Soldier On marks 10 years of support and reflects on the veteran experience

National veteran support charity, Soldier On, has celebrated 10 years of service.

From humble beginnings in 2012, the organisation has grown and developed over the past decade to provide comprehensive holistic support to the Australian veteran community.

In its first year, Soldier On assisted a total of 200 veterans, operating across three states. Now 10 years on, Soldier On supports more than 8,000 veterans and family members, delivering a wide range of programs and services in every state and territory.

Over the past decade, Soldier On has seen significant growth, expanding its operations to become the only truly national ex-service organisation in Australia, reaching more veterans and their families and offering a greater span of services across the country.

In 2021 alone, Soldier On’s Health and wellbeing program saw more than 3,000 appointments carried out. In this same period, the Pathways program placed 275 veterans and family members into jobs and offered more than 5,000 individual instances of employment and education support. More than 1,000 new participants joined the social connections program, and more than 6,000 veterans and family members participated in activities throughout the year.

Soldier On’s growth is not just a testament to the incredibly dedicated team, but also to our wide network of supporters. From our supporters, collaborators, volunteers and Ambassadors, Soldier On would not be able to achieve these outcomes without the support of the community.

Soldier On Chairman, LTGEN Peter Leahy, AC (Ret’d), said the veteran community has come a long way over this time but increased support is still needed today.

“10 years ago, we were faced with quite a grim outlook for many of our veterans and defence families. There was a distinct lack of support, connection and resources across the board creating a sense of isolation and anguish for many. Over the past 10 years, Soldier On has worked closely with other ex-service organisations, government bodies, corporate entities and the wider public to secure stronger futures for our veterans and their families,” Mr Leahy said.

“We are seeing veterans reconnecting with their mates, families and themselves, exploring advanced training and education opportunities to diversify and expand their incredible skillsets, connecting with veteran supportive employers to secure meaningful long-term civilian employment, and receiving specialised psychological care to improve their health and wellbeing long after their service experiences,”

“While the Australian community and organisations like Soldier On have achieved a great deal for the betterment of the veteran community over the past decade, the need for support has not dissipated. More action is needed from government bodies and the wider community to ensure that we are looking after those who have served our nation,” Mr Leahy added.

Soldier On will continue to advocate for the interests of the veteran community and pursue active change for the betterment of those we serve.

SOLDIER ON OPENS NEW HEADQUARTERS AT CANBERRA AIRPORT

National veteran support charity, Soldier On, has opened a new national Headquarters today at an event at Canberra Airport.

Currently supporting more than 8,000 veterans and family members, Soldier On is Australia’s only national fully integrated and holistic support service provider.

Soldier On’s services include 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.

Soldier On Headquarters is made possible by the support of Capital Airport Group.

Chairman of Soldier On, LTGEN (Retd) Peter Leahy AC, said the new location offers advanced opportunities for support services across the country.

“As the national headquarters, this location will not only operate to support the Canberra region but will assist the vast network of Soldier On teams around the country in delivering vital services to Australia’s veterans and their families,” he said.

Soldier On’s new Headquarters was officially opened by the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd). The Governor-General and Mrs Hurley are Joint Patrons of Soldier On.

“It is incumbent on all of us to help veterans transition back into society and to ensure they and their families have access to support. Australia owes a great deal to the men and women who serve in uniform and to their families,” the Governor-General said.

“The interests of our contemporary veterans and their families are at the very core of Soldier On’s work. These new premises will enable Soldier On to better support the Canberra region and the network of Soldier On teams around the country.”

Canberra Airport CEO, Stephen Byron said the organisation is thrilled to support our nation’s veterans with this partnership.

“We are proud to be a Principal Partner of Soldier On and recognize the importance of their vital support to those who served, and continue to serve, in the Australian Defence Force,” Mr Byron said.

“As one of the major employment hubs in Australia for Defence personnel, it is only appropriate that Soldier On’s headquarters is based here at Canberra Airport, where they and their families can access Soldier On’s Services.”

SOLDIER ON ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT OF INTERIM CEO

Veteran support charity, Soldier On, has announced the appointment of Interim Chief Executive Officer, Prudence Slaughter.

