Sunday, April 26, 2015

Welcome to the Parks Victoria Community Inclusion Coordinator

John Kenwright - Community Inclusion Coordinator
Through the TrailRider a friend
After Ros and me, the next person who has made the TrailRider possible in Australia has certainly been John Kenwright. Over dinner in Halls Gap John revealed that he finally had a permanent position at Parks Victoria. 

All these years he had been holding on, from our point of view, by the skin of his teeth as the Community Engagement Coordinator with no permanence. Now that role, with the switch of title from Engagement to Inclusion, has been cast in stone. 

John does amazing work. My bashfulness leads me to quiz him often about how much of John's time the TrailRider takes up and the answer is still an average of a day a week

Beyond that what is happening is an incredibly broad opening of Parks to people of all abilities that gives true voice to Healthy Parks, Healthy People 

As I write this I realise that the next step is to invite a guest post from John so that he can tell you in his own words what he gets up to for the rest of the week!

If you're a Facie I encourage you to like the Parks Victoria page

Friday, April 24, 2015

Sherpa Volunteer Training #3

Class of 2015 with kangaroos
Last Saturday Parks Victoria held their third SVP training session in Halls Gap. That is what all the media exposure in the last few posts was leading up to.

Eight new potential sherpas were there - all can be seen in the group photograph here along with the kangaroos.

What was most exciting was the fact that only two of those eight came from the nearby community. Three folk from Ballarat were there, which is some sense the beginning of an SVP there, along with three from Melbourne who had heard me give out Caitlyn's number on the ABC.

Further to that Caitlyn took quite a number of calls from people who could not make it to Halls Gap that day.
A walk in the park
I would add to that the continued momentum toward a High School/TrailRider connection. 16 year old Matt was there with his Mum setting out to make being a sherpa part of his community volunteer curriculum. In the radio interview with George McEncroe I just happened to have picked 16 as a threshold age for sherpas.

My vision is of Halls Gap, with its fantastic facilities and range of trails steaming ahead as a location for training people to participate in a series of programs gathered around each TrailRider.

My prediction is that those programs will be in some sense auspiced by Conservation Volunteers Australia who employ Caitlyn and that Ballarat/Daylesford will be the next location.

Hats off to John Kenwright for another splendidly organised session and also to Caitlyn O'Reilly for her part as the volunteer co-ordinator in the Grampians.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Press and more press

As you may by now have gathered this Saturday is a sherpa training day at Halls Gap in the Grampians. 

It is great to be telling you all about it but the people that really need to hear the news are those who live near enough to become part of the gang that can show up to help a rider. Arrarat and Stawell are the two nearest towns and the PV media team have secured coverage  in both towns local papers.

Click on the pictures to view the articles

Article only published on paper. That's what counts though

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

On air again - Parks Victoria strut their media stuff

I feel a little sorry for the media staff in any large organisation. They keep churning out the Press Releases and in many cases nobody notices. This time though they struck gold and I was interviewed this afternoon on ABC Radio Melbourne (AKA 774) by George McEnroe.

George thoroughly "got it" in terms of the connection between mental well-being and the connection to nature and even introduced an experience of her own which is well worth hearing.

This connection is very clearly addressed by the Parks Victoria Healthy Parks, Healthy People program that we have spoken of so often and is also emphasised by Feeling Blue, Touch Green

Call Caitlyn O’Reilly on 0428 553 040 to get involved. If you love the bush you'll love it even more as part of a Sherpa team.

