TAMWORTH welcomed motorcyclists chasing away the “black dog” on Saturday, as they began their circumnavigation of Australia.
The annual Black Dog Ride started on Saturday in Bateau Bay, with the riders travelling through Tamworth on their way to Glen Innes for the first night.
Organiser and founder Steve Andrews said the 57 riders would travel around Australia in 32 days to raise awareness and fight the stigma of depression.
“Our principle mission is to raise awareness of depression and suicide and start the conversation that we hope will lead to people getting help,” he said.
“We have raised $250,000 so far and the riders do all of that and we get donations from the public and Lions as we go around.”
This year’s ride will raise money for Lifeline Australia and Mental Health First Aid.
Mr Andrews said he loved the riding.
“When we’re out on the open road, there’s nothing quite like it,” he said.
“It’s just the freedom of being out on the bike and we’re about to do it for a good cause, which is a bonus.”
Most participants have been touched by depression or suicide and the cause is close to their hearts.
“I would say that at least 90 per cent have got some connection to the cause, whether they suffered themselves, a loved one or a family member or a mate or lost someone from suicide – a strong connection, that’s why they’re so passionate about it,” Mr Andrews said.
“It’s a fairly expensive undertaking to ride around Australia – a very big undertaking financially and in time. That shows that, apart from wanting to tick something off the bucket list, they want to get involved in the cause.”
Channel Nine, and former Northern Daily Leader, journalist Simon Bouda is doing the ride this year, with the Today Show covering the event.
“They’ve been fantastic supporters and it takes our awareness to another level,” Mr Andrews said.
The ride finishes up on Bondi Beach on August 26.