Cyclists with healthy idea step on it

The riders in the second annual Tour da Country aren't cycling for gain or glory - they simply want to promote a healthy lifestyle in Aboriginal communities.

The 2013 event kicked off yesterday with a family fun ride from Fred Finch Park in Berkeley to Lake Illawarra PCYC, where the official launch took place.

On Monday, 13 riders will start the gruelling 900-kilometre ride from Albion Park Rail to Albury, making 13 stops over 12 days to raise awareness for their cause.

The cycling event was the brainchild of Illawarra Aboriginal health workers Dale Wright, Shane Venables and Ben Russell and the 2012 ride spanned 780 kilometres from Wollongong to Walgett.

"Dale, Ben and I are all board members of the Illawarra Koori Men's Support Group, and it was Dale's idea to organise a ride to promote healthy lifestyles in Aboriginal communities," Mr Venables said.

"Aboriginal people suffer from chronic disease like diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease at higher rates than the rest of the population and we wanted to do something to help close that gap.

Mr Venables said riders hoped to encourage their fellow Aborigines to make small changes, to make a big difference to their health.

"We want to get our mob to start taking small steps - whether that's walking an extra 10 minutes a day, eating less junk food, quitting smoking or getting a health check," he said.

Mr Venables said the ride complemented the social and educational programs being run at the Illawarra Koori Men's Support Group, which celebrated its 10th anniversary recently.

Throsby MP Stephen Jones went along yesterday to show his support for the initiative.

"This is about nipping in the bud critical health issues like diabetes and obesity by teaching Aboriginal communities about healthy lifestyles," he said.

"The best thing is that it's not men in white lab coats lecturing them about how they should live - it's their brothers, cousins and mates providing peer support and being mentors."

This year the Illawarra-Shoalhaven Medicare Local (ISML) Journey to Health team is on board to promote the ride and help organise community events along the way.

"The Tour da Country fits with our role in the community in aiming to close the gap in life expectancy by improving access to primary care services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders," ISML Journey to Health chronic care co-ordinator Carolynne Leon said.

Illawarra Koori Men's Support Group co-ordinator Shane Venables (middle) is helping organise the Tour da Country. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODO

Illawarra Koori Men's Support Group co-ordinator Shane Venables (middle) is helping organise the Tour da Country. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODO


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