REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: From an irrigation channel to the English Channel, nothing will stop Brendan

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from ACM, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend.

Brendan Cullen, at Kars Station near Menindee, uses his experience overcoming mental health issues to help others in the Outback. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Brendan Cullen, at Kars Station near Menindee, uses his experience overcoming mental health issues to help others in the Outback. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

In this gig, you meet some very inspiring people in totally unexpected places. Brendan Cullen is one of them.

He's training to swim the English Channel, routinely notching up 10 kilometres swims in frigidly cold water.

This is all normal for anyone aspiring to undertake the open water challenge. What's different is where Brendan is training: the Outback of NSW.

He lives at Kars Station near Menindee, where he's been training for the cross channel swim for the past two and a half years. He's had to swim in the lakes and the irrigation channels that connect them - when there has been sufficient water.

His routine has been helped this year, thanks to good flooding rains in the Northern Basin which have seen theMenindee lakes fill again. Before that, he had to make do in ever diminishing bodies of water.

But this is not what makes Brendan Cullen truly inspiring.

It's his work in the mental health space that is remarkable.

Hard to picture now but a few years back, Brendan was diagnosed with depression. He knew something was wrong but couldn't put his finger on it. He was tired, burnt out, "cooked", as he puts it. After taking part in a seminar run by the Royal Flying Doctor Service, he knew he had to seek help and walked into Broken Hill Base Hospital.

His diagnosis was his ticket out of the black hole into which he'd descended, his life was put back on track.

Now, he helps others caught in the same situation, others who might not even be aware their mental health is suffering. He's a Lifeline ambassador and one of four champions in the Far West We've Got Your Back program, offering peer support to people going through tough times.

He's completely open talking about his struggles, about the racing heartbeat, the arguments with himself, the baggage from past trauma which weighed him down. Not too many Aussie blokes have the courage to speak about their demons. But Brendan does and that encourages others to drop their guard and let it all out - the first, most vital step to healing.

Isolation, unhelpful stoicism and the relentless cycle of drought are, like saltbush, a part of Outback life. Brendan's work helping others overcome them is as inspiring as his goal to swim the English Channel.

In case you are interested in filtering all the latest down to just one late afternoon read, why not sign up for The Informer newsletter?

MORE STUFF HAPPENING AROUND AUSTRALIA: