The ANZEF Cape to Cape Trek 2023 took place along the stunning Cape to Cape Track in Western Australia’s Margaret River region, just after RANZCO Perth Congress. Thank you to all who participated and donated! The funds raised will go to projects to advance ophthalmic education and eye health for First Nations peoples and in the Pacific region. Some of the walkers share their experiences below.
Photo acknowledgements: Off The Beaten Track WA, Peggy Ekeledo-Smith, Melinda Rice and ANZEF
“My penny’s worth: I confess to being somewhat ambivalent about my reason for deciding to take part in the Cape to Cape walk to help ANZEF, immediately following RANZCO 2023 in Perth. I sought to have a nice walk with pleasant company while thinking it would be good to simultaneously raise money for a good cause. My enthusiasm increased on listening to the erudite and pointed presentation during the Perth Congress of Dr John Kennedy, outlining the achievements and some goals of ANZEF. I was especially impressed with the financial assistance ANZEF has been able to provide for some three or four young indigenous doctors to enable their training to become ophthalmologists.
Off the Beaten Track was an excellent outfit. High marks for Tracey and Heidi. They were always at their professional peak, constantly going the extra mile to give us walkers the best experience, not to mention the efforts of Heidi to capture great photos.”
“The Cape-to-Cape walk organised by ANZEF was not only a wonderful opportunity to take some down time and visit a remote but beautiful part of WA but also an opportunity to mix with others in the industry on a social level. The conversations on the track were not only about work but covered so many different topics, from cooking to travel. There were many memorable occasions, whale spotting and bird watching. The scenery, the rugged landscape and the vastness of the ocean was possibly the most memorable.
There were three reasons for me to join the trek: supporting a worthy cause, an opportunity to see a new part of our beautiful country not seen before and some down time from a busy work life. The small group trek and the structure of the walk ticked all these boxes, day pack only and a warm shower at night.
ANZEF to me is an important program. I have been a perioperative nurse for the majority of my career, working in many areas from scrub nurse to management, from operating theatres in the Northern Territory to management in a large hospital group. Throughout my career I have recognised and promoted the importance of healthcare to all – in particular eye health. Having good sight is vital to all aspects of daily living: without one’s sight there are so many boundaries to maintaining good health. This is particularly important to those in regional and remote areas of Australia, many being First Nations people.
I have always enjoyed exercise – I do it not only for my physical health but also my mental health. These days I can no longer partake in step classes like I did in my 20s and 30s. I can no longer do bootcamp like I did in my 40s and 50s – the joints just won’t allow it. Hiking is therefore now my exercise of choice, and I enjoy it just as I did other sports in my younger years.
I congratulate Fiona and the team on a great initiative and hope in the future there is an opportunity to join yet another such event.”
What made you decide to do this trek?
It’s a fabulous opportunity to get out into the beautiful Margaret River area and for a fantastic cause – raising money for improving equitable access to eye care – which is everybody’s right to have good health care for their vision. The Cape to Cape Track delivered a unique experience over the three days – it was all quite different. We had great company – eye health care professionals and their partners and then the beautiful guides from Off the Beaten Track who have given us a fantastic experience. And as a bonus, we’ve managed to raise quite a bit of money.
What got you into hiking in the great outdoors?
I’m a New Zealander originally, and I’ve always enjoyed hiking – it’s always been part of my life. I’ve done some fabulous tracks in New Zealand such as Milford Sound (one of my favourite tracks) and tracks overseas as well. I’ve always loved hiking in Tasmania and I knew that the Cape to Cape Track is fabulous as well. I just really love being out in the wilderness. It’s so restful. You can really focus on relaxing and enjoying the scenery and feeling like you’ve got some time to contemplate life and enjoy good company. And also to challenge yourself a bit. It’s a feeling of absolute delight when you get to the top of a hill or you turn the corner after a hard slog. You see this amazing sight and you get a great feeling. It’s a fabulous pastime – I really love it.
Can you tell us a little more about your experience on this trek?
We’ve had a fantastic crew of 14 walkers and two guides. Everyone has had a really great time with lots of common ground but also lots of diversity and people from all different areas across Australia and New Zealand. It’s been really fun – lots of banter. We’ve had a bit of magic from ophthalmologist Magic Michael, a visit to a vineyard and some fabulous dinners. We’ve been very well looked after by our Off the Beaten Track hosts. The hikes that were chosen were challenging and very satisfying. And so it was an absolute pleasure to join this trip. I’ll certainly be looking for more opportunities. It’s great to be able to pair up what’s a really enjoyable hobby with raising money for improving equity and access to eye health care.
Why is eye health access important to you?
One of the things that really inspires me to be part of the ANZEF Sub-Committee is the focus on improving equity and access in eye health – especially regional access – and growing the Indigenous health workforce. These are both really important to increasing access to eye care for people that wouldn’t otherwise have it. Increasing an Indigenous health care workforce is sustainable because we know that this workforce will be there for years to come.
What do you hope ANZEF does more of in the future?
I hope that as it grows, we’ll continue to focus on increasing the Indigenous eye health care workforce, improving access to eye healthcare services for regional and rural communities, and also provide research opportunities for Indigenous and regional healthcare workers, junior doctors, and medical students. It would also be great to see more program opportunities to improve access to and help build sustainable eye healthcare services in the Pacific region. This is important work and we have a number of Fellows who are very involved in volunteering to deliver eye health care across the region. I’d also like to see ANZEF direct its attention to funding research that looks at how we can improve access to healthcare for Indigenous Australians – what works, what doesn’t, and particularly where that research is Indigenous-led and involves opportunities to test out models of service delivery that might work in Indigenous communities.
