Blue Tree Project - a Stirling initiative for mental health

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Gary McHugh (author), LSIS Ronnie Baltoft (photographer), LSIS Ernesto Sanchez (photographer)

Location(s): Garden Island, WA

Topic(s): HMAS Stirling, Mental Health

Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Glenn Askew from HMAS Stirling assists in positioning a Blue Tree as part of an Australia-wide mental health initiative, at the side of Dampier Road on Garden Island, WA. (photo: LSIS Ernesto Sanchez)
Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Glenn Askew from HMAS Stirling assists in positioning a Blue Tree as part of an Australia-wide mental health initiative, at the side of Dampier Road on Garden Island, WA.

Garden Island, Western Australia is not only home to Navy’s largest base, HMAS Stirling, but also to a variety of unique fauna and flora.

But visitors to Garden Island may recently have come across a variety of tree that stands out from the rest, mainly because of its bright blue paint.

HMAS Stirling Adventure Training Facilitator, Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Glenn Askew, said the new addition to the island’s flora collection was part of an Australia-wide mental health initiative called the Blue Tree Project.

“I saw my first ever blue tree some time ago on a large country property,” Chief Petty Officer Askew said.

“After that I saw a couple more on various golf courses and decided to investigate the reason behind them.

“Since I realised they were part of a mental health project I can’t pass a blue tree without thinking about the importance of asking people “Are you okay?”.”

Chief Petty Officer Askew decided to approach HMAS Stirling’s Executive Officer (XO) Commander Guy Lewis, about the possibility of establishing a blue tree on Garden Island.

“The XO was very positive about the idea, so I got the ball rolling by finding an appropriate tree to work with,” he said.

Being an A-Class Nature Reserve, introduced flora and fauna species are prohibited on Garden Island, so Chief Petty Officer Askew searched for a suitable tree already located on the island.

“I was lucky to find a nine-metre downed tree just north of the Armaments Wharf, and after obtaining the necessary permissions, Commander Andrew Nelson from Fleet Logistics Support Element and I, who are both chainsaw-qualified, set about preparing the tree,” he said.

After selecting and preparing a prominent site at the southern end of Garden Island, the tree was painted, a soak-well was buried and the latest addition to the Blue Tree Project was installed.

Stirling Commanding Officer Captain Ainsley Morthorpe congratulated Chief Petty Officer Askew on the successful completion of the project.

“Mental health is obviously an extremely important issue, not only for Navy but for all Australians,” Captain Morthorpe said.

“By having a tangible reminder such as this, I hope that mental health will remain at the forefront of people’s minds, and I thank Chief Petty Officer Askew and Commander Nelson for their commitment to this cause.”

The Blue Tree Project began in the Western Australian country town of Mukinbudin and has rapidly spread across Australia with the latest count indicating more than 400 trees across the country.

Imagery is available on the Navy Image Gallery: https://images.navy.gov.au/S20201812.