Patrons and Ambassadors

CO-PATRONS

His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of New South Wales and Mrs Linda Hurley

His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d) is the 38th Governor of New South Wales. He commenced his five year tenure in October 2014.

Prior to his appointment as Governor, His Excellency served for 42 years in the Australian Army, concluding his service as the Chief of the Defence Force. His Excellency was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2010 for eminent service to the Australian Defence Force and a Distinguished Service Cross for his leadership during Operation SOLACE in Somalia in 1993.

His Excellency is married to Linda and has three adult children: Caitlin, Marcus and Amelia. He has a wide range of interests in the arts and in sport.

As Governor of New South Wales, His Excellency intends to support the people and community organisations of New South Wales, through:

– assisting programs and organisations that promote inclusiveness, diversity and active citizenship

– recognising innovation, achievement and excellence

– promoting industry and regional development

– providing support in times of adversity

– advocating for marginalised members of our community.

AMBASSADORS

Soldier On Ambassadors all have unique stories to tell

 

SERVICE AMBASSADORS

David Savage

David Savage AM, served as an AusAID Stabilisation Advisor with the Coalition’s Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan from 2011-12. He became Australia’s first civilian casualty in Afghanistan when his patrol was attacked by a child suicide bomber. David was previously with the Australian Federal Police for 20 years where he served on several overseas UN Peacekeeping Operations including Mozambique and East Timor, before joining the United Nations as a Human Rights and War Crimes investigator. He has also worked for the International Crisis Group, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, and other organisations throughout South, and South East Asia, and is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at The Australian National University.  David was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2014 for his work in International Relations, Peacekeeping and Human Rights Investigations and was an ACT finalist in the 2015 Australian of the Year awards.


Todd Berry

Todd Berry served in the Australian Army for 18 years, joining in 1989 straight after completing high school. He was initially posted to Townsville and then travelled to Canberra for Officer Training at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. Graduating as a Lieutenant he was initially posted to Sydney, with additional regimental postings in Singleton and Perth. Whilst with the 5th/7th Battalion in Sydney he was on a four-month rotation to Malaysia when five Australian soldiers were killed in a motor vehicle accident. He was awarded a Chief of Army Commendation for his actions at the accident site and repatriating the bodies back to Australia. He returned to Malaysia in 1998 and 1999 on an exchange posting, where he was an instructor at the Royal Military College, Malaysia. He spent most mornings and afternoons driving past the site of the accident, which had a dramatic effect on his mental health. The trauma and the stress of this incident, the repeated visits to the site, and being deployed to East Timor as a Company Commander with the regular Commando unit after Malaysia, eventually led to his discharge from the Army with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This affected his relationship with his family, his physical and mental wellbeing, and his future career options. Following years of struggling with PTSD, Todd joined Soldier On as a volunteer. Slowly but surely, he found himself participating in activities such as PT sessions and Yoga classes. Todd has a keen interest in military history, inspired by his time in South-East Asia, and was given the opportunity to join a Soldier On trek to Sandakan. Following in the footsteps of WWII prisoners of war, Todd and a group of Australian veterans used the trek as a component of their rehabilitation. Since the trek, Todd has completed a number of physical challenges, including Tough Mudder, several Half Ironman triathlons, the New York marathon, and an Ultra Marathon of 100km. For Todd the trek at Sandakan was a turning point- it gave him his spark back. Todd has also become a pioneer for Yoga for veterans, having adopted the practice with enthusiasm. Using it as a part of his rehabilitation, he says that exercise and mindfulness have made a significant contribution to his recovery, and will continue to do so in to the future. He is currently teaching trauma aware yoga classes and is an Ambassador for Soldier On and Frontline Yoga. Since separating from the ADF he has completed a Bachelor of Administrative Leadership, a Master of Management, and a Graduate Diploma of Psychological Science. Todd is married to Suzy and he is an author and sought after public speaker.