The appointment of Ms Slaughter follows the resignation of former CEO, Ivan Slavich, earlier this month.

Ms Slaughter steps into the role following her longstanding contribution to the organisation and successful leadership as Partnerships and Grants Director.

With more than 10 years of international experience in the not-for-profit and volunteer sectors, as well as more than five years as a key member of the Soldier On team, Ms Slaughter brings a wealth of experience and understanding to the position.

In her time at Soldier On, Ms Slaughter has been responsible for the development and implementation of key programs that directly support the veteran community. She has also been responsible for obtaining government funding opportunities, philanthropic aid, and extensive partnerships to ensure that quality support is available across the country.

Soldier On Chairman, LTGEN Peter Leahy, AC (Ret’d), expressed his confidence in the appointment of Ms Slaughter.

“During her time at Soldier On, Prudence has been a significant contributor to the success and growth of the organisation. Her passion and commitment to the veteran community, and her expertise in the field make her a tremendous asset to the organisation and to those we support,” Mr Leahy said.

“Myself and my fellow Board members are confident that Prudence will carry on the strong leadership of her predecessors and continue to increase the care and support of our veterans and their family members. We look forward to working with Prudence as she leads the organisation,” Mr Leahy added.

Soldier On Interim CEO, Prudence Slaughter, expressed her sincere thanks to predecessor, Ivan Slavich, and is honoured to lead the Soldier On team.

“Under Ivan’s outstanding leadership, Soldier On has seen tremendous growth and development. The organisation has doubled the number of veterans and family members receiving support and expanded its operations considerably, creating a truly national footprint to provide support to the veteran community where it is needed,” Ms Slaughter said.

“It is now my great privilege to continue this fantastic work. I look forward to leading the team and supporting them in their tremendous efforts to support those who have served our nation,” Ms Slaughter added.

The Board will continue the recruitment process for a permanent appointment for the role of Chief Executive Officer.

SOLDIER ON ANNOUNCES RESIGNATION OF CEO

Veteran support charity, Soldier On, has announced the resignation of Chief Executive Officer, Ivan Slavich.

Mr Slavich will be leaving the organisation on 15 March 2022, following a successful two and a half years of leadership.

Under his leadership, Soldier On has seen tremendous growth, doubling the number of veterans and family members receiving life-changing support services. In meeting the ever-present demand for support across the country, Soldier On has obtained increased government funding opportunities, philanthropic aid and outstanding community assistance to ensure that support is available in every state and territory, in both metro and regional areas.

Soldier On Chairman, Peter Leahy, expressed his sincere thanks to Mr Slavich for his commitment and passion throughout his engagement with the organisation.

“In his time as CEO, Ivan has made significant contributions to Soldier On and the veteran community. He has provided outstanding leadership and vision through challenging times, leading the organisation towards many great triumphs. His legacy will be increasing care, support and recognition of our veterans and their families and we wish him great success in his next endeavours.”

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said leading Soldier On has been the highlight of his working career.

“We have doubled the number of veterans and family members we support, creating a truly national footprint to provide support where it is needed. I have had many personal experiences where veterans have told me that we have changed or saved their life, nothing could be more rewarding than that. This was only possible because of my fabulous staff, supporters, philanthropists, government, corporates, ambassador, the Board and the most generous public who have “Marched On” in our signature peer to peer fundraiser that was introduced under my leadership raising nearly $2m in 2021,” Mr Slavich said.

“Soldier On has changed the veteran landscape to provide excellent support for the veteran community. I would like to thank Peter Leahy and the Board for being so supportive and look forward to seeing Soldier On continue from strength to strength as I hand over the reins to the next commander in chief,” Mr Slavich added.

The Board will now commence recruitment for a new Chief Executive Officer.

SOLDIER ON WELCOMES KONGSBERG DEFENCE AUSTRALIA AS PLEDGE PARTNER

National not-for-profit Soldier On welcomes Kongsberg Defence Australia as its newest Gold Pledge partner for 2021.

The Soldier On Pledge helps to create new employment pathways for veterans and their families transitioning from the Australian Defence Force into civilian life, in collaboration with veteran supportive companies like Kongsberg Defence Australia.

