The focus of preparations for a commemorative trek to raise funds to assist Burnet’s work in Myanmar shifted to Canberra on Tuesday night for a function at the National Press Club.
The trek organisers, Kevin Commins and Michael Clarebrough, were invited by the club to promote their plans to an audience of Parliamentary media, representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and diplomatic staff.
Burnet was represented by Deputy Director, Associate Professor David Anderson, who made a presentation on Burnet’s programs in Myanmar, and Myanmar Program Manager Lia Burns.
IMAGE: L-R: Myanmar trekkers Kevin Commins, Kenton Reeder, Michael Clarebrough and Trevor Key
“It was a great opportunity to spend a bit of time with David and Lia to talk in more detail about the things we’re all excited about, and the developments we’re making,” Mr Commins said.
“I was pleased that we were able to put like-minded folk in touch with each other, and that’s one of the benefits of this whole process.”
Mr Commins said boxes are steadily being ticked off in the lead-up to the trek, but he’s keeping a close watch on what he described as a ‘complex security environment’ following the recent general election in Myanmar.
The Colin McPhedran Trek was inspired by the mass exodus of refugees from Burma during World War II.
IMAGE: Associate Professor David Anderson presents at the National Press Club.
In February 2017 Michael and Kevin, along with friends Trevor Key and Alan Scott, and cameraman Kenton Reeder, will retrace the route taken by one of those refugees, Colin McPhedran.
Then aged 11, Colin, his mother, brother and a sister were among 40,000 refugees who set out to walk 450km from central Burma west into India to escape the Japanese invasion.
Eighteen thousand of those refugees died of starvation and disease on the track and of Colin’s family, only he survived.
Colin McPhedran would eventually immigrate to Australia, raise a family of his own in Bowral NSW and live as an active member of the community until his death in 2010.
IMAGE: Ian McPhedran and journalist Annabel Crabb
Colin’s son, journalist and author Ian McPhedran, a keen supporter of the trek, also addressed the National Press Club on Tuesday night.
The Colin McPhedran Trek will raise awareness of community health concerns that persist in Myanmar and raise funds to assist Burnet’s work to address those health issues.
Kevin and Michael have requested that donations target health programs in Kachin, Myanmar’s northernmost state.