Jess Love

Jessica Love was born in Toowoomba in 2001, and is the daughter of Sandi and Shaun Love. She is one of three children, with one older and younger brother. She is an author of two children’s books, ‘Soon’ and most recently ‘Sometimes’ and is a Soldier On Family and Service Ambassador. Jess has moved seven times, six of those moves occuring in nine years. Her father deployed twice, once for seven months in Iraq, and the other for 13 months and it was these deployments that served as the inspiration for the two books. Jess is an accomplished student, having completed five university level subjects by age 16, as well as a Certificate Three in Fine Arts. She is an active member of the Scouting movement, as a Venturer and Joey leader, and is a recipient of the Australian Scouting Medallion. She is currently working toward her Queen’s Scout Award. In 2014 Jess penned ‘Soon’ as part of a school assignment. This reflected on her feelings while her father was deployed to the Sinai Peninsula and tells of the way children deal with separation. Her efforts were recognised through Defence Health who published the book in 2015. Jess was awarded the Chief of Defence Force Commendation in 2015 for her efforts supporting Defence families. Jess has recently completed ‘Sometimes’ a reflection of children dealing with separation, again sponsored by Defence Health. Jess aims to start a Nurse/Paramedic double degree in 2018 continuing her service to others.


Sharon Bown

Wing Commander Sharon Bown (Ret’d) was appointed as a Service Ambassador to Soldier On in 2016. Sharon served as a Nursing Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force for 16 years, with deployments to Timor-Leste in 2000 and 2004; Afghanistan in 2008 as Officer-in-Charge of the Australian Medical Task Force in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan. She was also involved in various aeromedical evacuation tasks, including Papua New Guinea in 2001, Solomon Islands in 2003 and Bali, following the terrorist bombings in 2005. Sharon was seriously injured in a helicopter crash in Timor-Leste in 2004, but fought to continue to serve, despite her injuries, until September 2015. As a result of her personal experience of service and her role in providing care for Australian Defence Force personnel and their families in Australia and overseas, Sharon is a passionate advocate within the field of Military and Veteran’s Health, and demonstrates a unique insight into the welfare and healthcare needs of those adversely affected by their service. Sharon is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Psychological Science, pursuing her interest in exploring the effects of service. Sharon is the author of ‘One Woman’s War and Peace: a nurse’s journey in the Royal Australian Air Force’, is a Member of the Council of the Australian War Memorial, and a Member of the Board of the Veterans’ Film Festival. Sharon became a Soldier On Ambassador to assist fellow veterans to navigate their journey beyond service.


Sarah Watson

In 1997 Sarah Watson commenced Officer Training at ADFA and graduated with a BA Politics. In December 2000, following a year at the Royal Military College Duntroon, she was commissioned into the Australian Intelligence Corps where she served in several Intelligence Roles within the Australian Army including in Iraq in 2006/07. As a result of her service, Sarah was diagnosed with PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder and was subsequently medically discharged from the Army in 2015.  During this time, Sarah heard about Soldier On. After gaining a position in the Soldier On team that was to compete in the Trois Étapes cycling race in the Italian Dolomite, Sarah was provided with the focus and drive to pull herself out of the black hole she was in. Whilst training, she and fellow teammates, including much loved Aussie celebrities Hamish Blake and Cadel Evans, forged an unbreakable bond, and are all still in touch and look out for each other. Competing in this event gave Sarah a new passion and sport –  cycling! As a result of the Soldier On activity, she has entered many cycling events and races. Sarah participated in the 2017 Invictus Games held in Canada with her main sporting event being the Cycling Time Trial and Criterium for which she won Silver and Gold respectively. Sarah continues to be a spokesperson for Soldier On, speaking about her journey to audiences throughout Australia and engaging with others in the ex-serving community. This has provided her the opportunity to reduce the stigma of mental illness in the military and wider community and hopefully give hope to others who may be suffering.


Emma Millis

When Emma’s husband, James, returned from Afghanistan, she noticed he was different in many ways. His fun loving, carefree temperament had changed to being short-tempered and very difficult to live with. He would isolate himself from his family and threw himself into work and surfing. Things became difficult for Emma and James, and their marriage was suffering. He had visited one or two Army psychologists but walked out feeling angrier than when he went in. He refused to talk to Emma about his experiences. After seeing a Soldier On Facebook post, Emma called the organisation in desperation. Soldier On and Emma arranged for James to meet another combat experienced and respected returned serviceman. After this meeting, Emma saw her husband smile for the first time in years, as if a load had been lifted from his shoulders.  This was just the beginning in his journey towards recovery and reintegration. Emma is passionate about supporting Soldier On so that they can continue to support future generations of returned servicemen and women, their partners and their families.


