On Friday, 8 May, I was delighted to traipse down to the Westfield Fountain Gate shopping centre, which is, I think, the second largest shopping centre in this country, for a very special event that was being hosted by Fawn Brady and Jessica White from a wonderful organisation called Kane’s Crusade. They were doing the Melbourne leg of the Plebs, Pros and Personalities 24 Hour Run at Fountain Gate. This event was being conducted to raise funds for Suicide Prevention Australia. This event coincided with other events held across the nation in places like Perth, the Gold Coast, Wollongong and Sydney. It saw members of the public, celebrities and professional athletes from across the country running against each other on treadmills for 24 hours.
The event was created in Sydney three years ago by Ben Higgs and Matt Dee after being personally affected by suicide. Both men felt compelled to do something, and this was their response. They wanted to create an event that not only raised funds for Suicide Prevention Australia but raised awareness of the issue within the community. The Melbourne events saw appearances by Jane and Emma from Channel Seven’s My Kitchen Rules, Australian champion boxer Sam Soliman and AFL champ Campbell Brown. There were many events surrounding this: face painters, balloon artists, local bands and singers, online auctions and great presentations by local martial arts experts. It was a wonderful event, in which some of my staff participated.
The two young women who organised this event really are committed to raising awareness about the devastation caused by suicide in our region. We have been affected by it profoundly. The event which was conducted by our two young ladies raised $5,059, and the event raised over $80,000 nationally. It has built on more than $150,000 that has been raised since this event began.
The key thing is that what these two young people are doing is making it acceptable to talk about suicide prevention in this country in a way which makes men in particular feel comfortable about doing so. They are doing a great job. I noticed that a lot of people came and were talking to everyone involved, and there were tons of volunteers, too many to read their names out. The fact that this event was being conducted at Westfield meant that it got a lot of community attention and a lot of enthusiastic participants. People were literally walking off the street, wanting to participate, wanting to learn more. Actually having that conversation in a safe environment about the impact of suicide on the community and what can be done to prevent it is quite extraordinary. It is a testament to two young women and also to the management of Westfield Fountain Gate, who made their centre available for 24 hours for this community based campaign. I hope this event continues for long years, and I commend everyone involved in the event.