All Soldier On Patrons and Ambassadors have unique stories to tell. Scroll down to find out more
Our Co-Patrons – Their Excellencies General the Honourable David John Hurley AC DSC (Retd) and Mrs Linda Hurley
“Linda and I are delighted to be continuing as Joint Patrons of Soldier On.
“Through their advocacy and support for our veterans and serving men and women, Soldier On has made a significant difference to individuals, their families and loved ones and the community-at-large.
“While the need for their services will not dissipate, thankfully nor will Soldier On’s commitment, selfless service or compassion. They will continue to make a profound impact and we look forward to continuing working with them as their Joint Patrons.” – His Excellency, General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d).
His Excellency General the Honourable David John Hurley AC DSC (Retd) was sworn in as the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 July 2019.
David Hurley joined the Australian Army in January 1972, graduating from the Royal Military College, Duntroon into the Royal Australian Infantry Corps. In a long and distinguished 42-year military career, his service culminated with his appointment as Chief of the Defence Force.
Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley (nee McMartin) was born and raised in Sydney. She was educated at Kingsgrove High School and went on to become a teacher, commencing in 1976. She married David Hurley in 1977.
In the course of their married life, Mrs Hurley has supported her husband throughout his career on a wide variety of postings in Australia and overseas, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Malaysia.
Mrs Hurley has an interest in the Arts, especially music. She is passionate about singing, and showing how singing, especially in a group, can have a positive impact on individuals and the community.
Dr Chau Chak Wing
Dr Chau Chak Wing is an Australian business leader and philanthropist, and a respected figure in the Australian-Chinese community. Born in China’s Guangdong province, Dr Chau migrated to Australia from Hong Kong with his family more than 20 years ago.
For decades, Dr Chau has continued to grow his business with extensive interests in property, finance, education, hospitality, healthcare and media.
Dr Chau is also committed to many philanthropic endeavours. He has worked tirelessly to support initiatives that promote cooperation in the fields of economy, trade and education in Australia and China, particularly focusing on providing opportunities for the next generation. His efforts have been acknowledged and commended by the governments and people of the two countries.
Dr Chau has worked hard to be a true global citizen. Since its opening in 2011, Imperial Springs has hosted a number of world-class, high-level forums, including the China–Australia Economic Forum, the Global Economic Forum, the Global Summit of SME Leaders and the Going to Latin America Forum. In 2014, Dr Chau officially established the Imperial Springs International Forum to facilitate regional and global cooperation through citizen diplomacy.
Dr Chau is the Founder and Chairman of the Kingold Group, Chair of the Asia-Pacific Region of the World Leadership Alliance – Club de Madrid President’s Circle, Patron of Australia China Business Council NSW, Founder and Co-Patron of the Australia China Friendship and Exchange Association, Fellow of Australian War Memorial, Honorary Ambassador of Soldier On Australia and Co-Chair of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center Global Circle.
Shannon Noll is an Australian rock singer-songwriter who has recently become an Ambassador for Soldier On. He is committed to the not-for-profit organisation’s vision to enable veterans and their families to thrive.
Shannon’s latest album entitled ‘Unbroken’, is relevant to the challenging times veterans and the wider community are facing today: “It’s been a testing time for me in the past few years, just trying to adapt and survive,” he says, “so it’s just to say I’m still going and that it would take more than that to stop me.”
Shannon has recently recorded a brand-new version of ‘I was only 19’ for Soldier On, played during a unique virtual service to honour and commemorate veterans on Anzac Day. The Soldier On commemorative service can be viewed on the Soldier On website, as well as from the ‘Driveway at Dawn’ app, developed by the ‘Aussies and Kiwis for Anzacs’ Facebook group.
The Soldier On commemorative service incorporated traditional readings, the laying of the wreath, a Commemorative Address by His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), ‘The Last Post’ by the Band of the Royal Military College Band, and the new rendition of ‘I was only 19’ by Shannon Noll and his brothers.
The service was streamed on the Soldier On website at 6.30am Saturday 25th April, following the broadcast by the ABC of the Australian War Memorial National Service at 5am. Find out more at: www.soldieron.org.au/commemorate
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.
