Seb Robertson on a ‘unique opportunity too good to pass up’

Every so often in life we get presented unique opportunities to be a part of something bigger than anything we could ever achieve on our own. When I say ‘be a part of’ I don’t mean in like “I attended Taylor Swift’s first concert in Australia” type thing…

It’s been over a year since I stepped down as CEO of batyr and handed over the reigns to Sam Refshauge. Like all big changes, the process was both incredibly rewarding and one of steep learning for the both of us. When I stepped back I was able to witness just how incredibly talented the whole team are and how driven everybody around them, from funders and batyr speakers, to teachers and parents, were continuing to have a positive impact in delivering preventative mental health programs for young people.

The biggest joy has come from the engagement that batyr continues to maintain across the ages but in particular with young people. Nothing speaks more to the success of batyr over the past 5 years then the fact that we now have trained nearly 200 young people through our Being Herd program. It’s these young people that are core in changing the stigma surrounding mental health and it’s these individuals, and their stories of resilience, recovery and hope, that are equipping young people to reach out for support when they need it.

batyr has now reached over 37,000 young people through structured programs and the team, under Sam’s stewardship have developed an incredible 5 year plan to take that up to half a million and to train over 2,000 young people to share their story. It’s this type of ambition that ignites the spark within everyone involved at batyr, from the volunteers putting in the man-hours at schools and universities, all the way to the Board members. It’s a unified goal of reducing stigma and increasing help seeking for all young Australians that’s pushing batyr to new heights and for those close to the action we know that this is just the beginning…

So with the team fully operational under Sam I began to question what value can I bring to this ambitious vision. After nearly three years with Matt Nacard at the helm of the ship as Chairman of batyr a unique opportunity arose that was too good to pass up. With Matt recently moving his family to Hong Kong, it became evident that the role needed to be based in Australia and so after many conversations I now have the honour of being Chairman of batyr. Filling Matt’s shoes, particularly in table tennis and Blue Tie Ball antics, will no doubt be difficult but with the strength of the team both in management and on the Board, and with Matt continuing on as Non Executive Director, I know that this new position is one that will be well supported and I hope to bring the same passion and conviction to the role as I did when I set up batyr back in 2011.

The Chair role is as unique in opportunity as it is in responsibility. I take on this role knowing that to equip this growing team with the resources and tools to achieve our ambitious goals over the next five years will require me to step up with them. The great thing is that I will not be doing that alone. All Board members are right there with me and I now get the opportunity to share in the joys of the incredible impact batyr is having in the communities with young people. So whilst this may be no Taylor Swift concert… It is worth noting that between the batyr Blue Tie Ball and the Tamworth white elephant winter ball we have SOLD OUT on 5 of 5 occasions!! With the last 1800 tickets being sold in under two minutes… #JustSaying #TayTay it’s probably time to play at our Ball.


Postcard-perfect sunrise over Bondi for Darkness Into Light Sydney

The Irish Times

By Ciara Kenny

A postcard-perfect sun rose over Bondi Beach in Sydney this morning as 1,600 people, most of them Irish, walked towards the dawn for the annual Darkness Into Light event in aid of Irish suicide prevention charity Pieta House

There were tears, cheers, hugs and smiles as a shivering crowd gathered in pitch darkness at the Bondi Surf Bather’s Life Saving Club on the promenade at 5am to collect their yellow t-shirts. Friends and couples clutched each other during a moment’s silence to remember those who have died by suicide, before the runners and walkers set off along the 5km circuit to Tamarama and back around the cliffs to Bondi Beach.

This was Sydney’s third year hosting Darkness Into Light. Walks also took place in Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Darwin in Australia, one of nine countries worldwide where dawn walks are being held today.

Organisers are expecting a total of 120,000 people to participate in DIL events across the globe.

More than $50,000 (€32,300) was raised in Sydney alone. Proceeds will be split between Pieta House and local Australian charity batyr, which runs mental health awareness workshops for young people in schools and universities.


“Darkness Into Light is about highlighting the issue of suicide and mental health in a light way, and letting people know that if they do have an issue, there are almost 2,000 people here this morning who are willing to listen,”

said Neil O’Sullivan, a spokesman for DIL Sydney who lost a close friend to suicide in Dublin seven years ago.Mr O’Sullivan, who has been living in Australia for five years, said the global DIL event was about bringing the Irish community together around the world, and letting them know they are supported far from home.

“He had a beautiful girlfriend, was very successful, and no one knew he was suffering. Events like this make talking about mental health more normal.”

“If you have any underlying issues around mental health, if you are anxious or stressed or depressed, and you are on the other side of the world where your parents and brothers and sisters and friends aren’t around, it is even more difficult,” he said.

The Irish Support Agency of New South Wales, which provides assistance to vulnerable Irish people, has seen a substantial increase in the number of mental health-related cases in recent years as the Irish population in Australia has increased. A new support service with Irish counsellors is planned for the coming months.

“Australia has everything on paper to be the best place in the world, but that doesn’t matter if you have depression. A Skype call is all well and good, but it is not the same as being with family and loved ones. I think it is even more important for expats, wherever they are in the world, to be aware of that and open about how they are feeling,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

David Breen, a project manager from Ferns in Co Wexford who has been living in Australia for two years, was joined on the walk this morning by 25 team mates from Clan na Gael GAA in Sydney. “Everyone knows someone, or has a friend or family member who has been affected by suicide. Growing up there were people in my school who died by suicide, people in my local village. When you are away from home it is nice for the Irish community to make sure we stand together and know we have support when you are so far away from family and friends in Ireland. ”

Áine Whelan, a financial services consultant also from Co Wexford, joined the DIL Sydney committee this year. Her father died by suicide 13 years ago.

“There were people here today who have been very recently impacted by suicide. To see the support that is out there is incredible,” she said.

“It is fascinating going onto Facebook and seeing your whole feed is Darkness Into Light, from people in China, New York, London… you have that feeling that we are all connected around the world for the one reason.”