A mining engineer who survived a horrific fire may not have seemed an obvious choice as a Beef Week guest speaker, but Turia Pitt captivated an audience of more than 600 at the Westpac Agribusiness High Tea as part of Beef Australia 2015
Ms Pitt told the guests she was surprised people found her interesting after the 2011 accident in Western Australia, which left her with burns to 65 per cent of her body. “I thought I was pretty interesting before that, to be honest,” she quipped.
She described her painful but inspiring four-year journey following the tragic day she was trapped by a grassfire during a 100 kilometre ultra-marathon with humour and grace, drawing a standing ovation from the room of rural women.
Overcoming adversity, the importance of persistence and determination and the need find things to be grateful for in our everyday lives were the themes of her presentation.
“We can wake up every morning, get dressed, feed ourselves, and we can communicate with one another,” she said.
“And although there’s sometimes a lot of bad things that happen in people’s lives – for me that was the fire, for the community here it’s the drought – there’s still a lot we can be grateful for, especially in Australia.
“We’re so lucky in this country, so privileged. Think about all the developing countries in the world, we’re so far beyond that – we’ve got one of the best medical systems in the world.”
While agreeing that people in rural Australia should have better access to the best health care, Ms Pitt said she had learnt the hard way it was important not to take our medical system for granted. Australia truly is a lucky country, she said, and she and her partner Michael Hoskin had been overwhelmed by support.
Post-accident life was of course "a different world", she said, but she was grateful to have been given a voice in the community.
“Bad stuff happens to people every single day and you usually don’t really hear about it so I’m really grateful to the media for picking up my story and running with it, being so supportive of myself and Michael over the past four years – I’ve never felt anything but love and support from the Australian community and I think that’s really beautiful.”
She was excited to be invited by Westpac - “I’ve never been to Rocky and I’ve never been to a Beef Week, so I had no idea what to expect” – and said not only did she find the event “phenomenal” but she also had the best beef sandwich of her life.
Ms Pitt now spends her time on causes she is passionate about, such as Interplast – a charity which provides free reconstructive surgery to people in developing countries. In 2014, her team raised close to $200,000 for the organisation, and they hope to raise even more in 2015 when they tackle the Inca Trek.
Her memoir Everything to Live For with Libby Harkness was published late in 2013.
Givit founder Juliette Wright also addressed the crowd and spoke on how generosity could transform rural communities, especially in times of crisis.