Jess is the author of two children’s books, ‘Soon’ and ‘Sometimes’ which provide a child’s perspective on deployment based on her own experiences. The daughter of an Army officer ‘Soon’ and ‘Sometimes’ reflect on her emotions when her dad was deployed in 2008. Defence Health kindly sponsored publishing and both books are now included in deployment packages around Australia. In 2015 Jess was awarded the Chief of Defence Force Commendation for her work with defence children and building of awareness through ‘Soon’ and ‘Sometimes’. Jess has been an ambassador with Soldier On since 2016, she is currently a highly involved member of her local Rural Fire Service and is studying a double degree in Nursing and Paramedicine at university.
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. She also took part in the 2019 Pollie Pedal fundraising event held in Southern Queensland and Northern NSW.
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.
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 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 was an Infantry soldier with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. Jordan discharged from the Army after five years’ service, which included an operational tour to Afghanistan.
Jordan’s decision to discharge was sudden, left him without direction and unprepared for civilian life. Jordan’s experience while serving, along with prolonged unemployment and financial strain, contributed to his declining mental health. As a result, he developed severe depression and anxiety. The support of his partner motivated him to seek help and they moved to Canberra to access support from Soldier On. Jordan credits Soldier On with helping him to access mental health support and gain meaningful employment.
After initially completing a 12-month Veterans Internship with PwC that is specifically designed to help veterans build skills to establish a new career, Jordan is now a Senior Associate with the firm in Canberra. In 2019, he was awarded the Prime Ministers Veteran Employee of the Year award, in recognition of his contribution to the firm and clients, and his efforts to assist other veterans thrive within the professional services sector.
Jordan is also completing a double degree in Law and Politics and International Relations. His passions include helping other veterans successfully transition out of the Defence Force and advocating for veteran employment and education initiatives.
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 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.
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.
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 was an Australian Army Officer and deployed on active service as part of the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET). He transitioned from the military and held several senior leadership roles including Chief Executive Officer of Outward Bound Australia and a founding Director on the Board of Soldier On. He was diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety as a result of his military service and also sustained severe injuries following a mountain bike accident. He represented Australia at Invictus Games Sydney 2018 and won gold.
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 started Veterans in Construction (VC) in 2018. VC employ veterans in the Civil Construction Industry and provide them with meaningful employment.
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 ‘Smiley’ Whitby joined the Royal Australian Navy in January 1989 as an apprentice Aircraft Maintenance Engineer. After completing trade training at HMAS Nirimba, he served on various ships, squadrons, and aircraft workshops throughout his 30 years in the Navy. 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). Adrian discharged from the Navy as a Warrant Officer on 22 March 2019.
On 22nd July 2016, at age 44, Adrian was diagnosed with aggressive Prostate Cancer. He underwent radical, major surgery by open prostatectomy later that year to combat the cancer. In June 2017 Adrian developed Major Depressive Disorder. Since November 2016 Adrian has been involved in sailing as a component of his rehabilitation, through 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 that undertook 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 is a qualified sailing instructor who enjoys surfing, cycling, sailing, kayaking, and travelling.
Phil Hayes-St Clair
Phil Hayes St Clair is a serial entrepreneur and investor. He started his first venture aged 10 and joined the Australian Army as a Rifleman after graduating high school. He went on to lead product teams at Suncorp and AMP before starting his first software-based venture in 2008.
Today, Phil is the CEO and Co-Founder of Drop Bio, a personalised health biotechnology venture based on the predictive potential of blood. Previously, he built Air Share, a world-first audio recognition and interaction technology for radio.
Phil holds a Bachelor of Applied Science (QUT) and MBA (AGSM, UNSW), has written over 350 essays on business growth on his blog and hosts a podcast called Founder To Founder. He also supports women entrepreneurs as an Ambassador at Inspiring Rare Birds and has represented Australia on the national triathlon team.
Natalie Watson joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1986, directly from high school. For the next 12 years she was based at RAAF Richmond, flying on the B707 transport and air-to-air refuelling aircraft with 33 Squadron as a Crew Attendant. Natalie served in Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan and spent some time on exchange to the US Air Force with 92nd Air Refuelling Squadron. On return from the USA, Natalie had her first son and became an Instructor at 285 Squadron. During this time she completed a Bachelor’s degree in Education.
