Lizz Hills will walk over 5,800 kilometres across Australia to educate and raise awareness of climate issues in the Trek2Reconnect and raise funds for Wild Mountains Environmental Education Centre.
But walking across Australia is not the most amazing thing about Lizz.
In 2004, like many young Australians, Lizz had her first solo overseas trip to Thailand.
She had a terrible accident and was badly injured after falling from a train.
“I was lost in Thailand for six weeks, nobody knew where I was,” she said.
“When they did finally get hold of my family from my passport, I had 30 broken bones and a closed skull fracture that left me with a permanently debilitating head injury.”
When she got back to Australia she was told she would never go back to university, never have children and would never be able to work.
“It was really hard to hear that as a 21 year old.”
About eight months after the accident her father saw Lizz struggling mentally and suggested they go back to Thailand together.
“I was a scuba dive master prior to my accident and had only wanted to go diving in Thailand.”
They went to the Similan Islands, planning to spend Christmas diving in the ocean.
On 26 December 2004, a tsunami struck off the coast of Sumatra island, Indonesia with subsequent waves rolling over coastlines in Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and South Africa.
Nearly 230,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest disasters in modern history.
Lizz says being on the ocean was the safest place to be at the time.
“We came back to a ruined space and the grief and the death that I experienced during that process … I came back with a bizarre response. I thought ‘I am supposed to be here and if I am supposed to be here I’d better do something pretty important.’”
This led Lizz to write a book called Stars Linger and gave her a passion for the environment. She now works as Program Director with Wild Mountains Environmental Education Centre.
She first became involved with Wild Mountains as a participant on a weekend training program in 2005. She moved there with her husband Justin in 2010.
From there she worked consistently with the organisation in landcare, sustainable building and education.
Lizz begins her trek from Rathdowney State School on 28 January in a ‘colour walk off’ accompanied by students of the school and members of the community.
Her support crew includes her husband Justin and 10 year old son, Rowan.
Trek2Reconnect passes through rainforest, desert, urban and coastal landscapes and ends at the bottom of Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia in July.
Lizz will visit over 30 schools to deliver immersive educational programs about the vital role of earth’s life support systems.
She will also invite students and community artists to be part of the National Art Collaboration for “Visioning a Positive Future” and record interviews with indigenous elders, teachers, farmers, and young people from across the country to be exhibited in November 2023.
Lizz says walking across the country she hopes to capture images that show the cultural and climatic changes.
“I’ve driven and flown across Australia and I know there are going to be long boring stretches of roads, but to really connect with the landscape I think walking is the best way to do this,” she said.
During Trek2Reconnect funding will also be raised for the Wild Mountains Scholarship Fund for students and teachers across Australia to attend “Shapers of Tomorrow” at Wild Mountains. Lizz’ fundraising goal is $100,000.
“When people say ‘do you think you’re going to make it to the other side of Australia’ I say ‘yep, I’m just going to put one foot in front of the other.”
“I’ve got a lot of determination, because I’ve seen how short life is.”
To donate, visit chuffed.org/project/trek2reconnect