Five years ago today, in a tent pitched on the burned-down grounds of the Canberra Services Club, Soldier On was officially launched. In attendance was former Chief of Army, LTGEN Peter Leahy AC (Ret’d), who today is the chairman of our board, as well as federal politician, Mike Kelly, and a number of current and former serving Defence Force Members.
Media also showed up to find out more about this new charity that wanted to raise awareness of the experiences of our contemporary veterans. Soldier On was featured on the ABC in the morning and The Project that night.
So much has happened in the five years since then.
In the first couple of years, Soldier On was instrumental in raising community and political awareness of the needs of our modern veterans and families. We became trusted by government, veterans, families and the Australian community to provide advice and support. We were paramount in bringing about legislative changes for the betterment of veterans and families.
During this time philanthropists, corporate supporters, community fundraisers and donors rallied behind us. This financial support allowed Soldier On to grow. Just two years after first launchin, we opened Rehabilitation and Recovery Centres in Sydney and Canberra. That same year – 2014 – we hired our first, part-time psychologist and started delivering vital support services to veterans and their families.
The next year, Soldier On expanded our service offering and started focusing on helping veterans build successful futures by offering education and job placement opportunities. This was also the year we started asking: How can we better support veterans and families as they transition from the Defence Force into the community?
Last year was Soldier On’s biggest year of growth. Now with Veteran and Family Rehabilitation and Recovery Centres in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Perth, as well as offices in Currumbin and Adelaide. We also hired an additional six psychologists across the country, as well as a new team of experts to help veterans successfully transition from the Defence Force into the community.
In the same year we launched our world-class Veteran and Family Support Program, which includes our Veteran Employment Initiative, as well as continuing to offer social connected activities and programs and mental health support.
This year is already proving to be another big year, with new offices opened or opening soon in Newcastle and Albury.
Today, five years since we first launched, we are providing on-the-ground support to veterans and families; focusing on employment and education support, mental health support and social connected activities and programs. These support services help veterans and their families overcome any impacts from their service and build successful futures.
But we cannot celebrate our 5th anniversary without thanking all those who have helped build Soldier On to what it is today.
Thank you to the high-profile ambassadors who have helped spread the word about Soldier On. This includes our first and former Patron-in-chief, Corporal Mark Donaldson VC, our current and former Prime Ministers, Sunrise Co-host Samantha Armytage and comedians Hamish Blake, Anthony “Lehmo” Lehmann and Mick Molloy, as well as a number of other people.
Thank you to our corporate supporters and philanthropists for helping Soldier On grow and better support our veterans and families.
Thank you to those who have donated to Soldier On over the years. Your support has allowed us to make a huge difference in the lives of veterans and families.
Thank you to our passionate volunteers who play such an important role in helping Soldier On deliver events, projects and campaigns.
Thank you to our community for rallying behind us – for liking, commenting and sharing our social media posts so we reach more Australians across the country.
Thank you to our dedicated staff who work so hard to provide amazing support to veterans and families.
And, lastly, thank you to the Defence Force and veteran communities for supporting us and allowing us to support you.
Today we are proud of our achievements over the past five years; but more than that we are extremely grateful for your support which allowed us to achieve so much.