David Stratton is interviewed on ABC Melbourne by George McEnroe Here is the Press Release. Hats off to Kate Milkins and David Petty at Parks Victoria
Get out into nature and help others do the same If you enjoy bushwalking and would like to help someone who can’t walk to get out into the bush, then the upcoming TrailRider sherpa volunteer training day may be just for you.
 TrailRider all terrain wheelchairs are a cross between a rickshaw and a wheelchair and allow people with mobility limitations to get out and enjoy more rugged bush trails where conventional wheelchairs cannot go. There are ten TrailRider all terrain wheelchairs located around Victoria and people can book these chairs through Parks Victoria or through selected local councils free of charge.
 The TrailRider needs sherpas to push and pull it along a trail and the number of people needed depends on the difficulty of the trail.
 Parks Victoria is aiming to train people as sherpa volunteers to help TrailRider users in the Grampians National Park. When a TrailRider is booked by someone in this park, there is a group of people available to help sherpa the rider along. You don’t need to be super fit, but a love of being outdoors and good general fitness will be useful.
 “Parks Victoria will teach everyone involved in the training how to manoeuvre the TrailRider and how to support the person in the chair to ensure they have a safe and enjoyable park experience. We will spend some time out on a bush trail to practise our skills in a real situation,” said Parks Victoria Community Activation Coordinator John Kenwright.
 The details of the training are:When: 10.00am to 1.00pm, Saturday 18 April 2015Where: Brambuk - the National Park and Cultural Centre, Halls GapRSVP by 14 April to: Caitlyn O’Reilly on 0428 553 040
 “Being able to get out in the bush once again is an absolute joy,” said Dr David Stratton, the man responsible for introducing the TrailRider to Australia. “For many years after my MS diagnosis, I thought my days of bushwalking were over. But now I can enjoy that pleasure again, I want to ensure that as many other ‘wheelies’ as possible have the chance to get out into the bush too,” said David. Parks Victoria Chief Executive Dr Bill Jackson says there is irrefutable evidence that parks are good for our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.

 “I encourage everyone – regardless of your level of mobility - to get out of the house or work place and find your park connection. It’s time to re-connect with nature,” said Dr Jackson. If you would like any further information about the sherpa training or the TrailRider all terrain wheelchairs in general, please contact John Kenwright at Parks Victoria on 13 1963. For more information on this and other accessibility features in parks across Victoria go to

Monday, April 13, 2015

SVP (Sherpa Volunteer Program) Training #3 - come and join us

There have already been two sherpa volunteer training sessions at the Grampians Park in Halls Gap. Each step along the way more people are joining the growing, and so far only, SVP.

This program is "hosted" by CVA - Conservation Volunteers Australia. Each newcomer is  signed up as a CVA volunteer, which takes care of  the fundamentals of volunteering, before being introduced the fundamentals of guiding a TrailRider.

The next step, being patiently worked on, is for CVA to develop, across Australia, a program that can mesh with each and every chair.

John Kenwright is interviewed on ABC Central Victoria
Parks Victoria have been working hard at developing this program with John Kenwright being interviewed this morning on ABC Central Victoria. Also the official announcement

Parks Victoria is recruiting members of the community to train as Sherpa volunteers for assisting TrailRider users in the Grampians National Park. When a TrailRider is booked by a visitor to the park, the Sherpa volunteers take the visitor out in the  chair on various park trails and assist with pushing/pulling the chair. As a Sherpa volunteer, you don't need to be super fit but a love of being outdoors and good general fitness is required.
The details of the Sherpa volunteer training are as follows:When: 10.00am to 1.00pm , Saturday 18th April 2015Where: Brambuk -the National Park and Cultural Centre, Halls GapRSVP by 17th April to Caitlyn O'Reilly on 0428553040 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In their own words

The team taking a break - beside a natural spring
Photo Ros Hart
My excitement about school students in Daylesford becoming involved is infectious. I am hearing a lot of talk about it but most of all feedback, in the form of blog comments, from two of the kids involved. Here is what they said:
Thank you to David and Ros for having me as a Sherpa it was really a wonderful experience for me I will tell everyone about this experience I hope to see u next year thank you to all the other people that help all the best
It was absolutely amazing learning to sherpa for you! The whole experience was very eye opening, and truly inspiring. I feel very lucky to have taken part in this, and think it would be a great idea to incorporate activities like these in the school curriculum. As a student, I love interactive learning, and learning to sherpa for you was very rewarding. It was great to hear your stories, and I felt privileged to share the day with you. Thank you to Ros, yourself and the rest of the team for making the day so pleasant. It was great to meet you all, and I hope to see you again.
This is exceptional in so many ways. Preconceptions about disability are being contradicted. New connections in the community are being forged. For the kids, who might not rate school so highly, something different is happening. who knows where it might lead.

For Cornish Hill, and later other tracks, Brendan and I are working on an online map for people toting smartphones. A QR code (those funny black and white square things) on each signpost will tell people exactly where they are.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Advocate advocates

Click to read newspaper article

TrailRiders are a good idea but they become a better and better idea as more and more potential riders and sherpas become aware of them. That is what publicity, in an increasingly noisy space, is all about and the traditional printed, often local, press remains a vital way to get attention.

The Dayelsford Advocate (now the title makes sense!) has published a beautiful article about the Cornish Hill Track launch a couple of weeks ago.
Click on photo to read online