In 2001, Natalie was posted to 34 Squadron, (VIP operations) located in Canberra as the Crew Attendant Leader where she remained for six years. Constant deployments overseas took their toll on her family life, leading her to become passionate about educating and assisting families to deal with such separation, both during and after military service.
After the birth of Natalie’s second son and discharging from the RAAF in 2006, she took on a job as a Training and Development Manager, working for a National Transport and Logistics Association. Natalie found that transition from the ADF to civilian life was not a smooth process, and battled with the pressures of relocation, full time parenting, and trying to fit in with the community outside of Defence.
As a means of coping with transitional difficulties, Natalie took up running and cycling. She pursued these hobbies and has now competed at an elite level in both sports and has represented Australia in ultra-marathons and duathlons. In her spare time, she enjoys social running events, trail runs with her children, and cycles most weekends with a group of friends. Natalie has said that a highlight for her this year was, “participating in Pollie Pedal with Soldier On and meeting other veterans from various backgrounds, forging some amazing friendships and lifelong friends.”
Most recently Natalie has trained as a Human Factors in Aviation Safety Investigator and currently works in the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services field as a Human Factors specialist with Toll Helicopters and NSW Ambulance. As a Service Ambassador to Soldier On, Natalie’s aim will be to assist as many other mothers and families through education, workshops, coffee catch-ups and presentations to help spread the word that they are not alone once they leave Defence.
An upbringing in a small rural town taught Jeremy the importance of community and the need to band together during the hard times. Leaving the Army after 13 rewarding and fulfilling years, the importance of mateship, and the continuing need for community and service were ever apparent.
Jeremy attributes his successful transition into civilian life to his immediate family and several key mentors. He is enthusiastic in recognising this assistance and ‘paying it forward’ to those who need support, particularly in finding fulfilling and meaningful employment after military life.
Jeremy continues to serve as an Army reservist, is a keen volunteer at his local footy club, a father of two delightful young humans who always keep him on his toes, and husband to an ever-supportive wife who always keeps him grounded. “I now appreciate the importance of balance in life, between job, family, sport, and giving back in whatever way I can”.
Spending several years training and mentoring young soldiers and officers gave Jeremy a passion for assisting others to realise their goals and to become the best that they can be. He is passionate about continuing this and is humbled and proud to be able to contribute to, and support the efforts of, Soldier On.
Jeremy will be working for BAE Systems Australian from 9 March 2020,
Marc is an active supporter and advocate for veterans’ affairs, with exposure to national programs and initiatives, including the Prime Ministers’ Veteran Employment Program. Marc’s military service includes 18 years as a commissioned officer in the British and Australian Armies. After moving to Australia in 2004, Marc joined the Royal Australian Artillery at 16 Air Defence Regiment in SA. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 as the Commander of the Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar capability. Marc left the Army in 2012. Among his many achievements, Marc successfully bid on behalf of Saab Australia to get a seat on the Prime Minister’s Industry Advisory Committee for Veterans’ Employment and represented the Managing Director in that forum. Marc is a certified Project Manager and is currently employed by Saab Australia.
Amanda graduated from the Royal Military College in 1995 and went on to serve in the Australian Army for 25 years, as a member of both the Regular Army and more recently, the Army Reserve. During this time Amanda was deployed to East Timor, Indonesia, and Afghanistan, and has served in a number of executive roles including as an ADF and diplomatic interpreter and host officer, in support of official Indonesian Government delegations, and as the Chief of Staff, Special Operations Forces Liaison Element (SOFLE-S) Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Upon leaving the military, Amanda transitioned into senior roles with the Emergency Services sector where she has consistently been at the forefront of leading teams of emergency responders, supporting affected Australasian communities during large-scale disasters over the last decade. Notably, in 2016 she was appointed as Western Australia’s first female superintendent, where she commanded 400 volunteer emergency responders, tasked with responding to natural disasters across the state.
