Soldier On to Inform Australian War Memorial Veteran Advisory Group

Soldier On National Program Director, John Hardgrave, has been selected to sit on the Australian War Memorial’s Veteran Advisory Group.

The Australian War Memorial has formed the initial three advisory groups to provide relevant guidance on gallery content as part of the Memorial’s expansion. Of these groups, the Veterans Advisory Group will advise the Memorial in exhibition content development, particularly regarding how to reflect the diverse experiences of veterans and their families.

“Through our ongoing program of engagement and consultation, advisory groups will help the Memorial ensure that the stories we tell in the new galleries are relevant and that the spaces themselves are accessible and inclusive for all members of the public, our veterans and those still serving,” AWM Director, Matt Anderson said.

With 17 years of service in the Infantry, John Hardgrave has seen operational service in the Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and Afghanistan, as well as deployment in domestic operations such as the Queensland Flood Assist.

After leaving the Army, John went on to gain formal qualifications and experience in the private sector and continues to serve on Local Boards, Consultative Forums and Steering Committees for State and Federal departments. John also continues to serve in the Army Reserve. As National Programs Manager, John manages Soldier On’s Pathways Program, working to support veterans and their families with employment and education opportunities post-service.

“The experiences of our servicemen and women, together with their families, are incredibly varied. Each shares unique and powerful insights into Australia’s involvement in conflicts, as well as the rewards and sacrifices that come with service. I am honoured to be part of the Veterans Advisory Group and I look forward to representing my fellow veterans throughout the process,” John Hardgrave said.

SOLDIER ON EXTENDS SUPPORT SERVICES TO AFGHAN SECURITY FORCES

Soldier On has expanded the delivery of its support services to include Afghan Security forces and their families, together with those who assisted the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in their development in Afghanistan.

Soldier On is Australia’s only national, fully integrated and holistic support services provider, offering assistance to serving Defence personnel, contemporary veterans and their families.

Currently reaching more than 6,000 members of the Defence community, Soldier On offers support services including a range of mental health and wellbeing services, employment and transition support and education programs, as well as activities, focused on connections with family, friends, and the broader community.

These services will now be made available to members of the Afghan Security forces and those who have played key roles in the ADF’s responses to this conflict, including those who have supported our troops in Afghanistan such as Interpreters.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the decision to expand the provision of services reflects the need to assist those who have supported the ADF.

“The developments in Afghanistan pose new and resurfacing difficulties for those who have participated in this conflict and those who still carry the wounds of their service, as well as the families who have been impacted. This is not limited to those who served in the ADF,” Mr Slavich said.

“Many Afghan citizens have acted as key supporters and allies of our Australian forces in Afghanistan. These individuals face many of the challenges that our Australian troops have faced, including mental health difficulties, career uncertainty, and social isolation. As we have done with our Australian troops, we must support our veteran community,” Mr Slavich said.

Solder On Chairman Peter Leahy Addresses Sky News Regarding Returned Afghanistan Veterans

“Many of our veterans who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq have already suffered psychological damages. We know that there are instances of PTSD, we know that there are instances of suicide is far too high. There are people who are inherently vulnerable to these developments right now. There will also be soldiers, sailors and aviators out there who will be experience shock and confusion over the developments. I get a sense of loss. A sense of loss for might have been in Afghanistan, a sense of loss for those who have been killed, wounded and psychologically damaged. For those who are bothered by what is happening, don’t do anything rash, seek out help from the many resources available to you. Soldier On is here to help.”- Peter Leahy, Soldier On Chairman

Soldier On provides ongoing support, however, we do not deliver crisis support. If you are in a crisis, please contact one of the following organisations:

LIFELINE

13 11 14

24 hours, 7 days a week

BEYOND BLUE

1300 224 636

24 hours, 7 days a week

OPEN ARMS

1800 011 046

24 hours, 7 days a week

EMERGENCY

000

24 hours, 7 days a week

Soldier On Serves Veteran Community Through Challenging Times

Nearly two decades after Australia joined the war in Afghanistan, the Nation’s capital has fallen under Taliban control.   

During this time, Soldier On’s primary consideration lies with the promotion of positive mental health and wellbeing for the veteran community, with the delivery of life-changing support services to those who have participated in this conflict, and those who still carry the wounds of their service, as well as the families who have been impacted.

More than 39,000 Australian military personnel have served in Afghanistan since 2001. Of these, many have suffered physical and psychological injuries, 41 personnel have lost their lives in combat, and many more have taken their own lives as a result of their service.  

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the developments in Afghanistan may present new or resurfacing challenges for our Defence community.

“While our time in Afghanistan has amounted to great loss and sacrifice from our service personnel, as well as their families and the supporters of our forces, the impact on the lives of the Afghan people has been immeasurable. We must remember the tireless work of our brave personnel, the progress that their sacrifices have allowed, and ensure they remain supported,” Mr Slavich said.

