More than 1000 people including CFA members and staff, fellow emergency services personnel, defence force personnel and the community walked in solidarity for mental health on Saturday 23 March in Ballarat to raise awareness and funds for Walking Off The War Within.
Walking Off The War Within is held across the country each year in memory of Nathan Shanahan, a CFA firefighter and returned soldier from Ballarat who was a fierce advocate of mental health awareness.
In April 2015 Nathan walked more than 400 kilometres from Mildura to Adelaide to raise awareness and funds for PTSD and depression. Sadly he lost his own battle with PTSD in December 2016.
The event aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental health, encourage conversations and help-seeking behaviour, and highlight wellbeing support services.
The WOTWW challenge is a replica of Nathan’s walk, encouraging people to share the burden and march as one. Each year, participants can complete the ultimate challenge – a 20 kilometre walk carrying 20 kilograms – or walk 1, 2, 3 or more kilometres.
This year’s event included family and children’s activities, community education displays, face painting and jumping castles.
CFA also hosted a wellbeing chill-out zone for participants with members of the wellbeing team available to talk to anyone who needed it.
Members from Ballarat City Fire Brigade and rehab units from Dandenong Fire Brigade were also at the event.
Those who couldn’t make the journey to Ballarat held their own localised WOTWW events including in Mildura, where 40 walkers tackled a cross-Mildura hike (pictured below), and Warrnambool.