Currently appointed as the Assistant Commander of the 13th Brigade in the Army Reserve while managing her own leadership consultancy, Amanda continues to serve the soldiers of the Army Reserve while being a sought after keynote speaker across Australia.
Rodney Davis joined the Australian Army in January 2001, undertaking studies at the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Royal Military College – Duntroon before undertaking a range of appointments as an Officer in the Royal Australian Engineer Corps.
His service over the past 18 years has taken him across the east coast of Australia – namely Canberra, Townsville, Wagga Wagga and Brisbane, and he credits frequent moves in developing resilience in himself and his family. He has become involved in the civil community in each location, and is grateful to these communities for the considerable support they provide service personnel in adjusting to new locations around Australia.
Rodney is heavily involved in the Australian Rules community within both Army and civilian organisations, and firmly believes in the value of team sport and the associated camaraderie in engendering a sense of belonging and purpose.
Rodney and his young family are incredibly proud to be a part of the Soldier On family.
Brad had always wanted to be a Soldier. At 17 years old he joined the Army as a driver in the Royal Australian Corps of Transport and served for 7 years until 1995. During his service he saw things that most 17-18 year old’s do not see and experienced many injuries along the way.
During his service, he sustained a severe windpipe injury that continued to affect him after he transitioned back into civilian life. Brad started to develop anxiety around his neck and furthermore suffered from insomnia and claustrophobia.
Once these anxieties started to impact every day life, he decided to seek professional help. He was open with his family, friends, and colleagues about his PTSD and received much support.
After Brad had sought the help he needed, he learned about Soldier On through a Pathways event. Brad is now an extremely passionate advocate for the work done by Soldier On in assisting veterans and their family’s transition from service, into daily life. He enjoys sharing the story of his transition and has the empathy to understand what military members and their families are going through.
Brad has now built a successful career in the oil industry and raised a family with his wife and three children. He is also a member of a costuming group that visits children’s hospitals, Ronald McDonald House and the Starlight Room dressed as Star Wars villains.
David Welch joined the Australian Army in 1978 directly from secondary school. He undertook officer training at RMC Duntroon and graduated in 1982 with a degree in mechanical engineering and was commissioned into the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. He served in maintenance engineering roles throughout Australia, as an instructor in Malaysia and on exchange with the British Army in Germany.
David commanded the 1st Combat Service Support Battalion in Darwin, and in 2002 was the senior logistics and support staff officer in the UN peacekeeping force in East Timor.
David left the Army in 2011 after 33 years’ service. He then transitioned into the private sector where he managed the Canberra branch of a national IT services company. In this role he encouraged his employer to Sign the Soldier On Pledge; the company has employed a number of service spouses through Soldier On and regularly participates in Pathways Networking Events.
In recent years David has taken up cycling as his preferred sport and recreation. He leads a cycling group in Canberra each Sunday, and has represented Soldier On in the annual Pollie Pedal ride.
On leaving full-time Army service, and joining the veteran community, David has become aware of the difficulties many veterans face in integrating into the wider Australian community. As a Service Ambassador to Soldier On, David’s aim is to raise community awareness of the difficulties faced by many veterans and to assist veterans and their families who have been impacted by their service.
Grant has recently retired from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) following a 34-year career. He has enjoyed a diverse career and has held several key positions including three years as a Police Liaison Officer in Los Angeles, USA (1998-2001). In 2008 Grant was posted to Timor Leste as Security and was responsible for managing Australia’s policing commitment to Timor-Leste. In 2012-2013 Grant was deployed to Afghanistan as the Senior AFP officer as Mission Commander and also as Deputy Head of the International Police Coordination Board responsible for the reconstitution of the Afghan National Police working alongside the ADF, NATO and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Most recently, Commander Edwards completed a three-year posting to Washington DC as the AFP’s most senior officer in the Americas responsible for all law enforcement engagement with Canada, USA, Mexico, Central and South America.
Grant has also represented Australia as an accomplished sportsperson. He is well known for physically pulling steam trains, planes, boats and trucks, culminating in a Guinness World Record for pulling a 201-tonne steam locomotive. In 2017 he pulled a C-17 US Military Globemaster at Dover Airforce Base, Delaware to raise awareness for mental health in the services.
