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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 2894


Senator FAULKNER (New South Wales) (21:01): On Saturday, 20 April, this year, the Tigers/True Believers Oxfam Trailwalker team finished the 100 kilometre Oxfam Melbourne Trailwalker 2013 event, and did so in 28 hours and 53 minutes, shaving six minutes off the world record time that was set last year for a team with a blind competitor. That blind competitor was our mate, Ben Phillips. I give full credit to Benny. He set out to beat his own world record and he did.

This year's Melbourne event was the Tigers' 13th Oxfam Trailwalker. I am very honoured that one of the team members Mr Greg Bell a famous trail walker, has joined me in the chamber tonight. Mr Bell was back for his fourth trail walk. Our totally blind competitor Ben Phillips was back for the third time, and the Melburnian Tigers Trailwalker, Daniel White, was there for his second walk. I would have to admit that in my own case it was walk No. 13.

There were 750 teams, assisted by support crews, and 850 Oxfam volunteers took part in this year's Melbourne Oxfam Trailwalker. Of the 3,024 participants, 79 per cent finished the 100 kilometres, and 54 per cent of teams made it to the finish line as a complete team of four. I am pleased to report that, once again, every member of the Tigers team finished with all four members crossing the finish line. The Melbourne Oxfam Trailwalker event seems to be getting tougher every year. This year there were significant changes made to the trail which, in fact, increased the average time taken for teams to complete the course by 33 minutes. So I am also pleased to be able to report to the Senate that the Tigers beat the average time for completing the walk by a very substantial eight minutes.

The event this year started on a crisp autumn morning at Wheelers Hill which is, I am told, 22 kilometres south-east of the Melbourne CBD. The start line offers walkers a panoramic view of the Dandenongs. The view of those mountains in the early stages of the walk are a constant reminder to participants of the tough challenge that lies ahead of them. The trail walk follows Dandenong Creek through the Churchill National Park, slowly transitioning from suburbs to bush through to Lysterfield Lake. After Lysterfield Lake the trail changes significantly from that of previous years. The Tigers team battled through those new sections, including the gruelling Kokoda Memorial Track—known locally as 'the 1,000 steps'—as well as some of the most mountainous terrain of the Dandenong Ranges National Park. In fact, it was not without some difficulty this year because, in the wee small hours of Saturday morning, plummeting temperatures almost forced Ben to withdraw from the event as his own body temperature dropped alarmingly. But after an hour or two under a space blanket and under the close eye of Oxfam paramedics, we were delighted that Ben was given the all clear to battle on.

The next morning, the Yarra Valley and the gullies and forests of the Dandenongs were a very welcome distraction from blisters and the freezing overnight temperatures. The final section is easily the toughest part of the trail. It includes a steep climb towards Mount Little Joe, then what I could only describe as goat tracks, the odd fire trail and finally some very steep and rocky ascents and descents. Needless to say, the finish line at Wesburn Park could not have come soon enough for us and all the other competitors.

As always, we could not have done it without the tireless assistance of our amazing support crew. The Tigers would like to sincerely thank all the staff from the office of my colleague Anthony Byrne MP, the member for Holt. Special thanks go, again, to Alexandra Stalder; her mum, Helen Stalder; and Nick McLennan. I have to say, in relation to Alexandra and Helen, they have supported and made it all happen for the Tigers team in Melbourne for five years, and we really do appreciate such sterling support and effort on their part.

As always, thanks also go to the Balmain Tigers Rugby League Football Club for their ongoing support for our team. I only wish we could give some support to Balmain Tigers, because they are not travelling as well as one would hope this season, in the guise of Wests Tigers—as you would appreciate, Mr President. I hope—perhaps against hope!—that they will turn their fortunes around against South Sydney this weekend. And Mr President, I note the bias from the chair as you shake your head—I am not sure that is quite acceptable from the President of the Senate! I understand that you might be somewhat doubtful about the chances of the Tigers, but we will be with them anyway.

But of course, as you know, Oxfam is a great cause. Since 1999 Oxfam Trailwalker events in Australia have raised more than $49 million. Donations assist Oxfam's vital work in developing countries around the globe and in Indigenous communities in Australia and really do assist and equip some of the world's most vulnerable people to bring about very positive change in their lives. There are a number of people in this place, including some in the chamber here tonight, who have been very strong supporters of our team, and I thank all those in the building who have done that over many years now.

As of 15 minutes ago, the 2013 Melbourne Oxfam Trailwalker event has raised over $2½ million. The Tigers so far have raised $9,690, so we are just $310 shy of our $10,000 fundraising target, which we are very confident we will not only reach but exceed. So, if anyone would like to donate and help us reach our goal and assist the wonderful work of Oxfam, please visit—here we go again; it is always a great risk when I read a website into the Hansard record, but, Mr President, for yours and for everyone else's edification, I am going to do it again here tonight—it is https://trailwalker.oxfam.org.au/team/home/14157. I thank the Senate.