Po­lice chief fin­ishes fundrais­ing walk

Myrtleford Times - - News - By STRUAN JONES

THE chief com­mis­sioner of Vic­to­ria Po­lice, Gra­ham Ash­ton, has walked through the Alpine re­gion over the past week, trekking down Mount Hotham to Har­ri­etville and along the Great Alpine Road through Bright, Pore­punkah and Myrtle­ford on the last stretch of his Head to Head fundrais­ing walk.

The walk has been a joint ef­fort be­tween Mr Ash­ton and po­lice union boss Mr Wayne Gatt, who started their re­spec­tive walks at dif­fer­ent sides of Vic­to­ria on Oc­to­ber 1, and walked to­wards each other, meet­ing ‘head to head’ in Wan­garatta on Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 23.

The three-week, 500km walk has been pub­li­cised to broaden aware­ness and raise funds to sup­port po­lice vet­er­ans af­fected by men­tal health is­sues.

Along the way Mr Ash­ton has vis­ited po­lice sta­tions and par­tic­i­pated in events with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, re­ceiv­ing do­na­tions from passers-by and ser­vice or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Ar­riv­ing in Bright last Fri­day af­ter­noon, Mr Ash­ton was re­ceived by a crowd of Bright P-12 Col­lege stu­dents at the po­lice sta­tion, where he gave an ad­dress and re­ceived a $500 do­na­tion from Ro­tary Club of Bright pres­i­dent Pa­trick O’Shea.

Early the fol­low­ing morn­ing, Mr Ash­ton set off un­der dark skies from Pore­punkah with a col­lec­tion of fel­low po­lice of­fi­cers. When asked by the Alpine Ob

server whether he had en­joyed the walk, Mr Ash­ton replied with a wry smile that “en­joyed” was a funny word, but ad­mit­ted there had been many en­joy­able mo­ments, as well as chal­leng­ing times.

“But it’s for a very worth­while cause, and I just fo­cus on that,” he said.

“It’s been very well re­ceived. We’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to go to dif­fer­ent events, we’ve had peo­ple on the side of the road com­ing out of their houses and farms say­ing g’day, peo­ple stop­ping and giv­ing us money, out of car win­dows, things like that, so it’s very en­cour­ag­ing.”

Mr Ash­ton de­scribed the cur­rent sys­tem of pro­vid­ing sup­port for re­tired po­lice of­fi­cers’ men­tal health was “un­sus­tain­able”, and hoped money raised would im­prove the pro­fes­sional ser­vices avail­able.

The walk aims to raise $500,000 and the Vic­to­rian State Gov­ern­ment has do­nated $50,000.

On Satur­day af­ter ar­riv­ing in Myrtle­ford, Mr Ash­ton met cur­rent and for­mer mem­bers of Vic­to­ria Po­lice as well as am­bu­lance of­fi­cers, CFA and SES vol­un­teers at the pi­azza on Clyde Street.

It was clear to those present that Mr Ash­ton’s walk and cause had struck a chord with the emer­gency ser­vices fra­ter­nity, and the chief com­mis­sioner was warmly wel­comed as he spoke about how po­lice of­fi­cers shouldn’t be for­got­ten about af­ter they re­tire from ser­vice.

“We know many po­lice vet­er­ans are deal­ing with sig­nif­i­cant men­tal health is­sues, and that will be some­thing well known to you par­tic­u­larly in the vol­un­teer com­mu­nity, be­cause you know the psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact of ser­vice,” he said.

Mr Ash­ton con­tin­ued the walk to­wards Wan­garatta on Sun­day morn­ing.

PO­LICE CHIEF: Gra­ham Ash­ton.

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