Leaders stand shoulder to shoulder on mental health

CFA Chief Officer Steve Warrington and CFA CEO Paul Smith are today walking alongside Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police Graham Ashton for his final leg of the epic Head to Head Walk across regional Victoria to raise awareness and much-needed funding for former police officers living with mental health issues.


Setting off from Mallacoota on 1 October, Chief Commissioner Ashton will today reach Wangaratta where he will meet ‘head to head’ with Police Association of Victoria Secretary Wayne Gatt, who started his journey in Mildura.

Covering a combined 1,000 kilometres, the pair has visited police stations and participated in events with local communities along the way.

“It’s an honour to be walking with Chief Commissioner Ashton for the final leg, and I look forward to catching up with Wayne in Wangaratta,” said Chief Officer Warrington.

“They are to be commended on this mammoth effort, which has given them a unique opportunity to meet current and past police officers, other emergency services workers and the broader community to talk about mental health issues and how it can affect those of us who try to keep Victorians safe.

“As first responders we are regularly exposed to critical incidents that can have a negative impact on our mental health, but getting together and raising awareness, as well as having a bit of fun, is a good way to contribute to services that support our former police officers during tough times.”

Chief Officer Warrington said today’s walk to Wangaratta was nothing compared with the battle that emergency service colleagues can face when it comes to mental health.

“By taking part, I want to show my support on behalf of all of CFA for our emergency services colleagues in Victoria Police, standing shoulder to shoulder with Chief Commissioner Ashton just like our firefighters and police officers stand side by side every day to protect Victorian lives and property - sometimes in catastrophic circumstances.”

CFA Chief Executive Officer Paul Smith said Victoria Police had worked hard in recent years to address mental health issues in current and past members.

“I applaud Graham Ashton and Wayne Gatt on taking this step - or, rather, thousands of steps - to show how much they care about their people,” Mr Smith said.

“CFA is also working hard to continuously improve how we support our people - whether career or volunteer firefighters, non-operational staff or family - and it’s important that Victoria’s emergency services support and learn from each other.

“It’s the least we can do for the people who put their life on the line to protect Victorians.

“I hope that by taking part in this walk today, I can show that we, as emergency services leaders, place great importance on the wellbeing of our people.

To support, or learn more about, the Head to Head Fundraising Walk, visit headtoheadwalk.org.au

Author: Liselotte Geary