After 18 months of planning and 50 days of walking, volunteer Chair of the Emergency Services Foundation (External link) (ESF) Tony Pearce made the final steps of his 1500km Tony’s Trek as he entered the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 10 May greeted by a guard of honour.
Tony undertook this incredible Trek to raise awareness of the terrible personal toll emergency service work can have on Victoria’s 139,000 emergency management workers. He also wanted to raise funds to support the Foundation’s introduction of innovative early intervention programs to help prevent the onset of serious mental ill health.
From 10 March to 10 May, Tony walked from Melbourne to Mallacoota, back to Bruthen over the Alpine Range through Mt Hotham to Wodonga, and back to Melbourne taking in areas affected by the 2019–20 Black Summer fires. Over the 50 days, more than 140 walking companions and 46 escort vehicle drivers joined Tony.
Tony said, ‘When the journey ahead looked too long, focusing on taking one step at a time helped me achieve the goal of 1500km.’
‘Recovery from mental health injury is a personal journey that also involves taking one step at a time,’ he said.
This huge achievement raised much needed funds for the ESF and has only been possible with the generous support of the emergency management community, local and corporate businesses, and very many Victorians across our state.
Read Tony's daily blog (External link) on the fantastic people and places along his journey.
Support Tony's Trek and the Emergency Services Foundation's programs through esf.com.au/tonys-trek (External link)
Listen to Tony speak about Tony's Trek
A message from Tony
My volunteer role as Emergency Services Foundation Chair is a profoundly personal one as I have been in the sector for almost forty years. In that time I’ve seen many of my colleagues suffer from trauma due to their role in emergency services/management. This trauma can often result in mental health injury and have lasting impacts throughout their career and retirement.
In supporting ESF’s work in improving mental health outcomes for Victoria’s 139,000 emergency workers, both paid and volunteer, in frontline and support roles, I'm undertaking a solo ultra-distance walk to raise awareness of the work we do. We need to acknowledge the urgency of supporting those who support us.
On 10 March 2023, I'll start my journey in East Melbourne at the State Control Centre, and over the 50 days, I’ll cover 1500 kilometres. My route has been specifically chosen to cover much of the area where the 2019-20 Victorian Black Summer Bushfires occurred. I hope this will acknowledge the horrible mental health impacts those fires had and continue to have on emergency workers, along with the community members themselves of these areas.
For me, it will be one step at a time to achieve this goal and personal physical feat. Recovery from mental health injury is also a personal journey that involves taking one step at a time.