Black Dog Ride to Puckapunyal

The statistics tell us that 1 in 5 Australians will experience depression throughout their lives.

Nowhere in these numbers does it state that Australian Defence Personnel have a different set of statistics.

On top of this, the media tells us that the huge legacy from the last 14 years of continuous ADF service in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan has been PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

With all this in mind, it was decided that this year, the Bendigo leg of the Black Dog Ride 1 Dayer would ride to Puckapunyal this year to show our support for Defence personnel. We also wish to raise awareness of the Black Dog and it's creeping shadow amongst Defence personnel, and the potential for suicide prevention in all branches of Defence.

Thanks must go first and foremost to Major General John Cantwell (Ret). When approached with the idea of riding to Defence bases, John embraced the idea. He is a formidable and well known campaigner for mental health in Defence circles and also the wider community. John smoothed the way with the powers to be at Puckapunyal to gain access for the Black Dog Ride and our message to the personnel on the base. We had hoped John would be able to join us on the ride, (yes he does ride a motorcycle!) but unfortunately he has recently had shoulder surgery and isn't up to riding yet.

Black Dog Rider John Howard, who works on site, has also been an invaluable resource in helping organize security and a route through the married quarters. I don't think there will be any doubt about the people in the married quarters knowing we're on the base.

WO2 Jason Nuske from Royal Australian Armoured Corp has also been a great help. Jason has been our go-between helping with security and access to the Royal Australian Armoured Corps Tank Museum on the day for Black Dog Riders.

Black Dog Ride to Puckapunyal - Army Tank Museum

Unfortunately the days of just being able to ride onto a Defence establishment are long gone. This has created the need for additional security on the day of the ride. Registrations will be closing online the week before the ride (Saturday 15th March) and there will be no exceptions. We must supply the Army with names, addresses, registration and licence numbers a week prior to the ride. All riders will need to carry their driver's licence with them on the ride to gain entry to Puckapunyal Army Base.

Another issue that has arisen is that once on the base we are no longer on State property. We are on Commonwealth property and there are some additional laws that riders will need to abide by when riding. The Australian Army requires that riders wear long sleeves and gloves at all times. It probably goes without saying that long trousers, boots and helmets are also required.

Once all riders have been passed through the security on the gate, Black Dog Riders will be escorted by Military Police to the Army Tank Museum. The Puckapunyal Rugby Club will provide lunch and riders will be free to have a good look around the museum. A gold coin donation is requested for entry to the museum.

Another important aspect about the day is that no-one can leave until the appointed time. All riders will need to be escorted off the base together so that security has everyone accounted for on departure. Once off the base, people can disperse homeward in whatever direction they choose.

This is a significant opportunity for the Black Dog Ride to deliver our message of depression and suicide prevention to a very important section of the community, with proceeds benefitting Lifeline Australia. It should be a fantastic day and if you are in Central Victoria I would love for you to come and join us. Don't hesitate to give me a call if you have any questions about the day.

Ric Raftis
Bendigo Coordinator
Black Dog Ride

If you are former or serving Defence personnel and are in distress, please contact the following organisations.

All Hours Support Line - 1800 628 036
(Outside Australia +61 2 9425 3878)
Emergency Hotline for ADF Members and their families.
24 hours a day - 7 days a week.

VETLINE - 1800 011 046
Veterans and Veterans Family Counselling Service
A national free call after-hours crisis telephone service
Providing counselling and group programs to Australian veterans, peacekeepers and their families.

Defence Family Helpline - 1800 624 608
For Defence families seeking advice or support.
Run by the DCO, operating 24/7.
Staffed social workers and psychologists.

Lifeline - 13 11 14
A confidential telephone crisis support service
Available 24/7 from landline, payphone or mobile.