Late in October Aboriginal Health Worker Dale Wright is setting off on the Tour da Country, an annual 700km bike ride to spread the word on health, indigenous awareness and Aboriginal reconciliation.
Setting out from Wollongong, Dale and his team will take on some of Australia’s toughest climbs and steepest descents before finishing in Walgett on the 5th of November.
Dale’s idea of a bike ride to help improve the lives of so many people came up over a simple cup of coffee.
“We were sitting down at the Koori Men’s Group one day at a board meeting and I came up with the idea of riding from Wollongong to Walgett promoting health,” Dale says.
“I told the boys that I’ve been thinking about doing this ride and they looked at me like I was crazy. I asked them if they were chicken or if they were prepared to step up to the plate. They said yes and that’s how the Tour Da Country bike ride started.”
When it comes to health and well-being, many are guilty of not taking the best care of their bodies. For Dale, our bodies are our temple and need to be properly looked after.
“We come into the communities and talk about health and healthy lifestyles, and staying away from drugs and alcohol,” he says.
“We talk about a holistic view, and about diabetes and the main things that are affecting our people these days. It’s about getting people to come in and have regular health checks even if they’re not sick. Men, especially, don’t like to go in and see the doctor unless we’re really crook.”
In his earlier days, Dale was not taking care of himself. When he found out that his life would be dramatically shortened if something was not done, he aimed to regain his health.
“When I moved to Walgett, I started heavily drinking and smoking – basically my life was going downhill. I was really overweight for my height and my BMI was maxing out,” he says.
“My Mum put me on a bus back down to Batemans Bay to live with my Dad because I was drinking too much.
“I went in for a health check one time and the doctor said my cholesterol was really high and that I’d have a heart attack by the time I’m 40.
“I changed my life around and educated myself on leading a healthy lifestyle. I stayed away from unhealthy foods and gave up drinking and smoking.”
Once Dale’s health was back on track he knew it was time to get a job.
“Mostly us Koori fellas get labouring jobs and don’t have to think too much but I wanted more than that,” he says.
“I wanted an office job but I couldn’t read and write so I went and did a numeracy and literacy course about 10 years ago and now I’m working as an Aboriginal Health Worker.”
For Dale it’s all about setting an example.
“I’m 35 now, married, I have five children that look up to me and I want to be a positive role model for them,” he says.
A ride of this length wouldn’t be achievable unless your body is at an excellent level of fitness. Dale trains at least three days a week, as well as eating the right diet.
“You have to put in cold mornings, jumping on your bike and doing a 40km ride before you come to work. You have to really put in the hard yards,” Dale explains.
“Every chance you get, you have to condition your body to take the brunt of riding, it’s a hard slog. You have to fuel yourself correctly, hydrate yourself correctly – it’s all about educating yourself; you can’t run a machine on dirty fuel.”
For further details on the ride visit Tour da Country