Wagga Black Dog Riders head to Darwin

READY TO RIDE: Ross Tinkler, Janine O'Callaghan, Marty O'Callaghan, Nerolie Falconer and Bear Falconer. Picture: Emma Hillier

READY TO RIDE: Ross Tinkler, Janine O'Callaghan, Marty O'Callaghan, Nerolie Falconer and Bear Falconer. Picture: Emma Hillier

They might seem rough or burly, but these Riverina motorcyclists are determined to tackle suicide in the community. 

Wagga’s Black Dog Riders Ross Tinkler, Janine O'Callaghan, Marty O'Callaghan, Nerolie Falconer and Graham ‘Bear’ Falconer are heading towards Darwin this week. 

Known as the Top End Ride, the group from Wagga will join hundreds of other drivers in the ride, Mr Falconer said.

“We do a one day ride, we’ll head to Dubbo first,” he said.

“There’s 95 riders leaving from Dubbo and going up to Darwin in eight nights.

“We stop at schools along the way and talk to everyone we can.” 

Mr Falconer said he had never been touched by depression or ‘the black dog’ as it is referred to.

“When I first signed up we hadn’t lost anybody, but we have lost a few mates since,” he said. 

“The ‘toughen up princess’ attitude needs to go.

“Big tough bikies get out there and say it’s all right to ask for help, which helps the conversation.”

The aim of any ride they take part in, is to help break down the barriers that surrounds discussing mental health issues. 

Big tough bikies get out there and say it’s all right to ask for help.

Graham 'Bear' Falconer

“We ride around, spread the word and start the conversations,” he said. 

“We let people know that there is hope out there and there is somewhere to go if they’re feeling down.”

Each member of the group aims to hand out at least five lifeline cards a day.

“Once people have them, they’re in the wallet should they ever need it,” Mr Falconer said. 

“We’re losing eight a day to suicide and we have to do something about it.” 

Their work never stops, Mr Falconer and his wife will continue to hand out cards and talk to people even when on holiday. 

“My wife and I were at a pig-hunting contest in Ivanhoe,” he said.

STARTING THE CONVERSATION: Graham ‘Bear’ Falconer says sometimes people are happier to talk to a stranger rather than a mate because of the stigma. Picture: Emma Hillier

STARTING THE CONVERSATION: Graham ‘Bear’ Falconer says sometimes people are happier to talk to a stranger rather than a mate because of the stigma. Picture: Emma Hillier

“We had conversations all day because it’s a small, rural community and they don’t have a lot of mental health support. 

“People won’t talk to their mates because of the stigma, but they’ll talk to a complete stranger.

“Especially a big rough-looking bastard.”  

Suicide is the leading cause of death in Australians under the age of 45. If you or anyone you know is in need of crisis support call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636. 

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