BGIS Takes to the Mountain to Prevent Veteran Suicide

This year, Soldier On supporter, BGIS took to the mountains as part of the March On challenge.

Soldier On’s March On challenge called upon Australians to walk 96 kilometres, the length of Kokoda, during the month of March to raise funds to help prevent veteran suicide.

Attracting more than 6,200 participants, 862 teams and 27 schools marching a total of 382,000km, the challenge raised more than $1.8 Million to prevent veteran suicide.

During March, members of the BGIS Defence team took on the Ten Aussie Peaks; Australia’s highest peaks all located in Kosciuszko National Park.

The four-day trekking challenge saw the team hike a total of 67km. A tremendous feat, the challenge saw participants conquer some of our countries most iconic peaks through extreme conditions, encountering ferocious headwinds of up to 70km/h, snow, hail, rain, flooding, and even white outs.

Thanks to generous donations from BGIS, their partners and individual supporters, the team raised more than $52,000, making BGIS the highest fundraising team throughout the March On challenge.

BGIS Managing Director – Operations, Defence & FMO, Brad Robbins, also raised an outstanding $11,232 for the challenge, making him the highest individual fundraiser across the campaign.

An avid supporter of Soldier On, BGIS has demonstrated its support for the veteran community through its own programs, as well as its ongoing partnerships with Soldier On as a Platinum Pledge Partner.

BGIS Managing Director – Operations, Defence & FMO, Brad Robbins said the team were thrilled to take part in the Mountain Challenge.

“This was a sensational experience for a truly worthwhile cause, and we enjoyed the team bonding and camaraderie that came with it,” Mr Robbins said

“To have raised such a huge amount means we will really make a difference for veterans and their families,” Mr Robbins added.  

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said he has been astonished by the outstanding efforts of the BGIS team.

“It has been fantastic to see a veteran supportive organisation getting out there and walking the walk against veteran suicide,” Mr Slavich said.

“Every dollar raised by the BGIS team will go directly to the services that Soldier On provides to our nation’s current and ex-service personnel and their families. With their help, and the help of all those who donated to the March On campaign, we will be putting on more Psychologists, more Counsellors, and offering more social connections services to help prevent veteran suicide” Mr Slavich added.

Supporting South Australian Veterans and Their Families

Veterans and their families are set to benefit from the new Repat Veteran Wellbeing Centre opening within the Daw Park Repatriation Health Precinct, bringing together ex-service community services and government support for health and wellbeing into one hub.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the Repat Veteran Wellbeing Centre is a welcome addition to the world-class system of support we have in Australia for veterans and their families.

“The Veteran Wellbeing Centre, located within the Repatriation Health Precinct, will bring together a range of services, including support from Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling, Plympton Veterans Centre, RSL South Australia and Soldier On,” Mr Chester said.

“These organisations are experienced in delivering high-quality support for the ex-service community and share the Australian Government’s objective to provide a stable support system that is easy to access and delivers the services they need.

“As a nation we can always improve on the support provided to veterans and their families and this centre is a fantastic example of the Federal and South Australian Governments working together with the ex-service community to improve their health and wellbeing, and provide individualised services based on their needs.”

The Repat Veteran Wellbeing Centre is the second centre to open as part of the $30 million commitment made by the Federal Government to develop a network of six Veteran Wellbeing Centres across Australia, which the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is delivering in partnership with ex-service organisations and State and Territory governments.

South Australian Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the development of the Repat Veteran Wellbeing Centre, in partnership with the Commonwealth Government, represents a new chapter in the provision of support and access to services for veterans and their families in South Australia.

“The Marshall Liberal Government is committed to veterans and their families and the opening of the Repat Veteran Wellbeing Centre will provide a safe and welcoming environment in which veterans and their families can access services and feel confident in seeking the support they need to improve their health and wellbeing,” said Minister Wade.

The centre will focus on delivering wellbeing services to assist veterans and their families to transition successfully to civilian life.

The centre will offer services to support health and wellbeing, advocacy, education, skills and employment, and housing and accommodation support.

Member for Boothby Nicolle Flint MP the Veteran Wellbeing Centre is a key feature of the new Repat Precinct and has only come about because of the tireless efforts of our veterans who campaigned to put a stop to the closure of the Repat.

“It is so important that our veterans and their families have a dedicated place where they can go to connect with one another and to also access the assistance they need,” Ms Flint said.

“The reactivated Repat is in the heart of my local community and I worked hard to see the Federal and State Governments join forces to redevelop this important health precinct, including to return a veterans presence to the Repat.”

Veteran Wellbeing Centre and services will be launched and available to veterans and their families from 1 June 2021.

Soldier On’s Partnerships and Grants Director, Prue Slaughter said Soldier On welcomes the centre and the opportunities it will bring for the veteran community.  

“The Repat Wellness Centre will be a welcome addition to the local veteran community. It is through projects like this that we are able to provide our ex-serving community with the vital support services that enable them to thrive,” Prue said.

Soldier On Honours our ANZACs and Contemporary Veterans in Commemorations

This ANZAC Day, Soldier On honours the legacy of our ANZACs and acknowledges the continued sacrifices made by our contemporary veterans every day.

This year, Soldier On will be hosting a virtual commemorative service to honour our service men and women. Soldier On’s 2021 Commemorative Service is supported by Lt Gen Peter Leahy AC (Ret’d), Chief

of the Defence Force General Angus J. Campbell, AO, DSC, as well as His Excellency, General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC and will include readings and messages from Soldier On Ambassadors together with material sourced from the Australian War Memorial.

The ANZAC Day Commemorative Service will be available from 6:00am on 25 April 2021 via the Soldier On website. Soldier On has also partnered with Aussies and Kiwis for ANZACs to raise funds for our veteran community.  A free commemorative pin is available with every donation above $10 to Soldier On’s In Their Honour Appeal.

Donations to the In Their Honour appeal will go towards supporting our serving and ex-serving members and their families, allowing Soldier On to provide a greater range of life saving support services to more participants.

Through the appeal, Soldier On is sharing the stories of our contemporary veterans who have carried on the spirit of the ANZACs in their service today. The organisation has also created public resources, including school materials and activities, which aim to educate our younger generation on our ANZACs and the continued work of today’s ADF members.  

“More than 100 years on, our brave service men and women continue to carry the spirit of the ANZACs. Australia’s contemporary veterans and their families face significant struggles throughout and following their service. Soldier On works to support our veteran community through the provision of health and wellbeing, employment, education and social connection support services,” said Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich.

“This ANZAC Day we are asking our community to stand with our contemporary veterans, make a donation In Their Honour and support them in securing their futures,” Mr Slavich added.

UniSA Pledges Support to Australian Veterans

Soldier On welcomes The University of South Australia (UniSA) as its newest Bronze Pledge partner for 2021.

The Soldier On Pledge partnership provides a pathway for veterans and their families transitioning from the Australian Defence Force into civilian life.

The Pledge allows organisations to thank Australian Defence Force personnel for their service and recognise the exemplary skills, leadership, and training of those who have served Australia. Organisations that sign the Pledge commit to learning more about the skills and attributes that Defence personnel, veterans, and family members can bring to their organisation.

As the University of Enterprise for defence, UniSA has a longstanding relationship with the defence community in research and education.

UniSA Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Enterprise, Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington, said becoming a Soldier On Pledge Partner would continue UniSA’s strong support of the defence community.  

“Our new Veterans’ Engagement and Education Program offers personalised study support to veterans, serving and ex-serving ADF members, including reservists, first responders, and immediate family members,” Prof Hughes-Warrington said.

“Through our Invictus Pathways Program, we are also providing wellbeing activities and allied health services to ex-defence force personnel,” Prof Hughes-Warrington added.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich said Soldier On is honoured to welcome UniSA as its newest Pledge partner in 2021.  

“The Soldier On Pathways Program works to provide employment opportunities to veterans and their families, enabling them to thrive. For every organisation that signs the Soldier On Pledge, we are one step closer to enabling more veterans and their families to secure their future,” Mr Slavich said.

“Soldier On is thrilled to have another active veteran supporter join the Pledge. We look forward to working with UniSA to provide greater opportunities to our serving and ex-serving veterans and their families,” Mr Slavich added.

Soldier On Welcomes Royal Commission

Soldier On stands with our veteran community and welcome Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call for a royal commission into veteran suicide.

The rate of suicide of ADF ex-service men from 2002-2018 was 21% higher than the national male average, and 127% higher for ex-serving females.

This problem is pervasive and now well recognised by individuals, organisations, and the government.

At Soldier On, we stand with our serving and ex-serving veterans and their families. Our primary consideration lies in ensuring that our veteran community is equipped with the mental health and wellbeing support that they need to thrive.

LTGEN Peter Leahy AC, Rtd)

In a recent podcast with 2GB’s John Standley, Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, discusses how the Royal Commission will affect current serving Defence personnel, veterans, and their families. Listen online or download.

Heavy Metal, Movement, and Community: Veterans in the Mosh Pit

The link between positive mental health and heavy metal is closer than popular culture may portray.  The sense of being part of a community, collective movement – such as ‘headbanging’ and ‘moshing’- and the music itself, have been shown to provide numerous mental health benefits. 

