Baring all for mental health


By Jack Waters

THE Barefoot Dutchman, Anton Nootenboom, recently visited Beerwah State High School as he edges closer to breaking a Guinness World Record.

The 34-year-old is walking barefoot from Sydney to Cairns, a 2,600km journey, all in the name of men’s mental health.

It’s been quite the journey up until this point for Anton, who became the first person to reach the Mount Everest base camp in his bare feet, raising funds for remote communities in the Himalayas.

Anton was born in the Netherlands and migrated to Sydney’s northern beaches after serving 10 years in the Dutch Army, including three missions in Afghanistan. 

He is now a construction worker and has seen first-hand how problematic these masculine environments can be for men doing it tough.

Anton and his hardened feet have raised more than $25,000 since beginning the journey from Cairns on May 8, with a goal to top $100,000 by the time he arrives in Sydney.

As you can imagine, Anton says he has had been some challenges along the way.

“The condition of the Bruce Highway, being made from gravel and tar, it’s just unbearable to walk on. If I had known up front that the road was going to be like this I probably never would have thought of doing it,” he laughed.

Anton said the generosity of strangers had overwhelmed him and made the rough roads and cold nights much easier to bear, with people tracking him online via his GPS signal and bringing warm meals to his temporary roadside campsite.

“The highlight has been getting into these towns and smaller communities and people reaching out,” he said.

“Even now, standing here at the school and being able to talk to a whole bunch of kids, it’s amazing. It makes you want to go 100 miles an hour when you remember why you’re doing it.”

Although it was obvious how much the students at Beerwah State High loved hearing Anton’s story, it was clear that this journey meant just as much to him.

“I’m just learning a lot about myself again,” he said.

“Like I said, it’s an ongoing process and it’s opening doors for me to do more with it, so I’m very passionate about that.

“I’m hoping that this journey opens up people’s minds that it’s completely fine to have emotions and speak about your mental health.

“I want people to speak up before they man up and to create that balance between building resilience and knowing there is safety to speak up whenever you need to,” Anton said.

Anyone wishing to donate to the cause or read more about Anton can visit his website at www.thebarefootdutchman.com

Beerwah State High School students (some dressed for book week) with principal Lyn McDonald (in black) and Anton
Anton with Beerwah State School students
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