Warehouse worker a walking warrior
Thursday, 30th January, 2014
By Nick Gibbs
Walking activist Coen Tate is in Broken Hill as part of a mammoth journey from Sydney to Uluru and back in aid of Aboriginal health.
Spending a few days in the district has been a surprising blessing for Coen who used the opportunity to delve into his family’s connections in Wilcannia.
“Being in Broken Hill has been lovely,” he said. “I’ve been about to find out a lot of new information about my family.”
Speaking to the BDT yesterday, the former warehouse worker said the idea for the trek was sparked after a conversation with a friend in February last year.
“Originally it was about escaping the hustle and bustle of city life. Then we thought it would be a good opportunity to raise money for charity,” he said.
The cause is something Coen feels passionately about and he said raising awareness was vital in urban areas.
“My experience in Sydney is that people don’t understand the issue facing Aboriginal Australians,” he said, explaining that many city dwellers had little understanding of indigenous affairs, stemming from stereotypes developed in suburbs like Redfern.
“I would feel very safe walking around in Redfern now,” he said.
Closing the gap in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians was an issue particularly important to him.
“The difference in life expectancy in Wilcannia, which is where my Aboriginal heritage is from, is around 35 years.
“Between 2002 and 2012, Aboriginal youth suicide jumped 500 per cent (nationally).”
Coen described the preservation of traditional practices as crucial to helping Aboriginal youth develop a sense of cultural perspective.
“It gives you a sense of identity and a sense of purpose, and if you don’t have identity and purpose, what do you have?”
The stretch from Sydney to Broken Hill has been a success with word of Coen’s travels now reaching his next destination before he arrives.
“It’s been wonderful. I’m having a lot of fun. I’ve been amazed at the generosity people have shown. Sometimes I’ve just been talking to people in the pub and the publican will come over and offer me a bed.
“I left with no contacts but now I’m developing a rolling contact list.”
Such a long trek through some of the most unpopulated regions of Australia did result in several occasions when it was not possible to rely on the kindness of strangers for a bed, but this did not faze the young adventurer.
“Sometimes I’ll sleep on the side of the road. I carry a tarp and sleeping bag with me,” he said.
Travelling solo also had its advantages and disadvantages.
“I enjoy it, it’s a different way to take in the country.
“I just have to be aware of rationing water and having enough phone battery.”
In the lead-up to the trip Coen spent time running and cycling to help develop his cardio fitness, but said there was only so much training he could do to prepare himself for walking upwards of 30kms each day.
“My body is adjusting now. Initially I set myself a quota of 35 kilometres per day and struggled to do 30.
“Now I can do 40 or 50 each day, easily.”
From Broken Hill Cohen will head to Peterborough as part of a rough schedule that aims to have him in Uluru in mid March.
To donate to his cause, please visit www.gofundme.com/trektotheredcentre
People interested in getting in contact with Coen and showing their support are also encouraged to visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TrekToTheRedCentre