Har­vey have joined the trek and will keep Mr Cook company most of the trip.

Mr White will col­lect the mes­sage stick at Goolwa where he will de­liver it back to el­ders.

The trek is be­ing run en­tirely by vol­un­teers and funds are needed to sup­port a doc­u­men­tary be­ing filmed and the foun­da­tion’s work.

The doc­u­men­tary crew have filmed the be­gin­ning of the trek and will cap­ture the towns of Went­worth and Mor­gan next month be­fore film­ing the end of the jour­ney on Novem­ber 3.

Foun­da­tion board mem­ber and fundrais­ing chair­woman Anita Don­lon is co-or­di­na­tor for the trek and is invit­ing res­i­dents along the Mur­ray to be­come in­volved, cheer Mr Cook and the crew along and help with fundrais­ing.

“The doc­u­men­tary is about cel­e­brat­ing small town cul­ture and let­ting peo­ple know, as Kev said, that in­stead of head­ing over­seas, head in­land and go to a small town and leave your bucks there and check out the his­tory,” she said.

“Most peo­ple don’t un­der­stand what is in their own backyard.

“The char­ity we are sup­port­ing was started by farm­ers in the top end of Aus­tralia in a small town called Ge­orge­town when they were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the worst drought in decades and then they had the floods, the fires, live cat­tle ex­port ban and banks clos­ing in and ev­ery­thing just started to fall apart, not just there in Ge­orge­town but ev­ery­where across the coun­try.

“A group of peo­ple came to­gether and from 2009 un­til now it has pro­gressed from a com­mu­nity group to a state-based char­ity, to a na­tional char­ity and the beau­ti­ful part about our char­ity is that there are no wages, no cars, no noth­ing, ev­ery­thing is done by vol­un­teers and that’s the beau­ti­ful part of what we do.”

Those want­ing to make a do­na­tion to the cause can SMS the code word ‘Kev’ to 0437 371 371.

You will be sent a link to a se­cure page on GiveEasy.

For in­for­ma­tion and a blog on the trek visit the 2017 Mur­ray River Kayak Trek Face­book page, or to make a do­na­tion or buy a raf­fle ticket visit do­na­­tralian­hori­zons-foun­da­tion

All do­na­tions are 100 per cent tax de­ductible.

The doc­u­men­tary will be avail­able to pur­chase and all money raised will go to the char­ity.

Kev Cook, Neil Har­vey holding the mes­sage stick and Peter White. The kayak­ers had just pulled in at Corowa on the af­ter­noon of Septem­ber 7 af­ter leav­ing How­long in the early hours of the morn­ing.

Neil Har­vey, Kev Cook and Peter White pad­dling into Ball Park La­goon in Corowa as part of the Mighty Mur­ray River Kayak Trek.

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