The Pledge gives organisations the opportunity to publicly thank Australian Defence Force personnel for their service and recognise the exemplary skills, leadership, and training of those who have served Australia.

Companies that sign the Soldier On Pledge commit to supporting Veteran employment and learning more about the skills and attributes that Defence personnel, veterans, and family members can bring to their organisation.

As the most recent company to sign the Soldier On Gold Pledge, Kongsberg Defence Australia joins more than 180 veteran-supportive companies working in partnership with Soldier On in 2022.

Kongsberg Defence Australia General Manager, John Fry said Kongsberg is pleased to have signed the Soldier On Pledge.

“Our people are very important to our success, and it is imperative we continue to demonstrate the company’s commitment to our veterans and their families.  Seventy percent of the employees at Kongsberg Defence Australia are former Australian Defence Force Personnel and signing the Soldier On Pledge as a Gold partner in conjunction with the Pathways Program, only further advances Kongsberg’s veteran-friendly and supportive workplace. We look forward to collaborating with Ivan and the team at Soldier On,” Mr Fry said.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich said Soldier On is delighted to welcome Kongsberg Defence Australia as its newest Gold Pledge partner this year.

“Soldier On warmly welcomes Kongsberg Defence Australia as a Soldier On Gold Pledge Partner. By signing the Pledge, Kongsberg Defence Australia commits to understanding the needs of the veteran community, recognising the impact that service has on the whole defence family, and doing what they can to support them. We look forward to working with Kongsberg Defence Australia to provide more employment opportunities to our serving and ex-serving veterans and their families,” Mr Slavich announced.

“The Soldier On Pathways Program helps veterans and their families to find and secure new employment and education pathways, 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 careers post-service,” Mr Slavich added.

SERGEANT BERT LE-MERTON HONOURED WITH MEDAL OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA

The late 103-year-old WWII veteran, Sergeant Bert Le-Merton, has been honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).  

Recognition with this award follows Sergeant Bert’s remarkable efforts raising awareness and funds to prevent veteran suicide as Patron of Soldier On’s 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.

A retired Sergeant of the Mortar Platoon in the 2/13th Battalion, 20th Brigade, 9th Division of the AIF (Australian Infantry Force), Bert looked for a way to help raise money to make the lives of contemporary veterans better.

On 15 August 2020, Sergeant Bert set out to walk the March On Challenge with the hope of raising $10,000 for Soldier On – A fundraising target which he surpassed on the evening of 14 August.

In the subsequent months, Sergeant Bert averaged 1.75 kilometres a day, completing his initial objective of 96 kilometres on October 10, 2020. Bert was greeted at the finish line by the Australian Federation Guard who lined his street in a guard of honour, a sign of gratitude for his support of our contemporary veterans.

By 31 March 2021, Bert had completed a total of 419.15km walked and $112,223 raised to help prevent veteran suicide.

Sergeant Bert’s extraordinary efforts have been widely recognised within the veteran community and greater Australian public, including the award of Finalist in the 2022 NSW Australian of the Year Awards.

Sergeant Bert Le-Merton passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, on the evening of the 6th of December 2021.

Sergeant Bert’s son, Trent Le-Merton, said recognition with this award is a great honour.

“Dad would have said the award of an OAM was ‘remarkable’ or ‘extraordinary’. To our family, it is well deserved, and we are grateful that he was nominated and given such an accolade for doing something for such a worthy cause. This is a wonderful acknowledgement for a great Australian,” Mr Le-Merton said. 

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the organisation is honoured to have had Sergeant Bert Le-Merton, a true Australian legend, supporting the March On campaign.

“Sergeant Bert continues to be an inspiration to us all and is incredibly deserving of this wonderful award. Thanks to Bert’s commitment and tireless efforts throughout the campaign and beyond, we saw an enhanced national conversation on the issue of veteran suicide and the challenges that the community faces,” Mr Slavich said.

“Sergeant Bert set an example for us all and taught us the value in walking the walk for a cause you believe in. The Soldier On team will hold true to Bert’s example. We will hold true to his unwavering commitment to our veteran community. Together, we will help prevent veteran suicide,” Mr Slavich added.

