Ausnew Home Care | Travelling Jackaroo, 18, crisscrosses outback

Travelling Jackaroo, 18, crisscrosses outback in tractor for rural mental health

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Sam Hughes is hard to miss as he chugs along a highway in his bright orange tractor, gathering fame and funds along the way.

The 18-year-old, known as the Travelling Jackaroo, pulled up in Mount Isa five months into his outback road trip raising money and awareness for charities dedicated to rural mental health.

He is using humour to draw attention to a serious and insidious problem.

Young man in wide-brimmed hat and orange shirt takes a toothy selfie with a tin-man figure wearing a cap. Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, My Aged Care
Travelling Jackaroo Sam Hughes with his trusty "pilot".(

Supplied: the Travelling Jackaroo


Isolation, high suicide rates and poor mental health are issues familiar to outback Australians.

The Maleny-based teenager said he was astonished by the number of stories of farmers pushed to breaking point and families stretched thin.

"A couple recently took me in. There wasn't any food in their fridge, but out on the deck would have been hundreds of dollars' worth of feed for their animals."

A young man in a bright orange shirt stands in front of a tractor holding a donation tin. A man in a grey shirt is next to him
Sam Hughes with a donor in Mount Isa. (

ABC Western Qld: Larissa Waterson


Clocking up 5,000km at 40kph

After two years saving up, Mr Hughes put the Sunshine Coast in his rear-view mirror and "sped off" towards red-dirt country, albeit at 40 kilometres per hour.

He has clocked up more than 5,000 kilometres in his bright, orange 1957 Chamberlain 9G tractor called Slim, named after Slim Dusty.

Towing a trailer packed with a donation tin, fairy floss machine, jumping castle, cinema screen, Suzuki Sierra, and a wingless Beechcraft Musketeer, the Travelling Jackaroo has been a big drawcard for kids and adults alike.

An orange tractor topped with a gyrocopter towing a trailer crowned with a Beechcraft Musketeer. 
The Travelling Jackaroo's caravan set-up includes a tractor topped with a gyrocopter and a trailer crowned with a Beechcraft Musketeer.(

Supplied: the Travelling Jackaroo


So far, Mr Hughes has raised at least $43,000 for the RFDS, youth anti-bullying charity Dolly's Dream, and drought relief.

The head of Dolly's Dream, Stephen Bendle, said he never expected a call from a young high school student wanting to take on a journey of this magnitude.

"Sam contacted us … as a 17-year-old high school student and we were thrilled to be able to partner with him," Mr Bendle said.

"Mental health is the biggest issue among young people, that's what they identify as the greatest struggle in their lives, especially at this time with the virus."

Dolly Everett.
Youth mental health and anti-bullying charity Dolly's Dream was founded after the tragic death by suicide of 14-year-old Amy "Dolly" Everett.(



'Nothing more Australian' than checking on a mate

The voices of those impacted by an overwhelmed system have weighed heavily on Mr Hughes during his long drives.

"I have had people tell me stories of their experiences with suicide, of people picking up the pieces when loved ones can't cope," he said.

Young man in bright orange shirt stands next to tractor holding out donation tin as a man puts money in it
Sam Hughes, with the help of generous donors, is raising thousands of dollars for mental health.(

ABC Western Qld: Larissa Waterson


Each year, around one in five — or 960,000 — rural and remote Australians experience a mental illness, with remote Australians twice as likely to die by suicide than those in the city, according to the RFDS.

Country residents have an exacerbated risk of mental illness because of insufficient early intervention and prevention services, with farmers, young men, the elderly, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians at greatest risk of suicide.

"I'm trying to break the stigma of not talking about it. A lot of blokes, women too, but especially blokes, they don't want to talk about mental health," Mr Hughes said.

"Go and have a chat with your neighbour.

Young man wearing bright orange shirt and jeans stands atop an orange caravan, leaning against a light aircraft.
The Travelling Jackaroo on top of his bright orange trailer, complete with light aircraft.(

ABC Western Qld: Larissa Waterson


The Travelling Jackaroo's next stop is Camooweal, before making his way to Darwin and Western Australia, COVID-19 border restrictions pending.

But he's certainly in no rush.

"I want to raise as much as I can. If I cap it at $100,000, I'll make $100,000, and people will stop donating," he said.


Source: ABC

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