WHO ARE WE
The Heart 2 Heart Walk was planned by a small group of serving and retired first responders. We serve, or have served, in New South Wales, Victoria, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, as well as across the country and overseas.
In essence, we are at the start of the journey, and this journey is more than just a walk. The walk is a means to an end, noting there will always be a need to ensure we provide better support for all Australian first responders. The walk, the cause, the objectives are all part of what is required for us both as individuals, and as a collective.
The Planning Team:
Vince, Grog, Brownie, Bats, Phil, Elmo and Dave held the inaugural meeting in July 2021. The group quickly grew to include, Cam, Milney, Billy, Pia, Matt & Sarah U, Hoppy, Pieps, Tammy, Scott, Sarah, Forbesy, Pru ...and we welcomed many others along this important journey!
WHY WE DID IT
What do we want to achieve in relation to first responder mental health and wellbeing? We want to make a difference. We intend to lead by example. We hope it will galvanise effort and bring really good people, already doing great things, together, for a common cause, through a collective effort.
There is lots of great stuff being done by volunteers and non-for-profit groups, and others. But as the old adage says, united we stand, divided we fall. We hope this walk forms new alliances, bring greater leverage with governments to get the things done that need to be done.
1. Raise awareness around the impacts of first responder mental health and wellbeing of serving and retired (veteran), and families, of first responders;
2. Seek commitment from the Federal Government to implement all of the 14 recommendations from the 2019 Senate Inquiry: ‘The people behind 000: mental health of our first responders’, and specifically into First Responder suicide, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and premature mortality;
3. Raise funds in order to;
(a) undertake academic research to obtain empirical evidence into the impacts upon serving and retired first responder mental health and wellbeing to devise strategies to deal with same; and,
(b) Explore and provide meaningful and positive education opportunities for first responders, past and present, and their families, to better support them all;
4. Support the establishment of a National First Responder Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, to provide greater command, communication, coordination and leadership of effort, to complement the Defence and Veteran’s Suicide Commission.
2019 SENATE INQUIRY AND GOVERNMENT RESPONSE
The 2019 Australian Senate Inquiry Report into First Responder Suicide, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Premature Mortality
A primary objective for the walk is to seek an update and commitment from the Australian Government to the 2019 Australian Senate Inquiry Report into First Responder Suicide, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Premature Mortality and Report ‘The people behind 000: mental health of our first responders’.
In February 2019, the Australian Senate’s Education and Employment References Committee (a bipartisan standing committee) completed an Inquiry into First Responder Suicide, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Premature Mortality. Key outcomes from this inquiry included:
The final report detailed fourteen (14) recommendations;
Government Members of the Committee abstained from supporting the recommendations;
The Australian Government response to the Inquiry Report was not forthcoming for a further 12 months; and consisted of the following:
Of the 14 recommendations, the (then) Australian Government:
‘Supported in Principle’ eight (8) recommendations;
‘Noted’ five (5) recommendations; and,
‘Supported’ only one (1) recommendation.
The full Senate report can be found here: The people behind 000: mental health of our first responders (aph.gov.au)
Allan is one of Australia’s most highly decorated citizens, being one of only five Australians in the past 48 years to receive Australia’s highest bravery decoration and civil award, The Cross of Valour.
In 2016 Allan was awarded Australia’s fourth highest bravery decoration, the Commendation for Brave Conduct. In 2017 Allan was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to Mental Health Support organisations and the community. He is also the recipient of the NSW Police Commissioners Valour Award (VA) the Royal Humane Society of NSW Galleghan Award, the National Medal for Service and the NSW Police Diligent and Ethical Service Medal.
Allan is one of only 10 Australians to receive the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal and one of only 10 Australians to be awarded the Queens Platinum Jubilee Medal. In September 2022, Allan was invited by St James Palace to attend the funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II where he took part in the Chivalry and Gallantry Procession during the funeral proceedings.
Allan is a 20 year veteran of the NSW Police force, and of recent times, a Deputy Commissioner of the Mental Health Commission of NSW. He is a qualified trainer of the Mental Health Commission of Canada mental health programs, The Working Mind and the Working Mind for First Responders, one of the founding partners of the Mental Health Training Program, ‘Operational Readiness for First Responders’, the Foundation Patron of the Thomas Kelly Youth 2 Foundation, a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW, the Chairman of the National Police Bravery Award Committee, a member of the Mental Health Commission Suicide Prevention Advisory Panel and a member of the NSW Police Mental Health Intervention Team. Patron on the Australian Police Over 35’s Rugby Team and apart from being an Australia Day Ambassador, is also an Ambassador for Kookaburra Kids. He is a former Non-Executive Director of the Gidget Foundation, a former Ambassador for Beyondblue and Soldier On.
Allan is also an accomplished international yachtsman having sailed his own yacht from England to Australia in 2009-2010, the best-selling author of “The Cost of Bravery” (Penguin Books, 2013).
"In my view, courage is the willingness to care. My belief is, it is how willing you are to care for another is a true measure of your courage. First Responders are truly courageous people. It is their willingness to be courageous that places them at enormous risk. Risk, not only to their physical health but also their psychological health. First Responders are not just courageous once in their lifetime, they are courageous throughout their lifetimes. As a nation, we fail to respect, acknowledge and understand their courage. First Responders are the most essential element of our society. Without them, our Society will collapse around us. It is time their courage, their dedication, their sacrifices and their careers are acknowledged, respected and supported in ways never seen before. The Heart2Heart Walk is the start of what has needed to be done for a very long time. It is the pathway to honour and care for those who have served, are serving and are yet to serve."
Allan Sparkes CV, OAM, VA, FRSN
SPONSORS & SUPPORTERS
To our sponsors, without you, what we achieved would not have been possible.
SPONSORS AND SUPPORTERS
David Healey Solicitors
NT Police Association