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Friday, 16 March 2012
Page: 2052

Senator FAULKNER (New South Wales) (14:00): On a very wet Friday 2 March, a fortnight ago today, on the northern beaches of Sydney, I was one of more than 1,300 competitors in the Wild Women on Top—

Senator Colbeck: What?

Senator FAULKNER: Sydney Coastrek 50-100 Kilometre Team Challenge. Senator, if you listen carefully you will learn all about it. I knew it would immediately garner your interest! The Sydney Coastrek is an 'endurance event, to promote health and fitness as well as team work, mental and emotional toughness, and fun'. More importantly, it raises vital funds for the work of the Fred Hollows Foundation. The Fred Hollows Foundation envisages a world where no-one is needlessly blind. The foundation has done magnificent work in Indigenous communities in Australia as well as in other disadvantaged communities in our region and around the developing world. The foundation has helped restore the sight of more than a million people worldwide and has manufactured over four million intraocular lenses. It was fantastic to see so many teams keen to take on the challenge of Coastrek and support such a good cause.

Our Achilles Coastrekers consisted of two teams of four walkers. We took on the 50-kilometre challenge from Palm Beach to Balmoral. The first team, the Achilles Athletes Team, consisted of blind or partially blind walkers: Ben Phillips, Bart Bunting, Freya Higgins and Nicole Tillotson. Ben Phillips' achievements as a blind cricketer and member of the Tigers Oxfam Trailwalker Team are well known now to senators. Having successfully completed last year's 100-kilometre Oxfam Melbourne Trailwalk—and, I might say, he is well advanced in his training schedule for this year's event in late April—Benny was obviously keen for some more punishment! The second team, the Achilles Guides Team, consisted of sighted competitors—Diane McEwin, Peter Hannigan, Katy Anderson and yours truly. As the name suggests, our team members acted as the guides for the blind team over the 50 kilometres.

This year the Sydney Coastrek was made even more challenging by the wind and rain that had been lashing Sydney for days. Our teams managed to complete the Coastrek but had to do so in some of the worst conditions imaginable. Sydney really turned on some foul weather and horrendous trail conditions for the event. Mr Acting Deputy President, it was a relief, I can assure you, to take our final steps at Balmoral Beach after 18 hours and 10 minutes of walking.

The Coastrek trail follows bush tracks and footpaths along Sydney's normally very picturesque northern beaches coastline. We walked across the soft sand of ocean and harbour beaches and over headlands and cliff tops. Some of the highlights of the walk were Nicole's heroic 35 kilometres with very painful blisters, Benny's battle with exhaustion, Bart's reverse perambulation to relieve the pain in his knees and Freya's consistently positive attitude.

Sydney Coastrek set the goal of raising a million dollars for the Fred Hollows Foundation, and it is very gratifying to confirm that target has been reached. In fact, just a few minutes ago the Sydney Coastrek website indicated that $1,034,576 had been raised through this event for the Fred Hollows Foundation. I think all senators would agree that is a truly magnificent result. I would like to note in particular that the supporters of the Achilles teams contributed over $11,000 to that fundraising effort.

I would like to thank and congratulate the event organisers and all those at Wild Women on Top, with a special mention of their managing director, Di Westaway, for her valuable advice and assistance to our teams. Sincere thanks also go to our tireless support crew and the other volunteers who gave up their weekend to support us and did so much to help us finish, and the Fred Hollows Foundation. Finally, I say, 'Really well done' to my team mates in the Achilles Athletes and Achilles Guides teams. It was a great achievement by a great bunch of people and it was great to be part of it.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Back ): Inspirational, Senator Faulkner.