Grant is a passionate advocate in the field of mental health. His experience was shown on the ABC’s Australian Story in 2017 and through his memoir “The Strongman” which was published in 2019. He has worked with Soldier On in the past and is looking forward to supporting the great work being done to support those suffering from mental health injuries.
Gareth joined the Army Reserve in 1996 serving for 2.5 years prior to moving overseas to join the British Army. He served with the 1st Battalion Scots Guards for 6 years based in London and Germany, with overseas exercises in Canada and Kenya. Gareth deployed on operations to Northern Ireland twice and Iraq. During his time in London, Gareth was involved in ceremonial duties at Her Majesty’s palaces involving Changing of the Guard and had the honour of taking in part in funeral ceremonies for Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 2002. Gareth discharged from the British Army to return home and attend the Royal Military College Duntroon on 2006. After graduating in June 2007, he was posted to the Royal Australian Infantry corps serving with 8/9 RAR.
Gareth was introduced to Soldier On through old colleagues. He got in touch with the National Operations and Employment Manager at the time, who was a former colleague at 8/9 RAR, to see if he could provide support to those looking to leave the ADF and their families.
As an Ambassador he hopes to help those leaving the Defence Force to navigate their way to meaningful employment that draws on their skills learned from a challenging career in the ADF. You may find Gareth at some of the Soldier On Pathways Networking Events! Gareth is now employed by Suncorp Bank in a security advisory role.
Darren joined the Army in 2000 and has deployed to Afghanistan twice, and Timor Leste once. Whilst posted to NQ Darren had the unique and privileged opportunity to deploy on two Cyclone Assist operations helping the communities affected by these natural disasters. Upon post deployments reflection, he has become an Army Cadet Chaplain with 33 Battalion AAC (Vic) and an Ordination candidate for the Anglican Dioceses of Melbourne. Darren has enjoyed the leadership challenges, in both barracks and deployed environments, but he has found helping others to be the most rewarding. Darren has volunteered with Solider On for many years and has spoken at various events about the challenges faced by Defence personnel and their families. Darren remains a full-time ADF member and aims to continue to support Soldier On.
In July 1996 Dayle enlisted into the Royal Australian Navy as a Marine Technician. During her 24 years she served on HMA Ships Success, Tobruk, Melville and Leeuwin and establishments Cairns, Kuttabul and Cerberus. Dayle has been involved with Operations within the Middle East, Persian Gulf, Border Protection and International Pacific Endeavours. In Dec 2014 she was the first female to be promoted to Warrant Officer in the Marine Technical Category and in November 2017 she received a Master’s in Business Management and HR at the Australian Institute of Business.
Her Spouse is Ex-Defence and they have a 6 year-old son. In 2019 her spouse was diagnosed with PTSD and she decided the time away from family because of defence was not an option anymore and made the decision to transition from ADF to the civilian sector.
As a transitioning member, Soldier On has provided Dayle with assistance to sourcing future employment. Through the networking, pathways events and CV Writing she has been able to feel at ease during her transition. Dayle believes that without organisations such as Soldier On, she wouldn’t have found an employer or a network of employers to work with.
Dayle states that she is proud and humbled to be an Ambassador for Soldier On. She chose Soldier On as an organisation that solely provides for ADF and Emergency Services. As an Ambassador she aims to pass on her experiences to her ADF network to ensure they are given the opportunities herself and her family have experienced.
Michael joined the Royal Air Force 1990 in logistics and reached the Rank of Corporal. In 2005, whilst his Bother was serving in the Royal Marines, he took his own life. After this happened and due to mental health concerns, he was medically discharged from the RAF in 2007.
Utilising the resettlement grant from the RAF he retrained to be a property inspector. In 2011 he joined Origin Energy where he still works today as a sales manager.
Michael felt he could use his experiences and story to raise awareness of mental health issues. He did this by walking from Adelaide to Melbourne, raising nearly $60,000 and “Walk for Wardy” was born.
Supporting Soldier On and raising money for Mind Blank, Michael continues to share his experience and raise funds for veterans and wants to raise awareness of the mental health issues experienced by veterans and their families by walking for Soldier On.