Young riders get ready for a week in another world

In just a few weeks, four young First Nations women from Alice Springs will join Great Vic Bike Ride legend Graham Buckley and more than 2000 riders on a Snowy to Sea adventure to remember.

The young women, aged 13 to 20, are all cousins who live on Arrernte Country. They have been training hard for their nine-day adventure, which will take them on a plane from Alice Springs, Mparntwe (M-ban-tua), and on bikes from Orbost on the Snowy River through the lush Gippsland countryside to Wonthaggi.

Buckley, 86, who was given the traditional Aboriginal name Tjilpi (jill-pee) meaning “old man” as a mark of respect by the local mob, rode in the first Great Vic Bike Ride in 1984.

Each year, he raises funds to bring a group of Aboriginal students on the ride. Buckley, a former school teacher, selects riders based on the benefits he thinks they will gain from the experience.

This year is the first time he has coached an all-girl crew and he says he is proud of the way they have committed to training and their determination to make the most of the adventure.

“The girls are living with various family members and come from a very different world. They have had some challenging times and have not all been able to get to school regularly this year.

“I hope they have a fantastic time on the Great Vic, meet new people and see new places, but I also hope it will give them another look at the benefits of exercise and education,” he says.

Bicycle Network’s First Nations Support Fund was established to support the girls on their journey. It was kickstarted with an $8000 donation by the Grupetto Fund, which partners with the Newsboys Foundation to help young people achieve their goals.

When Bicycle Network CEO Alison McCormack asked the fund to support a group of young women, its donation pledge was immediate.

“We have established our First Nations Support Fund with donations made possible through the Australian Sports Foundation to create pathways for First Nations young people. We are partnering with schools and First Nations communities to provide opportunities for young people join us on the Great Vic and learn from one another,” says McCormack.

“Riding a bike offers freedom, sustainable transport and physical and mental health benefits to people across Australia every day. Donations to the fund will allow young people who might not otherwise have this opportunity to experience new places, meet new people and discover the pure joy of a bike-riding adventure.

"We are hoping to raise enough to bring another two young First Nations students on this year's Great Vic and we hope it will support even more students next year."

Donations to support the girls and another six students can be made to the Bicycle Network First Nations Support Fund here

The Great Vic Bike Ride will set off from Orbost on Saturday 25 November. It offers supported bike riding and camping and adventures through picturesque Victorian regions. Tickets are still on sale for three, five and nine-day packages.