While many of us were treading water, hoping for the storm of 2020 to pass, Hayley Talbot paddled directly towards it. Bush Fires, Floods and a Pandemic, it all seems like a whirlpool of chaos but Hayley saw it as a call to action - her efforts recently acknowledged as Clarence Valleys 2nd most influential person (behind #1 teachers).
An Adventurer, Mum, Author, Poet & former musician who has worked in Law, Fashion & Marketing, Hayley Talbot is best known for being the first person to solo navigate over 400km of one of Australia’s most powerful waterways, the Clarence River. But this feat is only one of many that makes Hayley remarkable, and she’s just getting started.
In 2020 alone, Hayley a mother of 2, children living in the Clarence Valley, NSW managed to run 765 kms, plant 5000 trees, and campaign against mining in the Clarence Valley Water Catchment all while running her own business (Blanc Space Agency) and the Aus/NZ distribution of another business in the outdoor industry.
Solo navigating the Clarence River from Source to Sea.
In 2017 Hayley Talbot completed her epic solo journey by kayak from the headwaters of the Clarence River at Rivertree to Whiting Beach Yamba.
After 2 years of preparation, Hayley’s journey took 2 weeks to complete, living off the river and the land, from what she could forage and from what was kindly shared with her by farmers and campers along the way. Like 2020, the journey was tough and full of obstacles - rapids, impenetrable scrub, a damaged kayak, an injured arm and the threat of dingoes, snakes and humans (not to mention being a solo woman paddling through a remote river system). But Hayley had trained for this trip both mentally and physically - Hayley tested herself in the wilds of Tasmania & sought the blessing and knowledge of local Indigenous Elders before she travelled through their ancient territory.
“Step 1 was gaining the knowledge - When preparing to solo kayak the Clarence River, the best thing I did was start with a 4 day Survival Course with Aussie Survival Instructors in the Glenworth Valley near Gosford. The guys running it are fantastic, they taught me all the basics, a crash course in everything which I was able to hone and practice.
Step 2 was learning how to apply it. A big part of that was taking those incremental steps out of my comfort zone. The paddle I completed was overwhelming in it’s scope from where I sat when I first had the idea. But I began with the absolute faith that when the time came I would be the person I needed to be to be successful, because I would diligently apply myself to becoming it. An Explorer friend had said to me early on “Prepare so well the expedition is a holiday.” By the time I got out there I was the woman I needed to be. I faced and overcame many challenges, and the tools I had gathered in my methodical preparation caused me to be ready to meet them.”
After the 2 week journey her relieved family, friends and community were there to meet her on the beach at Yamba. A new trajectory was forged.
Running 765 kms in 1 month during a pandemic
When the Pandemic hit in April, Hayley wasn’t going to let this slow her down. Following the American metrics and running the mileage, on April 1st she ran 1 mile, then added a mile each day finishing on day 30 with a 50km run. The last 9 days of the challenge average out to a marathon a day. She did this with the support of other members of the Calendar Club (a 750km running challenge through the month of April) which was formed online with other participants around the world, running together in solidarity despite the challenges, it gave them a sense of community albeit online. Hayley was one of three women nationally to complete the challenge, and one of eleven women globally.
Planting 6000 trees after the Black Summer Bushfires
After the Bushfires which wiped out over 9,300 hectares of bushland in the nearby Yuraygir National Park alone, Hayley and her friend Dan Ross decided to launch ‘Caring for the Clarence’ as an antidote to the grief left in the wake of the fires.
Hayley was deeply impacted by the devastation caused by the fires and rallied together a group of people in the community in an effort to restore a Koala habitat that was wiped out over the Black Summer. Caring for the Clarence was an initiative of Hayley’s business Blanc Space Agency which partnered with the NSW Government’s conservation arm Saving Our Species and was guided by Koala conservation expert Dr Billie Roberts. They engaged local landholders in key areas to regenerate cleared patches of land, to join mature patches of trees, and used data to identify burn areas and koala population correlations to focus their efforts effectively.
“One tree at a time....
After the black summer bush fires we dreamed of a way to come together to heal as a community. More than a billion animals perished in the fires. We lost 73% of our koala habitat here in the valley. Only 30% of our koala population survived.
The only thing more hopeless than those stats, felt like doing nothing about it.
The Caring for the Clarence project has almost drawn to a close. 5,000 new native, endemic species of koala and nectar feeder food trees planted by big valley hearts and loving landholders are weaving towards the light” - Hayley Talbot July 6 2020”
Clean water campaigning to keep Mining out of the Clarence Valley Water Catchment
Having forged a deep affinity with the river on her journey, Hayley decided to use her platform and voice to help amplify the personhood of the river and the threats to the health of it.
“2 years ago I was the first person to solo kayak one of the greatest river systems in Australia; the Clarence River, from its source in the Great Dividing Range to its mouth, where it empties into the sea at Yamba. Recently I tried to recreate this journey with my dear childhood friend, big wave surfer and Patagonia ambassador Dan Ross, and a film crew, and we couldn’t do it. There’s just no water in the river.
We are a coastal nation on the driest continent on earth. To survive in an ever-changing climate emergency, now more than ever, we must honour, conserve and protect our most precious resource; water” - Hayley Talbot
After a massive effort and campaign the Clarence Catchment Alliance team managed to collect 10,000 signatures from people against mining in the Clarence Valley Catchment & more recently Council support - At the November 24 CVC meeting, councillors also resolved to “seek the support of both state and federal governments, to impose a moratorium on further mining exploration licences and to cancel existing licences”
“I am strongly of the heart that the risks to our great river from mining, are too impossibly high to take”
The fight is far from over, but the community has made it clear that they do not support the toxic extraction of rare earth metals from their precious water catchment.
Using Business to educate, foster community and inspire change
Blanc Space Agency is a co-working space and creative agency (+ much more) started by Hayley and her husband Michael. Blanc Space has become a community hub hosting events such as Serotiny - a weekly safe space for young women, redesigning the local skate park and more recently during NAIDOC week 2020, Blanc Space Agency hosted a screening of In My Blood it Runs and an indigenous lead conversation afterwards, sharing stories and brainstorming ideas around how they could work in partnership for improved outcomes around opportunity and self-determination.
“A week to pause, celebrate and uplift, and to learn new and deeper ways to connect with, and elevate and amplify indigenous voices, efforts and talents.
We live on ancient, matrilineal country. Where the mighty Bundjalung, Yaegl and northern Gumbaynggirr people have lived in harmony with the land for some 65,000 years. We pay our deep respects to the Elders past, present, and emerging of these abundant lands, that carry and nourish our souls and those of our loved ones.
Sands and tides are shifting, but we have much focussed, loving, deep work to do.
Our offering this Thursday night, is a screening of the film IN MY BLOOD IT RUNS”
- Blanc Space Agency Nov 11 2020
Hayley's Approach to Goal Setting
We are big supporters of Hayley and want to share her inspiring story with you. Please follow Hayley on Instagram so you can support her and perhaps be inspired to make a positive impact in your community in 2021 https://www.instagram.com/hayleytalbot