“Now more than ever, it is important to encourage those experiencing difficulties to reach out for support. Whether it’s professional support or simply checking in on a mate, staying connected is crucial to our veteran’s health and wellbeing during these times,” Mr Slavich said.

Soldier On offers support to all serving and ex-serving personnel and their family members across the country, as well as online, and encourages the Defence community to reach out for assistance.

During this time, Soldier On’s Psychology team is available to support those who have been triggered by recent activity in Afghanistan or have a family member who may be experiencing difficulties. Soldier On also offers a range of social connection activities and programs to encourage service personnel and their family members to reconnect with themselves, each other and to build links with the wider community.  While the COVID-19 pandemic may prevent many from connecting through face-to-face activities, the Soldier On team has established a variety of online activities to keep participants connected and social.

For more information about support services available around Australia, go to www.soldieron.org.au

Soldier On Tasmania Turns One!

Soldier On Tasmania has recently celebrated one year of operation.  

And what a year it has been!  

Soldier On Tasmania has achieved a tremendous amount in this short time. Thanks to the dedication of the amazing team, as well as the incredible support of the local defence community, Soldier on has been able to provide support to our serving and ex-serving veterans and their families across the state.  

The Soldier On Tasmania team has focused on building stronger relationships with established veteran support networks. Facilitating offices across diverse locations including Launceston RSL, New Town Shopping Centre, Devonport RSL, Kingston Neighbourhood House, West Moonah Community House, Legacy House Hobart and the TPI North Hobart Defence Expo, the Tasmanian team have been able to provide accessible support that is far-reaching across the state.  

In its first year, Soldier On Tasmania has engaged 37 participants, secured 17 jobs for veterans and their family members, helped a participant open a business, secured three traineeships and one apprenticeship. The team has facilitated a successful Defence & Veteran Services show with 18 exhibitors, collaborated with Defence Health to form the Defence Interagency, and built relationships with an astounding 62 organisations providing services and opportunities for the defence community.  

The team has been thrilled to represent Soldier On at a number of key local defence community events over the year, including the unveiling of the Partners of Veterans Association Plaque at Lindisfarne, and the memorial of National Military Working Dogs.  

It is full steam ahead for the Tasmanian team as they enter their second year, with tremendous advancements and new initiatives in the veteran support space. Thank you to all those who have been a part of Soldier On’s first year in Tasmania and stay tuned for everything to come.   

New Initiative Fosters Connection and Support for Female Veterans

Soldier On’s Women’s Vet Connect program has kicked off across the Country, supporting female veterans in their transition to civilian life.  

Women’s Vet Connect is a national program aimed at rebuilding a sense of family and camaraderie of service. Held over three weekends across the year, the program is designed to address the needs of female veterans transitioning or planning to transition from the Australian Defence Force, into civilian life.  

Transitioning from Defence can be distressing and isolating for service personnel, posing significant challenges in all aspects of a veteran’s life. This can often include loss of identity and purpose, career uncertainty, social isolation, mental health difficulties, trauma, and an increased risk of suicide. Soldier On works closely with the veteran community, providing holistic support services focusing on health and wellbeing activities, employment support and education programs, as well as activities centred on connections with family, friends, and the broader community. The Women’s Vet Connect program encompasses activities and support which reflects this integrated approach, ensuring that social connection, learning and change can occur in a supportive environment.  

Soldier On National Program Manager, Sarah Hartley, said the program has been a remarkable success, with participants taking enormous steps to improve their health and wellbeing throughout the series of weekends.  

“It has been fantastic to see a wonderful group of women form meaningful connections with their peers while pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, exploring new experiences and ways to look after themselves and their mental health,” Sarah said.  

The free program takes a selection of female veterans to serene locations across their home states, teaching them mental and physical health strategies, relationship building and life skills, while also providing an opportunity to connect with other veterans on a personal level. From horse riding to yoga, massages, morning walks and peer support sessions, the weekend’s activities provided opportunities for connection, education, and mindfulness. Soldier On Psychologists were also in attendance, providing insights into the mental health challenges that are specific to the veteran experience and the conditions of their service. Psychologists were also present throughout the weekend to support participants through some of the more challenging activities as veterans confronted their own fears and uncertainties following their service.  

Program participants said the weekend’s activities provided them with a greater understanding of their circumstances and gave them the tools to thrive in their transition to civilian life.  

“To have it broken down to me to understand why our brains are trained for Defence life, and why I am feeling disconnected to my civilian friends, now makes so much more sense. After 16 years, I finally feel that I have a community I belong to, and it has given me so much hope,” a Vet Connect participant said.  

“I am very appreciative and grateful to have experienced the program with other female veterans. The program was something that I really needed. I don’t get out often, I keep to myself, and I don’t do any self-care practices, so it was really nice to be supported, encouraged and spoiled over the weekend,” another participant added.   

Soldier On’s Women’s Vet Connect Program is made possible by the support of the Thyne Reid Foundation.