Taking the long way for resilience

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Will Singer (author), LSIS Ronnie Baltoft (photographer), LSIS Lee-Anne Cooper (photographer)

Location(s): Bibbulmun Track

Topic(s): Training, HMAS Stirling, Sport, Health, Fitness and Wellbeing

Navy personnel from Western Australian units at the start of the Bibbulmun Track in Kalamunda, Western Australia. (photo: LSIS Lee-Anne Cooper)
Navy personnel from Western Australian units at the start of the Bibbulmun Track in Kalamunda, Western Australia.

Kalamunda, high in the Perth hills, was the muster-point for fresh legs participating in a ‘relay of resilience’ on the Bibbulmun Track - the long distance walk trail in Western Australia.

Between April and June, around 100 Navy personnel from Western Australian based units will undertake a staged adventure training activity to walk the 1,002 kilometre Bibbulmun Track from start to finish.

HMAS Stirling’s Commanding Officer Captain Brian Delamont said that the activity provided Navy personnel the ideal opportunity to experience one of Australia's iconic walking tracks.

“It is designed to 'choose your challenge' maximising participation by personnel who would not normally do this activity,” Captain Delamont said.

“Individuals will select appropriate track stages based on the distance, time and difficulty, taking into account their own personal goals and level of fitness.

“It is part of Stirling's adventure training program to meet the Navy priorities of 'Fit to Fight' under the Navy Resilience Plan, mental health management, teambuilding, community engagement and fundraising,” he said.

The walking commenced with a team of 11 members who completed the first 19 kilometres led by seasoned adventure training facilitator Chief PettyOfficer Marine Technician Glenn Askew, who will be walking the entire track.

“Once the first 19 kilometre section is completed a six person walking team will continue in a relay style format, swapping out over the 28 stages,” Chief Petty Officer Askew said.

“The six person team will then consist of the facilitator, two clearance diver assistants and three Fleet Base West participants.

“Distances range from 10 to 45 kilometres, averaging around 20 kilometres per day,” Chief Petty Officer Askew said.

“The Bibbulmun Track Foundation will be at the finish in Albany to receive a donation from all the walkers while the local Navy Cadet Unit Training Ship Vancouver will also join in for the last 5 kilometres of the walk to the finish,” he said.

Also ‘geared-to-go’ Chaplain James Sutherland said that the Stirling’s Chaplaincy has a direct and active interest in supporting and increasing the resilience of Navy members.

“This is a good opportunity to play a part in helping others to achieve that aim,” Chaplain Sutherland said.

“Additionally, I have also always wanted to hike some of the Bibbulmun Track and this is a wonderful way of getting a small taste of the overall experience.

“For me physical training is an important aspect of remaining individually ready.

“I think this track walk is a great initiative by Stirling Command in providing opportunities to get outdoors, experience nature and build relationships within the team,” he said.

Lieutenant Kieran Davis said that it presented an excellent opportunity for him to get out of the work environment and to step outside his comfort zone.

“I particularly enjoy hiking through the ‘wilderness’ as I can readily switch off to the world and reset my bearings, which I find improves my morale and productivity at work,” Lieutenant Davis said.

“I believe that physical and mental coping strategies go hand in hand for me.

“Good physical preparation (routine, training) provides a strong basis for me to mentally cope with a situation in an adverse environment.

“I like to draw upon the benefits or reasons for why I am in a certain situation to guide me through that situation; particularly in adverse environments.

“The Bibbulmun Track is a world famous hike and I am fortunate that it is on my door step,” he said.

One of the stage one walkers, Lieutenant Commander Alex Turner, said that she believed that taking breaks from work and family commitments to do things for herself was important for building resilience.

“Walking the Bibbulmun Track is something I have wanted to do for myself for many years, but I have never felt it was a high enough priority,” Lieutenant Commander Turner said.
“I am delighted that Navy has given me an opportunity to do it now," she said.

The Bibbulmun Track runs from Kalamunda, east of Perth to Albany and the name comes from the Bibbulmun, or Noongar people, Indigenous Australians from the Perth area.