Walk for Wittenoom Children - Day 4 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



Speaking by phone from Western Australia today (May 4), the ADSA's Rose Marie Vojakovic sounded almost disappointed that tomorrow the 600+ km walk will be over. Adjectives she used throughout this morning's interview1 included “overwhelming,” “inspirational,” and “moving.” As the ADSA team approaches the home straight, the pride of their achievement seems to mingle with the sadness which accompanies the end of something monumental.


Robert and Rose Marie Vojakovic at lunch in Midland May 4, 2012.

In her eagerness to convey the incredible communal spirit of the walkers and the support team, Rose Marie mentioned some of the participants by name and others by association. You could forgive her for forgetting some of the names, she had after all just walked through the Australian outback for four days. She spoke of Derryn Carnaby (Den) whose “crazy idea” for the walk was judged “undoable,” by many but was embraced by the ADSA community and her entire family. Even as sisters Den and Maggie covered the ground from Kalgoorlie to Perth, their thoughts were full of those they had lost to mesothelioma: Dad, Mum and two brothers. Then there was Bev Bertocchi whose husband and mother-in-law had both died of mesothelioma contracted through environmental exposure in Wittenoom. Bev's enthusiasm and determination could infect an innocent passerby at 100 paces!

Rose Marie talked about Sue Moray's Mum, an 88-year old pensioner who was the oldest walker; Mum had walked 20 km a day and not missed a beat. Her daughter Sue, who had nursed mesothelioma patients at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital for years, was another walker; she administered first aid for scratches, bruises and sunburn even as she made her way through the outback. The youngest walker, a 17-year old lad, had sustained a hip injury during the walk but remained determined to be there tomorrow to mark the completion of an amazing journey. And Phil, Gary and Doug from the support team made sure the walkers were safe, watered and fed.

Then there was Larry Graham, hilarious blogger, and avid ADSA supporter, whose knee operation some weeks ago was causing pain. Rose Marie's magic spray had come in useful for that. The 5-person team from the law firm of Slater & Gordon were, Rose Marie said, all incredibly focused and determined.


Siri Siriwardene on Guildford Bridge.

Lawyer Siri Siriwardene had set himself a personal goal and when asked why he was walking 30 km a day replied he had a bet. If he won, the donation for the ADSA walk would be increased, so he pushed himself to go the distance.

Amongst the walkers was Barry Knowles, a 68-year old mesothelioma sufferer. When Barry was diagnosed two years ago, he and his family found their way to the Osborne Park office of the ADSA. Barry was determined to show his appreciation for all the help they had received by being on the walk. His daughter Jo accompanied him as did his wife. Barry covered 20 km a day and would not slack off under any circumstances. When asked about his level of fatigue he said he was fine to walk but too tired to shave. He's promised to mark the successful completion of the walk from Kalgoorlie to Perth by shaving!


Barry and Jo Knowles arriving in Midland, May 4, 2012.

Today, the walkers started out from Northam. As the rain beat down, they made their way over 100+ km, through Bassendean to Midland where they were hosted to a slap-up lunch by Robert and Rose Marie. Barry, with a hunger which could well be appreciated, saw a plate of spare ribs that could not be resisted. He wolfed them down with a gusto appreciated by everyone at the long table.

Tomorrow the final leg of the walk will be accomplished by all the walkers in one group. They will walk the 11 km from Guildford to Osborne Park together, aiming to arrive around noon to meet well-wishers including a representative of the Premier of Western Australia and local politicians. The fund-raising efforts of individual walkers has been stupendous but all donations are welcome.


See: http://www.asbestosdiseases.org.au/current-events.htm

May 4, 2012


1 The interview was conducted by phone and took place at 10 a.m. London time which was 6 p.m. Perth time.



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