The motorcycle community of RAAF Williamtown proudly participated in the inaugural Hunter-Port Stephens Black Dog 1-Dayer charity motorcycle ride on Sunday 17 March 2019.
The purpose of the event was to promote the national conversation about depression and suicide prevention.
For participants from RAAF Williamtown, it was also about showing their support for current and former ADF members who have been affected by mental health issues either directly, or via a loved one.
Number 77 Squadron Armament Non-commissioned Officer, Corporal (CPL) Ade Rolfe was part of this year’s planning team and has been the local base ride co-ordinator for three of four previous Black Dog Rides he completed in Central Coast NSW.
CPL Rolfe described the first Black Dog Ride for the Hunter-Port Stephens region, supported by the local Military Brotherhood Motorcycle Club, as a huge success with over 300 participants.
“It was an outstanding event, not only in terms of numbers, but it was great to hear “Are you okay?” being asked among the crowd, which highlights that men and women are openly talking about how they really are,” CPL Rolfe said.
“The black dog ride means a lot to me personally, and having dealt with some traumas that life has thrown my way, it’s important to me to be supporting others close by that are struggling too.”
On a previous Black Dog Ride that CPL Rolfe participated in, his then Commanding Officer, Wing Commander (WGCDR) Terry Pridham expressed the importance of maintaining close links within the Defence community, particularly during and after transition from the ADF.
“As a Defence Force, we need to ensure that we maintain close ties with those in our Defence ‘family’ who depart the Service, but never depart the Defence family,” WGCDR Pridham said.
“Those still serving can provide support and assistance to those who have left, to ease their transition and to maintain their network of contacts, and those who have left can advise those still serving on how best to make the transition to civilian life and not make the same mistakes they have.”
In alignment with this sentiment, Black Dog Ride participants agreed the biggest take-away from the event was that, as friends, family members and colleagues of people who may be suffering from depression and mental illness, awareness comes when we learn to recognise the signs or just ask that question: ‘Are you okay?’ or say, ‘Let’s have a chat,’ when things don’t appear right.