Sister’s act a beacon of change

Zach RelphCountryman
Kendall Whyte is a nominee for the Western Australian of the Year.
Camera IconKendall Whyte is a nominee for the Western Australian of the Year. Credit: Iain Gillespie

A joke to mischievously paint a tree in regional WA has morphed into a symbol for people to seek help if feeling blue.

And now, one of the founders driving the project in honour of her late brother is a contender for a Western Australian of the Year Award at tomorrow’s gala dinner in Perth.

Kendall Whyte is one of four finalists in the youth category for her campaign to raise mental health awareness through the Blue Tree Project.

“For me just to be a part of this experience is very humbling and it has offered great exposure for the Blue Tree Project,” she said.

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“To be alongside the finalists is a great honour, and it’s been really nice hearing about what all these incredible people are doing in our great State.

“It has been a bittersweet experience, but I know that our project is already making a difference to so many people, so I’m privileged to be able to help raise more awareness.”

Ms Whyte, alongside sister Erryn and friend Simon Comerford, has ensured the blue tree concept has blossomed since her brother Jayden’s death last year, when he took his own life.

One of the many blue trees now found around WA.
Camera IconOne of the many blue trees now found around WA.

At the Whyte’s family farm in Mukinbudin, the blue tree that emerged as the Blue Tree Project’s foundation still stands tall.

The willow was first painted in 2014 by Jayden and friend Tjarda Tiedeken, a German backpacker, as part of a practical joke.

After Jayden’s death, the Whytes repainted the tree in honour of his memory.

The tribute motivated Simon and Jared Beagley to also paint a tree blue in Mukinbudin to pay homage to the much-loved 29-year-old and shine a light on Australia’s startling suicide rates.

Since then, the concept has firmed as an avenue to promote mental health with more than 150 trees painted blue across the Wheatbelt, Mid West, Goldfields and South West.

Blue trees have also sprouted in New South Wales, Queensland and even England.

Ms Whyte, a video editor at Seven News Perth, said to be bestowed the Western Australian of the Year Award would be overwhelming.

“Winning would be a great honour for me and the Blue Tree Project team,” she said.

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