Two Australian sailors will cross the Simpson Desert from tomorrow (July 25, 2016) to raise awareness for mental health in support of the Black Dog Ride.
Petty Officer Sean Blacklock, 30, of HMAS Adelaide, and Leading Seaman Alex Mills, 28, of HMAS Darwin, will cross the desert on their Suzuki DR650s supported by two vehicles with three helpers, including Alex’s son, Charlie, 6.
“We were both talking about doing a cool trip, then I read a document about the alarming increase in suicide in the Defence Forces, in particular in the Navy, and I had a friend who committed suicide at sea, so we thought we had to do something to raise awareness,” Sean says.
“I think we have an alarming spike in suicides in the Navy because we are many months at sea.
“We are away from home a lot more than we care to think about and when you put people in stressful war situations away from their loved ones this type of thing is bound to happen.”
So they contacted Black Dog Ride to offer their services and the Defence Tour De Dune was born.
Sean says the sailors onboard the HMAS Adelaide have made BDR the official ship’s charity.
The Defence Tour De Dune has raised over $1000 so far among Sean and his friends, and aims to double that to support BDR’s nationwide suicide prevention projects.
“Some of that money we are raising will come straight back to us as BDR will conduct mental health first aid training on the HMAS Adelaide,” Sean says.
The training will arm Defence personnel with the tools to identify and respond appropriately to a mental health crisis among their colleagues.
The two sailors have been road riders for a long time and have done some sand training around Newcastle in preparation for their trip.
They will cross the Simpson Desert west to east along the French Line on motorcycles over 16 days, departing Maroubra in Sydney and heading through Dubbo, staying at Cobar on the first night. The second day will bring them to Broken Hill for the evening, then they ride off-road through South Australia, Queensland and back into NSW over 16 long days.