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Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 7125


Senator FAULKNER (New South Wales) (22:21): I have previously spoken in the Senate about the Tigers Oxfam Trailwalker Team. This year the Tigers team set a new goal to become the first team in Australia to participate in all three Australian trailwalks: Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. I remind the Senate that the event is not a relay—all team members are required to walk the full 100 kilometres. I am pleased to report to the Senate that the Tigers's successfully achieved their goal.

I and Max Bryant, who is here in the chamber, now with 19 successful trailwalks between us, were joined by other Tigers to chalk up three more 100-kilometre non-stop trailwalks to help raise money for Oxfam Australia.

In the Melbourne trailwalk in April the Tigers continued our tradition of guiding a totally blind team member. Our team comprised Max Bryant, Daniel White, Ben Phillips, who is totally blind, and yours truly. Ben set himself the goal of completing the fastest ever trailwalk by a blind trail walker anywhere in the world. It was some ambition—put simply, Ben wanted a world record! And he got it. Ben completed his second Oxfam Trailwalker in the amazing time of 28 hours and 59 minutes.

Oxfam have assisted us by providing information relating to blind walkers in trailwalks from around the world, and this puts Ben's achievement into some perspective. In the Oxfam Germany Trailwalkers there have never been any blind participants. In Oxfam India—never any blind participants. So, too, for the Oxfam Trailwalker in France—no blind participants. As far as Oxfam Great Britain is concerned, their records over the last five years, which are all that are available, show there have been no blind participants on either the Oxfam Trailwalker or Trailtrekker. Oxfam Japan had one blind participant in their 2010 event. That team retired during the event. In the Oxfam Belgium event they had one blind participant in 2010—again, that team retired during the event. But, in the Sydney trailwalk, from 2003 to 2007 Charlie McConnell competed with great distinction, with a fastest time of 37 hours in his 2006 trailwalk. In the Oxfam Melbourne Trailwalker of 2010 the Tigers' own Nick Gleeson completed the 100 kilometres in 34 hours and 42 minutes. He is totally blind. In the Oxfam Melbourne Trailwalker of 2011 our own Benny Phillips made it over the line in 37 hours and two minutes. But in this year's Melbourne Oxfam Trailwalker Ben Phillips came home in 28 hours and 59 minutes—that is a world record. Sincere congratulations go to Ben. This was a truly courageous effort from him.

As I have before, I take this opportunity to pay tribute to our support crew in Melbourne. These events really are a team effort, and the team extends well beyond the four blokes on the track. My caucus colleague Anthony Byrne MP, the member for Holt, and his staff were once again simply magnificent in their support for our Tigers team. Led by the ever reliable Alex Stalder and her mum, Helen—who let us say has seen more than her fair share of Tigers trailwalks—Nick McClennan, who is also here in the chamber tonight, Mel Demirova, Faik Demirova, Dina McMillan and, of course, Anthony himself all came along and gave tremendous support to help the Tigers walkers with whatever was required at the check points and before and after the event. As always, we sincerely appreciate their help. The team could not have done this without our support crew and Ben Phillips would not have been able to achieve that magnificent world record without the efforts of our support crew, so my sincere thanks to them.

In June this year Greg Bell, who made his debut Oxfam Trailwalker in Sydney last year, returned to the Tigers team for the Brisbane event along with first-time walker Andrew Churchill. They joined Max and me in a tremendous battle in some incredibly difficult conditions, which I think you would appreciate about Brisbane, Mr President. The odds were against us: the weather was hot, the hills steep, the track unrelenting, and some unfortunate circumstances and injuries meant that the Tigers team did it extra tough. After a real struggle, Andrew was forced to retire after 74 kilometres, but the rest of the team got home in what I could only describe as a torturous 37 hours and 17 minutes.

Recently, Kieran Gilbert from the Fourth Estate joined Greg, Max and me for the final instalment of our Oxfam Trailwalker trifecta—the Sydney event last month. The rugged Sydney trail is well known to our Tigers team after half a dozen trailwalks there and plenty of practice walks. One thing is for sure: the Sydney Oxfam Trailwalker is never easy, and we were relieved when our full team crossed the line in 31 hours and three minutes.

As I speak tonight, after 12 trailwalks—six in Sydney, five in Melbourne and one in Brisbane—our fundraising for Oxfam totals $284,512.41. In Melbourne this year we raised $18,430 for Oxfam, in Brisbane $16,041, and for the Sydney event we raised $11, 620, with a fundraising function still to come. We know that this money makes a real difference to many needy people around the world and we sincerely thank the Balmain Tigers for all they do for our team. We also sincerely thank all our support crews—in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane—and, of course, all of our donors who have so generously contributed to the great work of Oxfam.

Senate adjourned 22:30