A GROUP of shearers, rousabouts and supporters has made a huge contribution toward raising $100,000 for men’s mental health after a 24-hour shear-a-thon at Warrnambool in south-west Victoria last weekend.
Over Friday and Saturday last week, six shearers, their wool handlers and young sheepos put 3062 crossbred lambs across the board at the Warrnambool Showgrounds, cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd of supporters.
The 24HR Shear Madness committee this year nominated the Lets Talk Foundation that aims to raise awareness around the need to talk about mental health.
The five shearers in the Warrnambool shearathon – Roger Mifsud and his two sons Corey and Brodie, Phil Edwards, and Nhill brothers Josh and Brandon Bone – each participated in honour of mates who had taken their lives.
Lets Talk community activation lead Abbi Power said the shear-a-thon was “amazing and emotional.”
“It’s been a long journey to get here, but a really good event.”
Ms Power said Let’s Talk will be grateful for whatever was raised and it was too soon to tally what has been raised, but it would include Holt Farms donating the cost of the shearing, the sale value of the wool and the auction of donated items valued at $16,500.
“We don’t know how we are going, but we know we are doing really well.
“Yesterday we had someone ring up and donate $6000.”
Ms Power said key outcomes from these events was breaking down the stigma of mental health issues among “tough blokes.”
“Getting them talking, encouraging everybody else to talk.
“I think this has huge ripple effects in the ag industry as well as people from town.”
Ms Power said having the photos of mates affected by mental health issues on their catching pen doors helped drive them through the challenging shear-a-thon.
“But it is absolutely raising awareness that ‘hey, these people were here not long ago’ and there’s support out there, there is so much help available, please seek help, that’s what we are all about.
“And encourage people to talk, and the more that we can highlight that these people have been lost to us by suicide, the more hopefully we can prevent that,” she said.
“We cannot thank the shearers and the crew enough.
“I mean what they are putting themselves through, some of these guys are literally taped up with tape all over their bodies holding them together.”
After the shear-a-thon concluded, Phil Edwards said he was shearing for a schoolmate he lost about six weeks ago, Tiare Ryder.
“It’s a privilege to do something like this to make a difference.”
Brody Mifsud also shore in honour of Tiare and said: “if we save one life it means a hell of a lot.”
Josh Bone shore 454 in normal hours on Friday with taped knees in honour of his mate Jake Gaulke from Dimboola who took his life at age 24.
“I need new knees, but I’m too young so they won’t give me any and I’ve had about nine or ten massages just to make it.
“Halfway through I was absolutely spent and didn’t know if I could keep going and Brandon just said ‘look at your door’ and that’s all I needed to soldier on.”
“To honor a mate and to be on the board with people that feel your pain or have been in that situation … it’s just nice to share that and what an experience, to raise awareness for a cause that seems to get swept under the rug and it should be out and about and save more lives,” Josh said.
Roger Mifsud and his sons were also shearing for Tiare Ryder and he said it was shock to hear of his loss.
“It gives more meaning to what we are doing to try to stop this.”
Roger, 57, the oldest shearer on the board, “by a fair bit”, said he would keep doing the shear-a-thon as long as his body and family would allow him to.
Retired shearer Corey Mifsud said after experiencing mental health issues and losing a mate it was good to finish the shear-a-thon.
“Hopefully, we can help even just one person.
“I think as mates, if we’ve got any suspicions, just a text message or a phone call and just check in and say ‘Are you OK and do you want to chat or catch up?”
Corey had not done a full day shearing for three years and had knee surgery only five weeks ago.
“Honestly, I’m happy to go through a bit of pain with the knee if I can raise awareness and get someone to speak up and just ask for help.”
Ms Power said donations were expected to come in for some months.
“It will just be ongoing, there won’t be a cut-off time and we will continue to take any donations around the event.”
For more information or to donate click here.
Where to get help
- Lifeline: 13 11 14 – National 24 hour telephone counselling service for the cost of a local call.
- Mens Line Australia: 1300 78 99 78 – National 24-hour telephone counselling service for the cost of a local call.
- Salvo Counselling Line: 1300 36 36 22 – 24-hour telephone counselling service.
- SANE Australia Helpline: 1800 18 7263; [email protected]
- beyondblue Information Line: 1300 22 46 36
- Kids Help Line: 1800 551 800 – 24-hour free telephone counselling for children and young people under the age of 18.
- Reach Out! Youth Website – www.reachout.com.au
- Vibe Australia www.vibe.com.au – Allows you to search for services by location
- Just Ask: 1300 131 114 www.justask.org.au – Lifeline’s rural mental health information service.