James Millis

James enlisted in the Regular Army in 1996 and at that time was posted to Singleton Townsville. In 1999 he was posted to 4RAR (Commando) as a Company medic and was deployed to East Timor in 2001.  In 2004 he left the Regular Army to join the New South Wales Ambulance Service, but remained an active Reserve member with the 1st Commando Regiment. In 2007 he was deployed to TAGE and Afghanistan SOTG  rotation V111  in 2009. It was on his return home that he had trouble fitting back into home life. Loud noises and crowds made James feel very uncomfortable and he was quick to anger. James went from the life of the party to being a recluse and found the only time “I felt happy was when I was surfing”. James’ wife put him in contact with a Soldier On representative, and it was during this meeting that Soldier On offered James and his family a surfing holiday with other service personnel affected by their service. It was the first time since his deployment that they had been on a family holiday. It was this holiday that was the catalyst for James to seek the help he needed to become well again. James continues to represent Soldier On in many ways at engagements.


Jordan Ivone

Jordan discharged from the Army after five years service, including an operational tour to Afghanistan. Jordan said his experiences as a soldier combined with prolonged unemployment and financial stress, as well as a lack of direction in life, contributed to his declining mental state.

“I had always wanted to join the Army, but I never gave any thought to what happens after. My decision to discharge was sudden, and I was ill-prepared for the challenges of civilian life. I didn’t have a job to go to, or even a direction to follow. As a result, I developed severe depression and anxiety. It was only through the support of my partner that I eventually confronted the reality that I was not well, and that I needed help.”

Jordan and his partner made the decision to move to Canberra to access support offered by Soldier On. Jordan credits Soldier On with putting him in touch with counselling services and helping him gain meaningful employment in an industry he was interested in.

“I now work as an Associate for PwC, after completing a 12 month Veterans Internship. The internship is designed to assist transitioning veterans establish a new career and build new skills.” he said. Jordan is currently studying a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Politics and International Relations. PwC offers flexible working arrangements, which greatly assist with his study schedule.“My experiences in the Army gave me some valuable experiences, ones that I’ll never forget. I hope to use the skills and experiences I’ve gained to help other Veterans who may be facing similar issues.”


Gabrielle Carey

Gabrielle met Jordan at just 19 in the very first week of his Darwin posting. Jordan’s ability to make her laugh won her over, and the rest as they say is history. Over eight years, Jordan and Gabrielle experienced the ups and downs of military life, including a 10 month deployment to Afghanistan, several more months apart for deployment preparation training, many interstate moves and ‘fresh starts’ away from family and friends. Jordan discharged from the Australia Defence Force in June 2014 to explore his potential and build a career as a civilian. He was adamant to continue contributing to the community and to his and Gabrielle’s future, through his next employment. In attempts to assist Jordan in the pursuit of his new career, Gabrielle said goodbye to her family and job in media, and together they packed up their life and headed for NSW…then WA…. then back to NT, all before settling in the ACT. Jordan and Gabrielle started to find stability since Jordan’s discharge in June 2014, largely due to, “the welcome and ongoing support that we received from Soldier On.” This support ranged from social and mental health support, to education and employment support. Whilst their personal journey was at times hard and confronting, and remains a challenge for the both of them, becoming a part of the Soldier On community has given them the chance to build a life and future to get excited about.


Ronit Sher

Ronit Sher is an educator and team leader at one of Victoria’s leading private schools, where she has been employed for the last 11 years. She is qualified to teach both Special Education and LOTE (Language Other Than English). Prior to migrating to Australia, she was an Officer in the Israeli Defence Force before earning her Bachelor of Education degree and teaching in Israel. Ronit is an avid volunteer who is dedicated to supporting charitable causes in our community. She is committed to assisting military veterans and their families, in appreciation of their sacrifices and ongoing challenges and struggles that they face on a daily basis. Ronit is the sister-in-law of PTE Gregory Sher, who was Killed in Afghanistan in 2009. She is married to an ADF Reservist and is a devoted mother of three small children.


