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Anzac Day trekkers tackle Kokoda trail in honour of legendary journalist Sean Dorney

Unforgettable sights: Sean Dorney with a huli wigman in PNG; and (right) as a younger reporter on assignment.

IT started as a bucket-list adventure – trekking the Kokoda trail on Anzac Day but, for a group of Brisbane trekkers, it has turned into a much richer challenge.

The 22-strong group has set off for Papua New Guinea to honour legendary journalist Sean Dorney and to raise money and awareness for motor neurone disease.

Mr Dorney faces a daily challenge living with MND, and as he watches his own health deteriorate, remains a high-profile advocate for medical research to find a cure.

One of the group is Mr Dorney’s son Xavier, who launched a crowd-sourcing web page to support his dad and raise funds for MND research.

“He has always been somebody that I’ve looked up to, but the strength and courage he has shown in accepting this latest battle has been truly inspirational,” Xavier Dorney wrote on the funding website. 

“It will be a massive challenge, both mentally and physically, but nothing compared to the battle Sean Dorney is currently fighting,” another of the trekkers Matt Blinkoff, who launched the site, posted.

“I’m inspired by the work of the MND and Me Foundation and wanted to support them by raising money as part of my participation in Trekking to Cure MND. 

“Please help me help them by giving whatever you can … The more people that know about MND and Me Foundation, the greater their impact.” 

The 100km trek coincides with the setting up of a new Walkley Foundation journalism grant worth $10,000 being named in honour of Mr Dorney.

The Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism will support a significant work of Australian journalism about an under-reported issue or development in the region. 

“Having recognised Sean’s outstanding contribution to journalism at last year’s Walkley Awards, we were very aware of his decades of inimitable work in the Pacific,” Walkley Foundation chief executive Louisa Graham said.

“It’s a practical and powerful way to empower a journalist and a media outlet to report on the Pacific, and to continue Sean’s impact and legacy in the industry he loves.”

Mr Dorney had a 40-year career as an ABC journalist in Papua New Guinea and throughout the Pacific islands region. 

After retiring from the ABC four years ago he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, but never lost his passion for the Pacific beat.

“It is essential that Australians know what is going on to our immediate north and east,” Mr Dorney said.

“There are heaps of stories there and I hope we hear and read about more of them, thanks to this welcome initiative.

“China’s increasing presence in the Pacific seems to have generated new interest in Canberra. It’s now vital to increase our media coverage. 

“This grant will help overcome the big obstacle – which is the cost – for journalists wanting to get out to our Pacific island neighbours.” 

Applications close on May 7 and the winner will be announced at the Walkley Mid-Year celebration on June 26.

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