Hot, dusty and Frozen on the Kimberley’s Gibb River Road
What does Western Australia’s striking Kimberley region have in common with a tricked out 1977 Kingswood, a bunch of good mates, some curious crocodiles and the highest grossing animated film of all time, Frozen? The answer can be found in Variety WA’s annual Variety Bash, a veritable ‘carnival on wheels’ through the Kimberley, which raises money for children with disabilities.
In August, second year Occupational Therapy student, Andrew Hare, teamed up with three friends to participate in the Bash, an experience that raised $20,000 for the charity, and gave him a new perspective on disability and fundraising.
How and why did you get involved with Variety WA and the Variety Bash?
We heard about the Variety Bash through a friend about 10 years ago and had planned to be one of the youngest crews to ever participate, however we kept on putting it off. Someone was finishing uni, then someone was building a house or getting married, it never seemed to be the right time. It was after I had a near death experience that I realised how quickly life can change, and how instantly life can end, and that we shouldn’t put off things that are important to us. We really wanted to contribute to the lives of children with disability, so we decided to do it even though it still wasn’t an ideal time.
What was the experience of participating in the Variety Bash like? Where did you go? Was there a typical day?
The Bash started in Kununurra on Sunday 21 August, and we travelled to Home Valley Station, Mt Elizabeth Station, Mt Hart, Fitzroy Crossing and Derby and arrived at our final destination, Broome, on Saturday 27 August. They say the Variety Bash is a carnival on wheels and that description is very fitting, with 29 bash cars and a full support crew, the trip was full of fun and entertainment with designated fun stops each day, as well as visits to some spectacular Kimberley sights. For me, it was a very iconic Australian experience to be on the Variety Bash driving a 1977 Kingswood wagon on the Gibb River Road in the Kimberley, listening to a bit of Slim Dusty, with the red dirt, boab trees, crocodiles and our swags.
Who did you make donations to en route?
The Variety Bash event is more of a platform for fundraising and a celebration of the fundraising efforts. So donations are not usually given out en route. We visited Mt Barnett High School to provide entertainment, and went to Derby High School where the students put on a car wash. Bash participants paid students to wash the Bash cars to help them raise funds for a camp they are going on.
What kind of car did you drive and who was in your team?
We had a team of four, Nick Joseph and Mark D’lima, who I have been mates with for about 15 years, and Santo Pratico who I have recently become mates with through Nick. We drove a 1977 Kingswood wagon, which we engineered and modified to be able to handle the rough terrain of the Gibb River Road and bush tracks that we travelled on. Each bash car is dressed up in a theme and we chose Frozen the Disney movie. This also meant that we dressed up as Frozen characters for various events throughout the trip.
What did you learn from your fundraising efforts and this event?
I learned that it is amazing what can be achieved when you put your mind to it. Rather than just put something off because it seems too hard to achieve, with some serious problem solving and passion, anything is possible. I learned that my mates have some serious staying power, that even through some extremely difficult circumstances with serious illness, injury, surgery and loss of dear family members, they still worked their butts off to raise money for these WA children, and I am seriously grateful to have them as my mates. I learned that West Australians are a very generous people, and especially our friends and family who have been a massive support.
How much money did you raise, and what will it be used for?
We raised $17,000 through donations and fundraising events and, including our own contributions, we cracked well over $20,000. Variety will use that money to provide grants for assistive and medical equipment, programs and experiences for the children.
Best and worst experiences on the Bash route?
For me, the best experience would have to be walking through the water at Tunnel Creek with my mates, and not quite knowing where the freshwater crocs were. Another great experience was us four fellas standing with the car on the beach in Broome knowing that we had managed to fundraise money to assist children to live life to the fullest, prepare a Bash car and successfully navigate through the Kimberley to the finish line in one piece. There wasn’t really a worst experience, but we did have the windows down along the Gibb to create some natural air conditioning and we did get a bit tired of the dust.
What year of OT are you in, and do you know what area you’d like to specialise in when you graduate?
I am currently in my second year of Occupational Therapy and, at the moment, the areas I would like to specialise in are disability, rehabilitation – particularly from acquired brain injury – and possibly mental health.
Has your study of OT informed your work with Variety, or vice versa?
Yes, I completed a unit called Environment, Health and Disability and I found that it challenged me, and also informed me, on prevailing views about disability. It also helped me to see things from the perspective of a person with a disability. It changed my view of the fundraising. It’s easy to think of kids with disability as less fortunate, but I have realised that these kids are not necessarily less fortunate than others, because they may have many areas of their life that are great, just like we all may have difficulties in some area of our life. I saw it more that we are supporting our fellow West Australians in their particular area of need, so they can overcome obstacles and contribute in their own unique way.