Gary Wilson

Signalman Gary Wilson is a Soldier in the Australian Army. He has been a member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) for 18 years. Commencing his career with the Third Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, he deployed to East Timor in 2000 and 2002. In 2005, Gary transferred Corps becoming an Electronic Warfare Operator with the Royal Australian Corps of Signals. His time as an Electronic Warfare Operator saw him provide strategic support to the Australian Government and the ADF before posting into the 2nd Commando Regiment. In 2010 Gary deployed to Afghanistan with the Special Operations Task Group. Just 10 days before the end of his deployment Gary sustained life threatening injuries. At first, Gary wasn’t expected to survive, extensive brain injuries saw him fall into a coma.  He has re-learnt everything from walking to talking and most importantly regained his independence. Gary has since become a Service Ambassador for Soldier On and will soon discharge from the ADF. Gary has represented Australia twice at the United States Marine Corps trials and at the 2016 & 2017 INVICTUS Games, winning a Bronze Medal in seated discus in Toronto. Gary’s journey of recovery is a story of resilience, determination, love, and support. His recovery has been nothing short of remarkable, continually defying the odds stacked against him.

 


Brian Heilbronn

Lieutenant Brian Heilbronn enlisted into the Australian Army as a Rifleman in 2005. After completing his initial training he was posted to the First Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment. Brian spent the next 12 years of his career in this battalion, which is affectionally known as ‘The Big Blue One’. During this time he conducted peacekeeping operations in East Timor during both 2006 & 2007; and later he deployed on warlike operations in Afghanistan during 2009/10.  Brian’s contribution to The Big Blue One during his posting was noteworthy. He was awarded commendations for distinguished service for his efforts.

Unfortunately, 2014 proved to be another significant year for Brian.  His former Platoon Commander, Captain Paul Mckay, took his life after losing his battle with PTSD. To help honour his legacy and raise awareness for PTSD, Brian developed the concept for the Paul Mckay Memorial Shield. This event sees soldiers from the Royal Australian Regiment compete in a Townsville marathon, whilst wearing body armour, to help raise awareness for PTSD and also fundraise for Soldier On.

Brian is also a Powerlifting coach for the Australian Invictus Games. In 2017 Brian oversaw the Powerlifting squad compete at the games in Toronto. Brian will continue this role for the 2018 Invictus Games. Brian described being part of the Invictus Games team as one of the most inspirational things he has been involved in throughout his military career.  He said, “it was an honour to share the journey with the athletes”.

In 2016 Brian completed a degree in Exercise Physiology and he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps in 2017 and is now an active Army Reservist.  As an active Army Reservist, Brian utilises his position as a Human Performance Officer to contribute to the 3 Brigade Vasey Resilience Centre, the ADF adaptive sports program and the Invictus Games team.

Brian is currently employed at James Cook University as an Associate Lecturer and clinical educator at the University’s College of Health Sciences.  Here he is also undertaking research into injury prevention of tactical athletes through applied strength and conditioning.


Ben Farinazzo

After graduating from The Southport School, Ben was appointed as an Australian Army Officer and deployed on active service as part of the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) in 1999. He successfully transitioned from the military and has held various Board and executive leadership roles supporting the disadvantaged across Australia.

In recent years, Ben and his family have faced several challenges. He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression as a result of his military service. In addition, he had a mountain bike accident and incurred multiple injuries including fracturing his neck and spine in several places.

Ben is a proud supporter of Australians that have served our nation. He is particularly interested in helping current, and ex, service personnel and their families who have been impacted by their service.

Ben is married to Jodie and they have three children. He has been selected to represent Australia in rowing and powerlifting at the Invictus Games to be held in Sydney in October this year.

 

 

 


Dave Farrell MG

Dave Farrell enlisted in the Australian Army as a rifleman in March 1999. After completing his initial training, he was posted to the Second Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment. Dave deployed to East Timor in September 1999 with 2 RAR and upon return continued his role as a rifleman until 2001.

Dave then spent the next 6 months training at HMAS Cerberus for his next role as an Army Physical Training Instructor (PTI) before being posted to Darwin as a brigade PTI in December 2001.

