4000km run to share stories of refugees

Jackson Bursill and Cassie Cohen are almost halfway through their 4000km run along the east coast of Australia for Bounding Plains to Share, a campaign raising awareness and money for refugees.
Jackson Bursill and Cassie Cohen are almost halfway through their 4000km run along the east coast of Australia for Bounding Plains to Share, a campaign raising awareness and money for refugees. Amber Macpherson

RUNNING 4000km in the peak of summer sounds like anyone's idea of agony, but two young endurance runners say it's nothing compared to the challenges refugees face.

Cassie Cohen, 22, and Jackson Bursill, 24, reached Noosa on Monday, marking the almost-halfway point for their journey between Cooktown and Melbourne.

The duo are slogging through the extreme challenge called Bounding Plains to Share to raise awareness for refugees, interviewing and sharing stories along the way of those who have made Australia home.

"There was a guy I spoke to in Sydney who was a refugee, I told him about our run,” Bursill said. "He said to me 'I don't like running much. I had to run 1000km to get to a refugee camp'.

"You know - we have pairs of shoes, a stop every hour, water ... this guy had to run for his life. It does add that perspective.”

Cohen and Bursill set off on November 23 and are expected to arrive in Melbourne at the start of March.

Apart from a short break at the start of the year, the friends run about a marathon-length for six hours every morning, and spend afternoons collating and editing interviews with refugees they're put in touch with through local organisations.

"We created it (Bounding Plains to Share) to canvas and showcase stories that wouldn't have otherwise had attention brought to them,” Bursill said.

"We're creating a story every day, in the afternoon.

"People see us on Instagram in the pool, but we're in the pool for 20 minutes. That's our recovery.

"If it was just running and the rest of the day was chilling out, it would lose purpose.”

Cohen and Bursill have interviewed refugees and migrants from Africa, Asia and Europe, sharing their stories of dangerous journeys to safety, waiting in limbo in camps and taking advantage of opportunities once arriving in Australia.

"We found the people we interviewed through resettlement agencies wouldn't have really told their story, because a lot of them are very humble,” Bursill said.

"We think they're doing us a favour, but some of them say 'this is actually the first time I've shared my story', they're very grateful for that.”

Cohen said it's the people they've met that motivates them to push on every day.

"Sometimes when we're running, we think, 'what are we doing? Why are we doing this?',” she said.

"Then we remember the people and remember what we're doing it for.

"We started training 18 months ago. It was a crazy idea, we didn't know if it would actually happen.

"But we started planning more and training, and it's kind of picked up as we went along.

"We shared a story (about a refugee in Innisfail) and it ended up getting hundreds of likes and comments on the local Facebook group.

"People said 'we should be celebrating these multicultural diversities'. We thought, 'yes, that's exactly what we're aiming for'.”

Visit to keep up with Bursill and Cohen's journey.

Topics:  asylum seeker australia bounding plains to share cooktown melbourne noosa refugee running

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