Herd of hope off to Bondi

The Herd of Hope, around 30 heifers in total, were fed on lucerne hay that had been donated locally and spent the night in the Grong Grong Rodeo grounds

Sometimes the cultural divide between city and country can be very stark. It can take a loud voice to be heard, or a big, bold action – like driving a mob of cattle across Bondi Beach.

Herd of Hope, the brainchild of Megan McLaughlin, is in the middle of trucking a mob of cattle – roughly 30 heifers – from Undoolya Station in Alice Springs to Bondi Beach.

The mob have driven across the country, and on Thursday night they stopped at Grong Grong.

“Grong Grong is not that big, but it’s been amazing – when we got there, there was hay and water put out for the cattle,” Ms McLaughlin said.

“People have been so supportive. And to think the cattle started at Alice Springs, so they’ve come halfway across the country. It’s been quite amazing.”

The cattle will be walked across Bondi with the help of six stockmen (and women), in the hope to raise awareness and funds for organ and tissue donation.

“I received a double transplant seven years ago, a kidney pancreas transplant,” explained Ms McLaughlin.

“I’d always lived in the bush, and when I went home – and I know I was so lucky to be able to go home – there were no services, no networks. Isolation was a key component.

“I’m hoping we can unite people who’ve had similar experiences.”

Every single one of the stock handlers on board with the Herd of Hope has been touched in some way by organ and tissue donation. Some of the stock handlers are organ recipients, like Ms

McLaughlin; others are live donors, like her father Jim Willoughby, who donated bone marrow.

Still, the Herd of Hope almost didn’t happen at all; the original plan was to drive a mob of cattle over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

“The current minister, who’s a Nat, didn’t see the importance of rural health,” Ms McLaughlin said.

“But we rallied, and Waverly Council said ‘bring them to Bondi’. So we united the city and the country.

“The thing that’s been so amazing about all of this is that it’s all been volunteering and donations. The stockmen have volunteered their time; the cattle were donated by Bernie Hayes from Undoolya Station. That’s how we still work in the country; we volunteer.”

In Australia, there are 1,400 people on the waiting list for organ and tissue donation at any time.

In 2017, 510 deceased organ donors gave 1,402 people a new lease on life.

“Approximately one in three Australians who receive a donor organ are located regionally. Many donor families are located in the regions,” Ms McLaughlin said.

“People need that support and it would be quite nice to spread it around. Fifty-three people die each year on the transplant list. We’re such a generous country but we’re not helping our mates.”

Each heifer on the truck can be sponsored. The funds raised by the Herd of Hope will go specifically towards organ donation services to the regions, including establishing regional transplant and donor family care nurses and providing therapy for families and recipients.

However, according to Ms McLaughlin, the organisation hopes to go a little further.

“They’re all breeding heifers, so we’re going to hold on to them and breed from them, and we’ll use the money for camps. It’s a world first.

“Kids who’ve been affected by organ and tissue donation will go to a station for three days, and get to be in charge. We’re hoping we can have one counsellor for every two kids.”

The Herd of Hope is aiming to be on Bondi Beach by dawn March 17.

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