During his time as a PTI Dave trained for the SASR selection course which he successfully completed in September 2003. Dave spent the remainder of his career in the SASR until he discharged in December 2016. During his time as a SASR operator, Dave deployed on six tours of Afghanistan, one tour to East Timor and spent time in Iraq.

Dave was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for his acts of bravery during a large enemy encounter during his first tour of Afghanistan in September 2005.

Dave is currently self-employed and runs his own leadership, coaching and training company, the Dave Farrell Group. Dave passes on his leadership knowledge and communication skills that were gained from over 17 years as a fighting soldier.

Dave said, “I am honoured to become an Ambassador for Soldier On and l am very passionate about not only raising awareness for Soldier On but also to create jobs for service personnel. The benefits of employment are enormous for both the employer and the service member”.

 


Adrian Whitby

Adrian ‘Smiley’ Whitby joined the Royal Australian Navy in January 1989 as an apprentice Aircraft Maintenance Engineer. After completing initial trade training at HMAS Nirimba, he was posted to the Naval Air Station at HMAS Albatross to consolidate the practical elements of his apprenticeship. A variety of postings to aviation Squadrons and workshops followed, along with promotions, where he gained deeper levels of experience and knowledge. Sea service has included three major deployments to the Middle East Area of Operations, including Operations Slipper, Falconer, Bastille, and Catalyst, in HMA Ships ANZAC, ADELAIDE (II) and Parramatta (III). In 2013 Adrian was promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer and posted to the Navy’s Sea Training Group as the Fleet Aviation Engineering Assistant, responsible for auditing and training of embarked aviation units and personnel on RAN ships. In Nov 2015 he was selected to join HMAS Adelaide (III) as a member of the Commissioning Crew, serving as the Flight Deck Officer. Through his experiences and knowledge, he is now a mentor to other ADF personnel and provides leadership training, quality management support and business operation advice.

On 22 Jul 16, at age 44, Adrian was diagnosed with aggressive Prostate Cancer. He underwent radical, major surgery by open prostatectomy 07 Sep 16 to remove the numerous tumours, prostate, surrounding tissue, lymph nodes, and nerve bundles. In June 2017 Adrian developed Major Depressive Disorder. Since November 2016 Adrian has been undergoing physical and mental rehabilitation. A large component of his rehabilitation plan has involved sailing during organised activities with Soldier On and the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club. He was a member of the Invictus Games Australia Team that competed in the 2017 Sydney to Hobart and even managed to fit in a man overboard session off Wollongong about 4 hours into the race! He was a member of the Soldier On Team undertaking the gruelling 2018 Pollie Pedal from Melbourne to Canberra. Adrian embraces the healing power of sport as a recovery tool that challenges him mentally and physically to assist his rehabilitation toward his ‘new normal’. He encourages others to be physically active and to look after their mental and physical wellbeing.

Adrian is an active and regular member of Soldier On’s H.E.L.P (Health, Employment, Learning and Participation) program, engaging in their Employment Support Services, participating in social connection activities such as coffee catch-ups, indoor skydiving, concerts (Hans Zimmer, Green Day, Placebo), snorkelling at Maroubra (supported by Long Bay Correctional Facility Staff), art workshops, and cable-ski wakeboarding. He enjoys surfing, cycling, kayaking, and travelling. Adrian holds a Diploma in Aerospace Engineering, is a Cancer Council NSW Support Group Leader, and resides in Sydney with his fiancé Bea.


 Phil Hays-St Clair

Phil Hayes-St Clair is a self-described ‘serial entrepreneur’. After starting his first venture aged 10, he joined the Australian Army as a soldier then went on to lead user-centred design product teams at Suncorp and AMP before becoming the Co-Founder CEO at AirShr, a world-first audio recognition and interaction technology for radio. He is now the Senior Vice President of Business Development at inkl.

To keep himself busy, Phil blogs each week about startup growth, provides tips through his Founder To Founder Podcast, is a mentor at H2 Ventures, and is an Ambassador for both Soldier On and Inspiring Rare Birds.

In between these ventures, Phil completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (Microbiology) at QUT and an MBA at AGSM, and represented Australia in triathlons.