Forty head to hit Bondi Beach
SUNBAKING backpackers, Bondi Rescue lifeguards and 40 head of herefords.
That will be the sight to be seen on March 17 when the Herd of Hope reaches the shore of Sydney's world- famous Bondi Beach at sunrise.
Herd of Hope organiser Megan McLoughlin is in the midst of co-ordinating the mammoth feat, which will bring donated cattle from the Northern Territory's Undoolya Station to NSW's capital city.
"It's going to held on St Patty's Day, so hopefully that brings us a bit of luck,” she said.
In a nutshell, that comment sums up Megan's positive, determined attitude.
The country mother-of-two calls herself fortunate to have received a double transplant (kidney and pancreas) and has since fought two bouts of cancer - the latest a skin cancer on her lip.
Always searching for the silver lining, Megan joked her treatment made it look like she'd "had Botox”.
"There is always a bonus - but I will never have Botox myself because lip injections are excruciating,” she said.
For the past few years Megan has dedicated much of her time to increasing awareness about organ donation and has fought for better medical services in rural Australia.
The Herd of Hope's mob will be walked along Bondi by a team of stockmen and women who have all received an organ donation themselves.
It's not the first time Megan has helped organise a stunt of this nature - last year she planned to walk cattle across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. However, a change of government in NSW meant that approved plan was scrapped, and they were told "45 minutes of congestion” was too much.
"But, when one door closes you climb through a window,” she said.
Megan decribes her organ donor as the most "influential” person in her life.
"I have never met them and I will probably never even know their name but they influenced what I do on a day-to-day basis, because they gave me a second chance,” she said.
"We know in 2016 there were 76,000 deaths across Australia - now that's right across the board - but out of that statistic there were only 503 organ donors.
"We know there are certain circumstances before someone can become a donor, however that's less than 1 per cent.”
Megan stressed the Herd of Hope wasn't about forcing people to become organ donors but simply about raising awareness.
"I had grown up in regional Australia and when I returned I realised there were no services for those post-transplant recipients in the bush,” she said.
"So you go home and you are on a heap of medication and all of that has a big impact on your mental health.
"I just thought it would be worthwhile to set up services for those transplant recipients that would enable them to return back to the country ... something to help them out.”
Since becoming more involved with the project, Megan learned it wasn't just the donor recipients in need of support.
"Now I have met with other people, we have discovered that it's the same thing with organ donation,” she said.
"Basically they leave the hospital and it's 'see you later, good luck and thanks a lot'.”
Megan said donor families were invaluable: "How can you put a price on someone being able to save 10 people's lives?”
Although receiving an organ is a lifeline, it doesn't always mean the road ahead will be smooth sailing.
"To be completely honest, as a transplant recipient we go through a lot,” she said.
"Last year I had two forms of cancer. I had cervical cancer, which I was treated for and had a lot of surgery for, and I have just had a skin cancer removed from my lip.
"That's the honest truth of transplant recipients. You go through ups and downs.”
The risk of your body rejecting an organ or facing amputations down the track were all part and parcel for Megan.
"So that's why we want to champion the rural health services for those affected by organ and tissue donation,” she said.
"This is something that has never been done before, so I think the best way to do it is to bring the bush to the beach.
"Putting a herd of cattle on Bondi signifies that we are all in this together - sickness doesn't discriminate on where you live.”
The McLoughlin family is no newbie to cattle work, and when it comes to shifting cattle through suburbia they are particularly talented.
"Our head stockman is my dad, Jim Willoughby. He has 40 years of experience in the movie, film and production industry so this a walk on the beach for him,” she said.
The cattle have been donated to the cause by kind-hearted Territorians Ben and Nicole Hayes, from Undoolah Station.
Megan was quick to shrug off that it would be a challenge to train cattle from the Red Centre to feel comfortable in Bondi. "We are pretty lucky,” she said.
"Ben and Nicole Hayes have picked these 40 heifers out of about 2000, so we have some pretty good ladies.” Over the course of eight weeks, Jim and Megan will work with the cattle to get them beach ready, so when it's their time to shine they will feel relaxed during the day out.
The aim of the game for the Herd of Hope is to raise awareness of organ donation but Megan said there was a bonus in that the event took the bush to the beach.
"We are going to have a big country cook-up, so we will be showcasing to Sydney where their food comes from.”
Visit www.herdofhope.com.au for more inforamtion or to support the cause.
Beach-ready cow training
Here are some steps Herd of Hope organisers will use to prepare their cattle for Bondi:
Condition with loud noises and random bangs.
Hire rent-a-crowds or enlist the local schools to mob around cattle for practice days.
Have flags set up and waving in their yards.