Sergeant Bert will remain as the Patron of March On in 2022, continuing to inspire his fellow Australians to take action against veteran suicide and support those who have served our nation.

To register for the March On 2022 challenge, go to www.marchonchallenge.org.au

SOLDIER ON MENTOR PROGRAM RECOGNISED IN AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE INDUSTRY AWARDS

Soldier On’s Mentor Program has been recognised as Training and Mentorship Program of the Year at the 2021 Australian Defence Industry Awards.

The Australian Defence Industry Awards recognises excellence from defence professionals, organisations and businesses across the country and awards them a prestigious accolade for their achievements over the past year.

The Training and Mentorship Program of the Year award recognises the defence business that has most effectively capitalised on market opportunities and driven demonstrable growth through developing and delivering the most effective training and mentorship program for new industry participants or those defence professionals transitioning into new roles.

Soldier On’s Veteran Mentor Program sees current and ex-serving ADF members and their families matched with a trained, peer industry mentor, to build capacity and amplify their career development opportunities. Mentors can support mentees alongside Soldier On Pathways Officers to provide holistic and comprehensive transition support for their mentees and help in providing a platform for success.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the organisation is thrilled to be recognised as part of the awards alongside esteemed members of the Defence community.

“Recognition in these awards acknowledges the achievements of all veterans working to transition to civilian life and the power of collaboration to provide effective training and mentorship,” Mr Slavich said

“Mentoring can have a significant impact on the transition experience, offering guidance and encouragement while supporting a sense of mateship and comradery. At Soldier On, our Mentoring Program has seen fantastic success for both our mentees and mentors alike. We are thrilled to continue this program into the future and enable more veterans and their family members to thrive,” Mr Slavich added.

Soldier On was also recognised as a finalist in the Australian Defence Industry Awards in the category of Veteran Support Program of the Year. The Veteran Support Program of the Year award recognises the veteran support program, association or organisation that has most effectively supported ADF veterans transitioning out of service and/or into new career opportunities post-service. Soldier On has previously been awarded Veteran Support Program of the Year in 2019, and again in 2020.

SOLDIER ON LAUNCHES VETERAN PATHWAYS PROGRAM IN TOWNSVILLE

Soldier On has expanded the delivery of its Pathways Program with employment and education support now available in Townsville.

Soldier On’s Pathways Program provides free practical employment and education support for veterans and their family members.

The Pathways Program currently supports over 3,200 participants and guides serving and ex-serving veterans and their families through the complexities and emotional challenges of transitioning to civilian careers.

From providing education support and guidance opportunities to building awareness among former service personnel of how their skills and experience can be applied in a corporate environment. The Program ensures every participant is well equipped to thrive in the civilian workforce.

Soldier On’s Pathways Program Director, John Hardgrave, said the organisation is thrilled to expand the Pathways Programs to support the veteran community of Townsville.

“In expanding the program, Townsville participants will have access to a national network of employment and transition coaches who work closely with veterans and their families to assist them in gaining meaningful employment following service or within the posting cycle,” Mr Hardgrave said.

“Together with over 170 corporate and government partners providing employment opportunities, as well as more than 40 education and training partners, participants will have access to the tools needed to identify their skills, retrain or upskill, and advance their career opportunities,” Mr Hardgrave added.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the move to Townsville is an essential response to the needs of Australia’s veteran community.

“At Soldier On, we continue to adapt to meet the needs of Defence personnel, contemporary veterans, and their families. This means providing accessible services where they are needed for the entire Defence family in areas that truly support all stages of service, whether participants are still serving or have separated from service,” Mr Slavich said.

“Townsville has a long and significant history as an integral part of our nation’s Defence. Home to one of our nation’s largest veteran communities, there is a strong demand for diverse support services for our veterans, as well as their family members. We are thrilled to be able to address this need for support and assist the local community throughout their service and transition,” Mr Slavich added.

VETERAN COMMUNITY MOURNS AS SERGEANT BERT LE-MERTON PASSES AT 103 YEARS OLD

103-year-old WWII veteran, Sergeant Bert Le-Merton passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, on the evening of the 6th of December.

