High Commendation for Excellence in Community Engagement – Dr Joe Perry

Senior Lecturer in the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, Dr Joe Perry, has been highly commended in the Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Excellence Awards for his outstanding leadership of the ACU Murray to Moyne Cycle Team for almost 20 years.

Joe has coordinated and led a team for the Victorian cycle-relay event to fundraise for health-related charities every year since joining ACU as a nursing lecturer in 2000, aside from this year.

His dedication has helped raise more than $250,000 for the team’s associated charities: medical programs in East Timor, Bone Marrow Donor Institute, Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS), and now Ovarian Cancer Australia (OCA).

How it all began

The Murray to Moyne started when Graham “Woody” Woodrup decided to ride from Mildura to Port Fairy on his own in 24 hours to raise money for Port Fairy Hospital, where his daughter was a patient. Now, each April, about 2,000 participants ride in teams from Mildura, Swan Hill or Echuca to Port Fairy over a weekend – a ride of more than 520 kilometres.

Joe completed his first Murray to Moyne a few years before he started at ACU, and this episode encouraged him to provide a caring and supportive experience for all team members.

“I had such a bad time,” he says. “A couple of other guys and I got stranded on the road at about one o’clock in the morning and had to find our way back to Hamilton. I’m not unaccustomed to organising events, and I said then, ‘I’d like to do this at some stage, and I’ll do a lot better job at it.”

Two decades on, and about 16 cyclists plus 6-8 support crew – a mix of ACU staff and students, OCA staff, and Joe’s friends and family – join ACU’s Murray to Moyne team each year.

During the event, the cyclists ride in teams of four and change over at set points, while the non-riding supporters transport people, bikes and supplies, provide vehicle protection for riders, and arrange things like food.

“We group people according to their ability: the stronger riders do more riding; the weaker riders do less riding,” he says. “But each team only ever goes as fast as the slowest rider is capable of riding.

“No one gets lost, no one gets left behind, and it’s a personal challenge for everybody. We recognise that and I’ve never said to anybody ‘no you can’t come’.”

Winning the Woody medal

In 2019, Joe’s commitment was recognised when he won the highest honour in the Murray to Moyne community: the Graham Woodrup Memorial Award.

This award is presented each year to someone who has displayed exceptional effort and inspiration to others over the years his/her team has been involved with the event. Fittingly, Joe received it on a day he was doing what he does best – helping others.

“About 2km from Port Fairy, Tim, a good mate of mine crashed,” Joe recalls. “Jeff, another friend who’s a paramedic, and I reached Tim first. Tim was unresponsive and we were really worried about him, so we called an ambulance.

“My phone kept ringing, I didn’t answer, and then finally I was like, ‘Who is this?’ And it was someone asking when I would get to the finish, and saying the organisers were waiting for me and that I’d been nominated for the Woody Award.

“So we loaded Tim into the back of the ambulance, I just crossed the finish line and the bloke on stage said, ‘Here he is, and he’s late because he’s been doing all the things he’s been nominated for.’”

Thankfully, Tim made a full recovery from the crash. But the responsibility of an organiser weighs on Joe, and he hopes to hand the reins to a successor when he retires from ACU at the end of the year.

Aligning with the mission

Joe’s held various roles in his time at ACU, progressing from a part-time Level B lecturer to a senior lecturer, side-stepping into doctorate study and leadership support roles along the way. In each capacity, he’s continued to engage with the community through the ACU Murray to Moyne team.

“Part of the reason I always wanted the ACU connection [for the team] is that it fits beautifully with the ACU mission – particularly the part about human dignity,” Joe says.

Knowing that the ACU team’s fundraising efforts make a difference for people doing it tough is one of Joe’s main inspirations for organising the event. His other inspiration is a little more selfish.

“I just love it,” he says. “I really enjoy the event; there’s that personal challenge aspect of it – still. And the way I see it, if you can step into different roles to make things work and get people [to the finish], then great.”

Joe invites anyone who wants to join the team as a rider or support crew member to email him at joe.perry@acu.edu.au.

Images (top to bottom): Joe and his ACU graduate daughter Kate at the start of 2019 M2M; crossing the finish line in the 2019 M2M; the 2019 M2M team; Joe holding the Woody medal and plaque.

Joe and his ACU graduate daughter Kate at start of 2019 M2M

2019 M2M crossing the finish line

2019 M2M team

Joe holding Woody medal and plaque


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