Eighty-one years ago, comic book writer Joe Simon created Captain America, an agile and resilient superhero who represented the American spirit throughout World War II. Over a decade ago, Simon Harvey created Captain Australia with the hope of “defying the darkness” and “doing good deeds based on the idea that kindness propagates”.
I happened upon Harvey and his superhero alter ego in 2012 when I was writing for peanuts at a grassroots magazine. Harvey was working in the corporate world by day and patrolling the city streets at night dressed in a lycra superhero costume.
Any individual that saves Australians from evil with a torch, a digital camera and a mobile phone has my respect. Perhaps Harvey should enter Australian politics? Because we could certainly use a superhero right now.
Recently, I found my decade-old article on superheroism and impulsively googled “Captain Australia” to see if Harvey was still going strong or, like many of these unconventional ‘good will’ ideas, had faded into oblivion. I was happy to discover it was not the latter.
In September 2016, Harvey was diagnosed with invasive head and neck cancer and given six months to live. When I spoke to Harvey recently, he told me “The problem with cancer is that it’s an insidious enemy. You don’t just ‘beat it’. It tries to take your life, but if it fails, it tries to take everything else. Your sense of hope, dignity and your place in the world.
“Dealing with horrible side effects, I slipped quietly into an existential crisis,” he continued. “The idea of dying and leaving my 3 young sons – the youngest being 3 years old at the time of diagnosis – was the biggest kick in the guts.
“The love of my family is what kept me afloat but I was underperforming in every aspect of my life. I had to change. That’s what led me to The Big Walk.”
It’s worth pointing out that Simon Harvey grew up surrounded by addiction and family violence. At 15, he walked out the front door of his home in Brisbane and walked to his grandmother’s house in Sydney, where he would live for the next several years. That journey was about 1000 kilometres by foot. It took him about a month, sleeping under bridges and out of sight from the cops, so he wouldn’t end up in foster care. This was Harvey’s first big walk.
After cancer, inspiration struck, Simon Harvey would do another BIG WALK but this time for the independent children’s charity — The Kids’ Cancer Project — which supports childhood cancer research.
On Boxing Day 2021, when most people will be lying on the couch in a turkey and alcohol coma, Simon Harvey — Captain Australia –will be starting out on a 2500km walk from Brisbane to Melbourne along the Eastern coastline of Australia in his superhero costume. He’ll be sleeping rough (like he did on his first big walk as a kid) while raising money for an incredibly worthy charity.
When I asked Simon Harvey why he chose Boxing Day to start his BIG WALK, he responded: “My last cancer treatment was December 24, 2016. So I’m coming up to my fifth anniversary, which is when your risk of recurrence drops significantly. I felt that anniversary was the perfect time to start walking away from cancer.
“I’ll take Christmas Day with the kids. Then on Boxing Day — my birthday — I’ll set out on this long walk, but in a way, this big walk is one I started many years ago, as a fifteen-year-old boy; choosing to turn away from darkness and start moving forward with hope.”
Donations can be made on the Captain Australia Kids’ Charity page.