UoN Trek for Indigenous Health

University’s fundraising trek unites staff, alumni and community to support Indigenous health.

Trekking 100 kilometres across the arid Australian outback in five days is a challenge, but one that 25 brave individuals are eager to tackle in the name of Indigenous education and health research.

The University of Newcastle’s Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge will see staff – including its Vice Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky AO – alumni and community members walk the remote Heysen Trail of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges in South Australia.

The challenge, which began on 9 September 2019, aims to raise $125,000 for Indigenous student scholarships and Indigenous health research.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Indigenous Australians are nearly three times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to experience high levels of psychological distress, have hearing problems as children1 and bilateral vision loss2.

Indigenous Australians are also twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday or have a disability or a long-term health condition3.

The Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge is the second trek of its kind that the University has organised to raise awareness and funds to help tackle these challenges. In 2017, the 65-kilometre Larapinta Trail Challenge raised $152,432 through the support of 950 donors.

Passionate about Indigenous equity, it wasn’t hard to convince Wallsend eye surgeon Jeff Dobinson to sign up. His brother-in-law, Richard Anicich, participated in the 2017 challenge. 

This year the pair will tackle the Ikara-Flinders challenge together.

Dr Dobinson said he and Richard were no strangers to hiking – together they climbed to the top of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro in 2011.

Richard came back speaking very highly of the last [Larapinta] trek – that it was such good exposure for a great cause,” Dr Dobinson said.

I’m also a keen walker and I’m looking forward to seeing that part of the world.”

Jeff Dobinson, Simon Anicich (Jeff’s nephew) and Richard Anicich (Jeff’s brother in law).jpg.

The University of Newcastle has more than 1,000 Indigenous enrolments and the third largest number of Indigenous staff for Australian universities. This year UoN exceeded 100 graduating Indigenous doctors.

The University’s 2017 challenge supported 15 Indigenous undergraduate scholarships, three PhD scholarships for emerging Indigenous leaders and two research programs aimed at tackling Indigenous community health issues.

The research funding contributed towards a health App for Indigenous mothers called ‘MAMAS’, and an outreach program delivering podiatry and foot care education to Central Coast Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, helping tackle the disproportionately high rates of diabetes-related foot complications. 


Read about the Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge, or donate to the cause at www.newcastle.edu.au/ikara

1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018. Australia’s health 2018. Australia’s health series no. 16. AUS 221. Canberra: AIHW

2. Australia’s Institute of Health and Welfare 2017. Indigenous eye health measures.

3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018. Australia’s health 2018. Australia’s health series no. 16. AUS 221. Canberra: AIHW