“The original idea was Liz Giblin’s for a group of us to join the ANZEF walk as a great way for the practice to promote the cause. I decided to join up as well as I had never been part of a charity hike before and thought this was a great way to help out and for a cause I appreciate. I have found it a great topic of discussion with patients over the past few months, especially as our patients are in the fortunate position of having such easy access to ophthalmic services and often don’t know the difficulties other experience in trying to access these services.
The walk itself was fantastic! The scenery was amazing and ever changing. We were so lucky with the time of the year to be doing the walk with all the beautiful wildflowers on display and the whales performing off the coast every day as they migrated. It was also enjoyable chatting amongst the group with such diverse interests and yet still having so much in common, with everyone working in eye care and wanting to promote the ANZEF cause as well.”
What motivated you to join this adventure?
Well, I saw the adventure on the Congress website when I was enrolling in the conference, and I was really excited about it for two reasons. One, it looked like a beautiful part of the world, and I had never been there, so I was really keen to explore it. And secondly, because it was for a really good cause. I really support equitable healthcare. It’s essential to be an advocate for those who are not receiving appropriate healthcare, for those who don’t have voices, and to try and ensure that everyone has accessible, affordable, and high-standard healthcare. I was sponsored by Auckland Eye Care Facility for this trip. They are committed to providing high-quality eye care for many, and I’d like to thank them for their support.
How has this adventure been for you?
We’ve been incredibly lucky. It has been a fantastic trip. There were some challenging moments, like the first day when it was quite hot, and on the last day when we were going up steep hills. But it also gave us an opportunity to meet other people in eye health who care about equity, access, and improving the public health system. I found that really special. We also got to explore beautiful countryside and see wildlife like whales and various birds, making it an unforgettable experience.
Tell us about your connection to the outdoors?
I’ve always had a strong connection to the outdoors. As a child, I used to go hiking and kayaking, and as an adult, I’ve been fortunate to explore scenic places on various trips. The simplicity of just taking one step at a time and being with like-minded people in nature is something I cherish. It’s been a great escape from the pressures of city life.
What do you think is the most important thing for ANZEF going forward?
The most important thing is for ANZEF to stick to its core values and continue to fund projects that provide equitable healthcare. The scholarships and funding for various projects have been great, and I hope to see more of those. I’m very happy to contribute to this cause.
What made you decide to do this trek?
Graham and I thought about the fundraising elements. We thought about the cause – it was a good cause. We wanted to help provide eye care to those who don’t have access to it.
Why is eye health equity and access important to you?
To see the world around you is such a privilege. And it shouldn’t be a privilege; it should be something that everyone is entitled to and everyone should have access to. And so I think that’s why it’s a really good thing to raise money for, and to provide support, so that everybody has access to what I have access to. If there are things you can do to prevent vision loss or at least delay it, it’s better for people, their health, wellbeing, mental health, lifestyle. It’s also better for the healthcare system. There are so many reasons why. One wants to be able to continue to support eye health for everybody.
Did you enjoy the trek?
Oh, I loved it. The first day was the best as it was really, really hot! I like hot weather. I loved meeting people. I didn’t know anyone on the trek before we started walking. My husband and I have met some really interesting and nice people.
Have you any favourite hikes?
I really enjoy the Routeburn in New Zealand. That was a really beautiful hike. I liked walking in an area of Northern India called Ladakh in the Himalayas because that challenged me. I also like walking Mount Coot-Tha in Queensland with girlfriends every weekend.
“How good was our Cape to Cape walk?! I loved every moment of it. Such great people and amazing scenery, and all for such a worthy cause.
I was at first interested in doing the walk when Michael and Liz Giblin had mentioned it to me. I had always wanted to do the Cape to Cape walk (definitely on my bucket list) and when the Giblins mentioned that we would be raising funds for ANZEF by doing the walk, I was in! It was a no-brainer.
My experience of the walk was even better than I imagined it would be. The scenery throughout the walk was so spectacular with the terrain forever changing. Beautiful coastlines with crystal clear blue water with plenty of whales and dolphins to spot. The walk was hard but not too hard at a really nice pace, and never felt rushed when there was something amazing to see, whether it be a snake, lizard, beautiful wildflowers or just an amazingly beautiful tree or grass tree.
I really believe that every person deserves not only equal eye care but also assess to the best eye health, no matter where you live. This is why it’s so important to raise funds to accomplish this.
We spoke on the walk about the fact that there is just one Indigenous ophthalmologist in Australia currently and that ANZEF are providing scholarships to help more indigenous Australians reach this goal. I was so happy to hear about this project when also learning that an Indigenous Australian is more likely to access medical care when it is provided by an Indigenous doctor and therefore having more Indigenous ophthalmologists will help all Australians get the best eye care and achieve the goal of improving eye health equality, which is the ultimate goal.
There are too many enjoyable moments on this trip to mention one, however I loved getting to know all the doctors, their partners, Practice Managers and last but certainly not least Fiona from ANZEF. While walking along the trails there were plenty of opportunities to get to know each other which I really enjoyed, lots to talking while walking and surprisingly not too much about eyes! A highlight which I have to mention is of course Michael Giblin’s very entertaining Magic show at the local Margaret River Winery, Redgate, which everyone really enjoyed!
I look forward to hearing what will be done going forward. I’m so happy I went on this adventure with this great bunch of people. We had so much fun!!”