Soldier On Recognised Among Australia’s Most Innovative Charities

Soldier On’s March On campaign has been recognised for Outstanding Achievement (OAA) in The Australian Charity Awards 2021.

The OAA has been established to recognise organisations for the exceptional work undertaken through their charitable activities. The Australian Charity Awards are a partner program of The Australian Business Awards.

“The 2021 Australian Charity Awards have recognised ten organisations for their outstanding achievements in successfully managing their various programs, projects and services by meeting their challenges during these difficult times,” said Ms Tara Johnston, Australian Charity Awards Program Director.

“As the world changes, many of these organisations have succeeded by rethinking their community engagement strategies and implementing new business tools, practices, and policies to facilitate their operations beyond the physical office,” Ms Johnston added.

Soldier On is Australia’s only national, fully integrated, and holistic support services provider for our national service personnel and their families.

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

In response to the devastating statistics of veteran and Defence suicide, Soldier On established the March On challenge. March On is a virtual walking challenge, calling upon Australians to walk 96 kilometres, the length of Kokoda, during the month of March to raise funds to help prevent veteran suicide. The challenge pays tribute to the sacrifices made by our brave soldiers in Kokoda in World War II and highlights the importance of assisting our serving and ex-serving veterans of today.

In 2021, more than 6,200 participants, 862 teams, and 27 schools took part in the challenge, marching a total of 382,000km across the globe in unique ways, with some participants even completing their challenge across the ocean floor and mountain peaks.

The campaign received tremendous support from the Australian public, raising more than $1.85 million in support of our veteran community. The funds raised from March On will go directly towards the provision of life-changing support services for our contemporary veterans and their family members, including mental health support, employment and education assistance, and opportunities for social connection.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the organisation is honoured to receive this award.

“The suicide rate among Australian veterans is simply unacceptable. Soldier On knows what must be done. We’ve proven that our programs are comprehensive and relevant to help our veterans and their families build better futures following their service. The challenge now is to expand our services across all areas of the nation where veterans are based but find themselves without support. This requires funding and the demonstrated support of every Australian. This is why we are marching on,” Mr Slavich said.

“We are thrilled to see the tremendous success of the March On challenge, with more than $1.85 million raised. Every dollar raised as part of the March On challenge will go directly to the services that Soldier On provides to our veteran community. We are putting on more Psychologists, more Counsellors, and offering more social activities to help prevent veteran suicide. We look forward to hosting the event again in 2022,” Mr Slavich added.

SOLDIER ON ENCOURAGES VETERANS TO STAY CONNECTED AND GET MOVING FOR VETERANS’ HEALTH WEEK

Soldier On will host more than 50 activities across the country as part of this year’s Veterans’ Health Week.

Veterans’ Health Week is a Department of Veterans’ Affairs program that aims to generate interest in, and raise awareness around, improving the health and wellbeing of former and current serving Australian Defence Force personnel, their families and carers.

Veterans’ Health Week 2021 runs from 16 October to 24 October. This year’s theme, Get Moving, encourages veterans and their families to increase physical activity.

With the support of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Soldier On will host various face-to-face and online activities across the country to provide diverse opportunities for movement and social connection for all members of the veteran community, regardless of fitness levels, locations, or restrictions.

From rock climbing to lawn bowls, water sports to virtual cooking classes, there is an activity to suit every member of the veteran community.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the Get Moving initiative promotes positive habits that have the potential to improve all aspects of health and wellbeing. “Physical health is closely connected to our mental health and overall wellbeing.

With the effects of COVID-19 restrictions continuing to impact the lives of our veterans, this year’s initiative is a welcomed encouragement to get active and see the ripple effect that physical movement can have on all aspects of life,” Mr Slavich said.

“With a wide range of activities on offer, we encourage the entire Defence family to get involved and stay connected,” Mr Slavich added.

Soldier On’s Veterans’ Health Week activities are funded by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

VETERAN SUICIDE STATISTICS HIGHLIGHT NEED FOR TARGETED SUPPORT

On 29 September 2021, The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released its fourth annual report on suicide among permanent, reserve, and ex-serving ADF members, including numbers of suicide deaths between 1 January 2001 and 31 December 2019 and rates of suicide from 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2019.

The findings of the report support previous discoveries whereby ex-serving male and female personnel are shown to have a significantly increased risk of suicide when compared to that of the Australian public. The report also provided valuable insights into suicide rates within specific groups.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the report sheds a light on those groups who are in need of greater support.

“Every suicide is a horrific tragedy. Every statistic included in this report is a human life. These are our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and our mates,” Mr Slavich said.

“The conclusions drawn from this report will allow Soldier On to better understand the needs of the veteran community and we will be targeting our programs to address the needs of those groups which have been identified as most vulnerable, providing greater support where it is needed most,”

“Among many others, It is clear that those individuals who have separated from service involuntarily are at a significantly higher risk than those who separated voluntarily. This tells us that greater support is needed for those individuals whose transition was not of their own choosing, many of whom may not be prepared for such a significant change,” Mr Slavich added.

Findings of the report also indicate that personnel who have served for a shorter period of time are at a higher risk of suicide. This may be an indication that greater support is needed for our ADF personnel in the early stages of their military career. This may be further supported with statistics showing that our younger veterans are at a greater risk of suicide.

The expansion of this study to incorporate those who had served from 1985 to 2001 is also a welcomed inclusion and acknowledges the lasting impact that service can have on members of the veteran community. In some instances, individuals can experience significant impacts long after their service has ended.

Soldier On hopes that the findings of the report will inform the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide on the shortfalls of current practices and the specific areas that are in dire need of change.

Soldier On intends to be an active participant in the Royal Commission and has established a working group to achieve this. Supporting thousands of veterans and their family members, Soldier On will work closely with its participants to continue to inform the Royal Commission and National Commissioner of the needs of our veteran community now and into the future.

Soldier On strongly encourages its participants to make a submission to the Royal Commission and share your experiences with those who will be leading this inquisition. For those who may not be comfortable submitting their views directly to the Royal Commission, Soldier On will be speaking with its participants to represent their views and experiences within its own submission.

In the meantime, Soldier On continues to advocate for a Veteran Wellbeing Centre in the ACT to accommodate the large number of service personnel and contemporary veterans in the region. Soldier On is currently engaging in discussions with stakeholders, government representatives and other Ex-Service Organisations to advance the delivery of support services across the ACT, as well as other locations across the country.