The last weekend of March marks the annual walk in Australia’s capital; The Aussie Peace Walk. This year I attended the walk to learn more about the 32-year-old event, why people walk, and who they are raising money for this time around. I participated in the walks and tried to immerse myself in the event, talking to the event organisers, volunteers and other participants, first-timers and returners. Community is the first word that comes to my mind when reflecting on the event, the two-day weekend was full of great people doing great things.
Over the two day event I experienced the coming together of a community which was filled with different nationalities, cultures, beliefs and religions but all with the same goal, raising money for the less fortunate. This year the Aussie Peace Walk (APW) was donating money to the Give Every Child a Future foundation which hopes to reduce child mortality and cervical cancer for those in the Pacific. Over the weekend their were a total of seven different walks ranging from 7km to the 42km marathon. For those that manage to walk on both days they receive a special medal in honour of their achievement. While walking one of the days gets you a personalised certificate displaying the distance you have walked.
Each participant received a passport with their name and distances they were walking. Inside the passport showed the route to walk and had spots where they were to receive a stamp at checkpoints along the way. The passport served as a souvenir or a reminder of the feats you had accomplished and every time that new stamp was put into your book it was a step closer to achieving what you had set out to do.
On the Saturday I walked the 21km where I immersed myself in the experience. The 21km walk was a tough three-hour journey. I was able to engage with other walkers and speak to them about why they chose to partake and how long they have been coming to the APW. One walker told me that this was their 25th year and they enjoy being part of a community that gives back and helps those in need. He expressed to me this happiness of being around people that love walking like he does and how the challenge of the APW helped him get physically fit so he could improve on his time every year. Others spoke to me about how the event is a great opportunity to get out with their friends and do something that is physically and mentally productive. For myself I started to understand how the walk was a great chance to get out and appreciate the landscape and nature around you. The walks went past The War Memorial, The Botanical Gardens, The Arboretum, The Rotary Peace Bell and other beautiful Canberra sites.
The APW is organised and put together by the Rotary Clubs of Canberra and they rely on volunteers from those clubs to help out during the weekend. The sense of community was prevalent at each of the checkpoints I visited, with those manning the checkpoints going above and beyond their tasks. Some had scones that they had made the morning of the event, some had drinks but what they all had was friendly smiles and a caring nature making sure all walkers were taken care of and had everything they needed. So many of them were happy to have a chat about your day and ask about your walk so far, taking a real interest in your experience. Many of them set up shop early in the day with the first walks starting at 6am on Saturday and 7am on the Sunday. You would have never been able to tell that most of them had got up before sunrise on a weekend because they brought an infectious energy to the event and made you look forward to the next set of checkpoints to get to know the next group of lovely volunteers.
The best part of the weekend was certainly the Sunday when participants who finished their walk would receive their medals before having pictures in front of the array of flags inside Albert Hall. There was a sense of pride I felt from everyone after completing the walk, especially knowing that were helping out a worthy cause in the process. This was more true than ever when you saw how many people pushed through the Sunday walk after having completed a gruelling one on the Saturday – many of them being seniors. The smiles on their faces lit up in front of the Rotary Flags, with many of them proudly showing off their well earned medal. Whether they came as a scout group, a family, a couple, a group of friends or just by themselves, it was a group effort to get through six plus hours of walking at minimum over the two-days, but the encouragement of strangers helped many push through, me alike.
The two-day experience was fun and worthwhile and I can see why participants would want to return annually. There’s no surprise in my book why this event has been going on for 32 years and counting. I can certainly see that the Aussie Peace Walk does a great job at bringing a community together for a good cause while helping improve participants mental and physical health. The event was one that finished with glowing amount of pride and accomplishment from those that walked, volunteered and organised this highly recommendable event.
Don’t forget to save the date for The Aussie Peace Walk in 2023 on the 25th-26th March.
Photos by Zachary Colwell