University’s fundraising trek unites individuals in support of Indigenous communities

University’s fundraising trek unites individuals in support of Indigenous communities

Trekking one hundred kilometres across the arid Australian outback in five days is a challenge, but one that twenty-five brave individuals eagerly tackled in the name of Indigenous education and health research.

The University of Newcastle’s Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge, which started on 9 September and finished on 14 September, saw staff members – including Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky AO – alumni and community members walk the remote Heysen Trail of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges in South Australia.

While donations will be accepted up until 31 October 2019, so far, the $154,391 raised will enable at least eighteen Indigenous students to be supported through scholarships at university, as well as support two health research projects to positively impact Indigenous communities.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Indigenous Australians are nearly three times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to experience high levels of psychological distress, have hearing problems as children and bilateral vision loss.

Indigenous Australians are also twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday or have a disability or a long-term health condition.

The Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge is the second trek of its kind the University has organised to raise awareness and funds to help tackle these challenges.

In 2017, the sixty-five-kilometre Larapinta Trail Challenge raised $152,432 through the support of 950 donors.

Passionate about Indigenous equity, it wasn’t hard to convince Wallsend eye surgeon Jeff Dobinson to sign up. His brother-in-law, Richard Anicich, participated in the 2017 challenge.

This year the pair tackled the Ikara-Flinders challenge together.

Jeff said he and Richard are no strangers to hiking. Together they climbed to the top of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro in 2011.

“Richard came back speaking very highly of the last [Larapinta] trek – that it was such good exposure for a great cause,” Jeff said.

“I’m also a keen walker and I’m looking forward to seeing that part of the world,” he said before setting off on the trek.

Among the list of people who embarked on the Ikara-Flinders Ranges trek was University of Newcastle alumnus, Bean Counters Ball board member and BeLLCORP Profit for Purpose Manager, Bernadette Smyth.

Bernadette remarked the whole experience was very rewarding and a great opportunity to support a worthy cause.

“The Ikara Flinders Ranges Challenge was an incredible opportunity to connect with others and take in the beauty of outback SA, whilst raising money for a very worthy cause,” she said.

“I’ve made new friends and connections and discovered strengths I didn’t know I had. It is an honour to be an alumnus of a University that is passionate about supporting the local community.”

The University of Newcastle is a leader in social justice and Indigenous education, with more than 1,000 Indigenous enrolments and the third largest number of Indigenous staff of any Australian university.

This year, it surpassed the milestone of graduating 100 Indigenous doctors.

The University’s 2017 challenge helped support fifteen Indigenous undergraduate scholarships, three PhD top-up scholarships for emerging Indigenous leaders and two research programs aimed at tackling Indigenous community health issues.

The research funding contributed towards a health App to support Indigenous mothers called MAMAS, and an outreach program delivering podiatry and foot care education to Central Coast Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, helping tackle the disproportionately high rates of diabetes-related foot complications.

You can donate and learn more about the Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge by visiting

IMAGE | Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge 2019 trekkers team

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