Police chief finishes fundraising walk
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.