Poignant, powerful, personal.
The outpouring of community support both during and in the weeks following the 2021 Albury-Wodonga Winter Solstice has seen it hailed the most successful in the event's nine-year history.
A short technical glitch did nothing to quell the enthusiasm of the nearly 2000 people who turned out in the sharp cold of the winter's evening to hear speakers Kerry O'Brien, Linda Burney and Georgie Dent.
Organisers described this year as a "coming of age" for the event that shines a light into the darkness of mental illness and suicide.
The Winter Solstice has expanded its reach far beyond the region's borders after the 2020 event went to an online format due to COVID-19 restrictions.
In doing so, it found a new audience as viewers tuned in from Australia and across the globe to watch the Facebook live-stream.
The event was live-streamed again this year and more than 15,000 had tuned in by the end of Dent's speech.
Viewers responded online with heart-felt messages, connecting with the "brave", "beautiful" speakers, and sharing their own experiences of pain and loss:
Linday Burney MP! Deeply beautiful words. Thankyou and to The Northern Folk you beautiful humans, thankyou for warming our hearts on a freezing cold night xx (Bec Irving); and
What a BEAUTIFUL EVENING - thankyou for making this happen each year. I love seeing it grow in size and impact xxx (Sharnee Jacobs).
And from across the seas:
... I woke up for our summer solstice sunrise at 4.56am and fell asleep listening to Melody Pool at your winter solstice, I was touched how inclusive everybody felt, and was very touched by your speakers and music. thankyou ...(Anthony Boyle, Bray, Ireland)
But it was perhaps one of the speakers themselves who was to demonstrate the profound impact of this unique congregation.
When it came his turn, former 7.30 Report presenter Kerry O'Brien admitted he had intended to talk more generally about mental health but "was avoiding spending serious time talking about my brother".
And so he spoke publicly for the first time about his brother Paul's suicide.
"It's only now, as I face trying to put these things into words ... that I understand how important it is that we share," he said.
Kerry is connecting us right now with each other. This event is filling me with hope ... kindness and being human and compassionate is essential (Meg Moorhouse).
Later, as the fires turned to embers, the veteran journalist asked why every town didn't have a Winter Solstice.
And, as Professor Patrick McGorry has also reiterated, that is indeed the question!
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