Georgia Ongarezos is the youngest person to complete a solo crossing from Rottnest Island in the dark of night, achieving the feat in late 2020 and raising more than $13,000 for Lifeline WA in the process.
The accomplished swimmer was motivated to support Lifeline WA by her own struggle with depression, which had seen her stop training entirely.
Recognising how many of her peers were fighting the same darkness, she conceived the idea of the night swim to help shine a light on the importance of mental health.
“I counted 22 people I know that have a mental illness or are suffering as a consequence of loved ones with mental illnesses and this broke my heart,” Georgia says.
“I decided to swim in the darkness from Rottnest to Perth to inspire those who are struggling at the moment and feel like they are in darkness.”
For Georgia, Lifeline WA’s importance is in the lifeboat it represents for people lost in the currents of mental health issues.
“It gives me such peace of mind to know that if any of the people I love are struggling and reach out to Lifeline for help, their lives are more likely to be saved,” she says.
Even up to the night of the swim, Georgia was in a depressive state behind the smile she presented to the world.
“I didn’t realise that the tunnel I was in was still extremely dark and to be honest I hadn’t found the light yet,” she recalls.
But coming ashore at Cottesloe Beach as dawn broke was a turning point for her mental health, and she has a message for others who are struggling.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, and you can get there if you believe in yourself,” she says.
Since completing the swim, Georgia has continued to fundraise and advocate for Lifeline WA in the community.