The University of Newcastle, Australia

Volunteers prepare to blaze a trail for Indigenous education

Friday, 30 June 2017

A group of students, alumni, staff and community friends of the University of Newcastle (UON) will come together later this week, ahead of the ambitious 65 kilometre trek across the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory this August.

The group will plan key logistics ahead of the challenging hike, which aims to raise more than $100,000 to support Indigenous students and research into Indigenous community health issues.

Among the group of 28 volunteers is renowned Paralympian, UON alumnus, Dr William Tan, who has overcome enormous adversities to forge a remarkable career across medicine, sport and philanthropy.

After contracting polio at just two years old which left him paralysed from the waist down, Dr Tan went on to establish a distinguished career as a neuroscientist, physician and sportsman.

His humanitarian efforts continued even after being diagnosed with Stage 4 Leukaemia almost a decade ago, championing on behalf of cancer patients who could not afford expensive treatment in Singapore while battling through six months of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.

The Singapore national is an Asian-Pacific Games triple gold medallist, who holds multiple marathon records and has raised more than SG $18 million for charities around the world.

After dropping out of kindergarten, Dr Tan went on to study and train at some of the world’s most prestigious institutions, including Harvard, Oxford and the Mayo Clinic in America.

Dr Tan graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine from UON in 2005 and received UON’s Alumni Award for Exceptional Community Service in 2015, adding to countless other national and international awards that recognise his outstanding contributions.

While Dr Tan has completed over 60 ultramarathons, for many volunteers the Larapinta Trail will be their first.

Together they will traverse remote and desert territory, experiencing many Aboriginal sacred sites of the Arrernte people along the way.

UON is a proud leader of Indigenous education, graduating a third of the country’s Indigenous doctors and supporting the largest number of Indigenous students of any Australian university through UON’s flagship Wollotuka Institute.

UON’s Larapinta Trail Challenge will take place between 15–19 August. Donate to the Challenge at or to support Indigenous students and research into Indigenous community health issues.

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