Lost Gympie son Ashley Birt. His mother, Linda Birt, is one of several dedicated Mates4Mates volunteers.
Lost Gympie son Ashley Birt. His mother, Linda Birt, is one of several dedicated Mates4Mates volunteers.

2017 Gympie Muster will help Aussie veterans

THE Gympie Music Muster today announced Mates4Mates as its official charity partner for the second year running.

Mates4Mates supports current and ex-serving Australian Defence Force members, and their families, who are wounded, injured, or ill as a result of their service.

The Muster has helped generate more than $15 million in donations to charity and community groups since it first ran in 1982.

Board member Craig Mathisen said an overwhelmingly positive response at last year's event had prompted a continuation of the partnership into 2017.

 

Craig Mathisen (left) pictured with Ross Sommerfeld at a Bundy for Breakfast function at the Bundaberg RSL.
Craig Mathisen (left) pictured with Ross Sommerfeld at a Bundy for Breakfast function at the Bundaberg RSL. Mike Knott BUN221111BUZ2

"The Muster always been about mates, music and making a difference," Mr Mathisen said.

"The Mates4Mates ethos aligns perfectly with ours; we're both focused on looking out for our mates and making a difference.

"Last year Mates4Mates raised around $16,000 through the Muster, and we hope to help them raise even more money and awareness this year."

Gympie mother Linda Birt is one of several dedicated Mates4Mates volunteers. She hopes to use the Muster partnership to raise funds, as well as increase awareness of the effects of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) amongst returned service personnel.

"Our son Ashley was killed in action in Afghanistan on 29 October, 2011. We miss him every day, but I feel we can grieve our loss," Mrs Birt said.

"Those families whose sons come home with PTSD can't grieve in the same way, even though they feel a similar loss. Mates4Mates creates a comfort zone for these boys, and offers them a place to come and talk to like-minded people while transitioning out of life in the defence force. It can make all the difference to these soldiers and their families."

Mrs Birt said last year's Muster really helped Mates4Mates get their name out there, and the donations received were extraordinary.

"It can often be difficult to sell $5 raffle tickets, but the Muster environment allowed people to see the cause for what it was, and it was just beautiful how much they got behind it," she said.

Mates4Mates CEO Simon Sauer AM CSC said the charity was grateful for their relationship with the Muster.

"Mates4Mates is very grateful to be partnering with the Gympie Muster again this year. Mates4Mates relies on the support of organisations and events such as the Muster, so we can continue to deliver our vital services to Mates and their families."

The Muster is also pleased to announce Fred Smith as its 2017 Charity Ambassador, following the great work of Beccy Cole who undertook the role last year. Fred will serve as the Muster's charity ambassador in the lead-up to the event and throughout the festival.

Mr Smith was Australia's first diplomat posted to Uruzgan in Afghanistan in 2009 where he served again in 2013. As well as his diplomatic work, he's also a talented singer-songwriter and his show Dust of Uruzgan - the name of a song inspired by his time in the province and the name of his book - brings what is happening in Afghanistan to Australians in a way they relate to, through music.

The diplomat has run songwriting workshops for returned soldiers through Mates4Mates and feels an affinity with the returned service personnel as he lived and worked with them over his two postings - the first 18 month and the second six months - in Afghanistan.

"My Song Dust of Uruzgan which Lee (Kernaghan) has covered, was written from the point of view of Paul Warren who works for Mates4Mates," he said.

"He was a guy who was in a pretty bad situation and made his way through while finding a sense of purpose by getting help. That proves the value of an organisation like Mates4Mates because it sees soldiers through the dark sides so they don't become a suicide statistic."

This will be Mr Smith's first Gympie Muster, although he said he'd always known about the event.

"When they invited me to be the charity ambassador I knew straight away it was a good fit," he said. "I worked very closely with Australian soldiers and some of those boys need a bit of help when they get back, so I'm proud to be involved with Mates4Mates for those reasons.

"I'm sure there'll be some great bands, too, and it'll be a completely different world to what I am used to down here (Canberra) and I'm really looking forward to it."

The Gympie Music Muster runs from Thursday, August 24, to Sunday, August 27, 2017 in the Amamoor State Forest near Gympie.

The event's line-up is due to be announced this Thursday, April 27. Tickets are available via www.muster.com.au.

Gympie Times


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