Sergeant Bert was a remarkable figure in the veteran community, advocating for the health and wellbeing of Australia’s contemporary veterans.

A retired Sergeant of the Mortar Platoon in the 2/13th Battalion, 20th Brigade, 9th Division of the AIF (Australian Infantry Force), Bert looked for a way to help raise money to make the lives of contemporary veterans better.

On 15 August 2020, Sergeant Bert set out to walk 96 kilometres, the length of Kokoda, as part of the March On Challenge with the hope of raising $10,000 for Soldier On – A fundraising target which he surpassed on the evening of 14 August.

In the subsequent months, Sergeant Bert averaged 1.75 kilometres a day, completing his initial objective of 96 kilometres on October 10, 2020. Bert was greeted at the finish line by the Australian Federation Guard who lined his street in a guard of honour, a sign of gratitude for his support of our contemporary veterans. He continued to March On, reaching another significant milestone on his journey by doubling his original goal and reaching 192 kilometres and raising more than $110,000 by 12 February 2021.

By 31 March 2021, Bert had clocked a total of 419.15km walked and $112,223 raised to help prevent veteran suicide.

As Patron of Soldier On’s March On challenge, Sergeant Bert inspired a nation to take action against veteran suicide and encouraged a national conversation that stretched far beyond his fundraising activities.

Last month, Sergeant Bert was recognised for his tremendous contribution to the veteran community and was named as a finalist in the 2022 Senior Australian of the Year Awards.

Upon receiving the award, Sergeant Bert said this is an extraordinary acknowledgement for an ordinary bloke.

“It is a great honour to be named as a finalist for Senior Australian of the Year. I’m just an ordinary bloke and we need more ordinary blokes and ladies to get involved and make a change. I hope I can encourage others to champion a cause they are passionate about,” Sergeant Bert said.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the organisation has been honoured to have Sergeant Bert Le-Merton, an Australian legend, support the March On campaign.

“Sergeant Bert was a true Australian hero. From his bravery and sacrifice during World War II, to his incredible efforts to support his fellow veterans, Bert embodied the Australian spirit. Bert displayed tremendous passion and commitment in everything he did, and his achievements have been recognised and celebrated far and wide. Bert’s legacy will continue to impact the veteran community and all those who had the pleasure of sharing in his phenomenal life,” Mr Slavich said.

“Our deepest condolences go to Bert’s wonderful family, as well as our heartfelt thanks for all that they have done to support our veteran community. We will continue to follow Bert’s example, and ‘just keep walking around the block’, Mr Slavich added.

SOLDIER ON PAYS TRIBUTE TO OUR VETERANS PAST AND PRESENT

On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, each year Australians around the world will observe a minutes silence to reflect on the service and sacrifice of those who have died in wars, conflict, and peacekeeping operations, to protect our nation

. This year, Soldier On recognises the work of our ADF personnel who assist the Australian community, and communities around the world. From war zones to peacekeeping missions, natural disasters to emergency responses and so much more. In sharing these stories, we highlight and celebrate the fantastic work of our current and ex-serving personnel and the diverse operations that bring tremendous support to those in need.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the extensive work of our personnel is increasingly evident in day-to-day life.

“This year, we pay tribute to the incredible efforts of our Defence personnel and the tireless support they continue to give to our nation in times of great devastation and uncertainty. Through floods, bushfires and a global pandemic, our Defence personnel have assisted the Australian public through great times of need,” Mr Slavich said.

“Remembrance Day is a day for the Australian public to show their respect and acknowledge the sacrifices of our servicemen and women. As a community, Australia needs to come together to ensure that our veterans and their families are adequately supported,” Mr Slavich added.

102-year-old March On Patron, Sergeant Bert Le-Merton, stands with our contemporary veterans to acknowledge their service to our nation.

“Whilst we remember today those members of our armed forces who have died in the line of duty, it is also so important that we never forget to care for our surviving veterans.”

Remembrance Day is a powerful and emotive historic day. For many, it is an important occasion to pause, reflect and remember loved ones. For some, it can sometimes bring unexpected memories or feelings. This year we encourage you to reach out to Soldier On for support and stay connected: getsupport@soldieron.org.au

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