We live in a time when one out of four Australian adults feel lonely, and nearly 30% of Australian adults feel they rarely or never feel part of a community or group of friends. [1] Having a sense of belonging is becoming increasingly important for mental health.  A 2018 study showed that heavy metal identity helped metalheads endure stress and challenging environments and build strong, lasting relationships with other fans –helping alleviate potential mental health issues. [2] 

Soldier On reached out to veteran metalheads to hear what they had to say about metal, mental health, and community. Michael, a Navy veteran, felt that the heavy metal community are very warm and inviting.  “There’s a lot of passion in people when they go to a metal show – you’re there to see the musicians perform their art, and to enjoy yourself.  My experience has been it can be pretty easy to strike up a conversation and meet people at shows,” Michael said. Roark, a currently serving Navy officer had this to say, “I absolutely feel an immediate connection with someone at a party or gathering if they are [into metal].  I know we’ll have something to talk about and have similar life experiences.” 

The acts of headbanging, moshing, and other physical movements while at metal concerts, have also shown to support positive mental health.  A 2016 study showed participation in a mosh pit or engaging in headbanging can provide an avenue where negative emotions can be discharged within an environment where aggression is contained and organized.  The study went on to note how the ritualized nature of headbanging and moshing provides a cathartic effect for fans and reduces feelings of shame and isolation. [3]

According to Kelly McGonigal, author of “The Joy of Movement”, the brain responds to music by releasing adrenaline, dopamine, and endorphins which energize the body and alleviate pain. Participating in live music and engaging in the group movements, such as the mosh pit, helps foster a sense of belonging and further facilitates the release of endorphins. [4]

Heavy metal’s mental health benefits were demonstrated in a 2015 University of Queensland study.  The study of 39 adults between the ages of 18 and 34 revealed the participants felt heavy metal was helpful in regulating feelings of sadness while enhancing positive emotions.  The study also showed the participants’ levels of hostility, irritability and stress decreased after listening to heavy metal or extreme music.[5] 

Neurologist Oliver Sacks said, “music is part of being human” and the heavy metal community is full of fans waiting to welcome you into the pit. 


[1] (2018, November 11). AUSTRALIAN LONELINESS REPORT. Retrieved from https://psychweek.org.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Psychology-Week-2018-Australian-Loneliness-Report-1.pdf

[2] Cansdale, D. (2018, February 19). How heavy metal and head banging can help soothe your soul. Retrieved March 01, 2021, from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-19/heavy-metal-helps-soothe-the-soul/9450576

[3] Baker, C., Brown, B. Suicide, Self-Harm and Survival Strategies in Contemporary Heavy Metal Music: A Cultural and Literary Analysis. J Med Humanit 37, 1–17 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10912-014-9274-8

[4] MCGONIGAL, K. (2021). JOY OF MOVEMENT: How exercise helps us find happiness, hope, connection, and courage. S.l.: AVERY PUB GROUP.

[5] Watson, M. (2015, June 25). Heavy metal combats depression, anger: Study. Retrieved March 01, 2021, from

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-25/study-finds-heavy-metal-reduces-anger-depression/6571820

More than 1.8m Raised to Prevent Veteran Suicide

Soldier On’s March On Challenge has raised more than $1,800,000 to prevent veteran suicide.

During the month of March, the March On Challenge called upon Australians to walk 96 kilometres, the length of the Kokoda Track, in order to raise funds to help prevent veteran suicide.

The challenge attracted more than 6,200 participants, 862 teams and 27 schools – Marching from the ocean floor to mountain peaks, with a combined total of more than 434,000km walked.

The March On Challenge also saw participants marching in the United Kingdom, the United States, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Canada, New Zealand, and France.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said he has been astonished by the overwhelming support that the campaign has received in 2021.

“It has been fantastic to see people all over Australia getting out there and marching on against veteran suicide. We have seen participants around the world completing their challenge through day-to-day activities, group walks, one-day challenges, mountain hikes, and even walks across the ocean floor,” Mr Slavich said.

“Every dollar raised as part of the March On challenge will go directly to the services that Soldier On provides to our nation’s current and ex-service personnel and their families. We will be putting on more Psychologists, more Counsellors, and offering more social connections services to help prevent veteran suicide” Mr Slavich added.

March On Patron, 102-year-old retired Sergeant Bert Le-Merton, said the success that Soldier On has seen in this campaign has been extraordinary.   

“I thank all those members of the public who have assisted Soldier On by taking part in the challenge and making donations,” Sergeant Bert said.

“The funds raised through March On will allow Soldier On to provide serving and ex-serving veterans and their families with the assistance they need to build better futures following their service,” Sergeant Bert added. 

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