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.”

NATIONAL COLLABORATION TAKES ON CYBER SECURITY BATTLE

An innovative new industry partnership will support Australia’s rapidly advancing technological landscape and boost national cyber security capabilities to meet one of the country’s most pressing national priority areas.

In support of retired defence personnel looking to retrain and reskill into civilian life, the University of Southern Queensland will collaborate directly with Veterans’ support organisation Soldier On and Fortune 500 global IT services provider DXC Technology, to design a bespoke undergraduate Bachelor of Cyber Security program supported through a one-year paid industry internship that will also offer industry credentials including IBM SkillsBuild.

The unprecedented and novel program is being designed to meet the needs of a national priority area and support the Australian Signals Directorate Strategic Plan that recently announced a $9.9 billion dollar investment over the next decade – the largest ever in cyber and intelligence capabilities in Australia’s history.

University of Southern Queensland Dean (Academic Transformation) Professor Lyn Alderman said the innovative, industry-led co-designed bespoke program ensured an equitable transition pathway from military service directly into industry for Veterans and would be specifically designed to support those with no prior experience in the Cyber Security space.

“The University is incredibly proud to bring a multi-faceted approach to a strategic, grassroots collaboration and industry cooperation to offer solutions to a number of national issues,” Professor Alderman said.

“In the first instance, there is a shortage of skilled workers in the cyber security industry, and it is evident that current conventional methods are unable to meet current and future demand, so it makes sense to work with industry partners who have the same aligned focus on helping to produce job ready graduates and deliver them directly to sectors in need.

“Further to that, actively building job opportunities for returned service men and women with recognition of their past Defence service, and supporting Australia’s national security capabilities, is something the University is committed to.”

Senior Executive of Cyber Security at DXC Technology and University of Southern Queensland Adjunct Professor Neil Curtis said the internship program would offer participants certified, industry operational, cyber security training.

“This will be accompanied by real-time on the ground cyber security employment in our live and operational cyber security business, and this includes our Defence, National Security and Government sectors as well as the infrastructure and business portfolios,” Adjunct Professor Curtis said.

“This hands-on experience with technical certifications will prime the Veteran for an ongoing career in cyber security across our business and the broader sector, and overall we will be very excited to welcome these military Veterans into the industry.”

Soldier On Interim CEO, Prudence Slaughter, said the long-term impact of providing equitable transition pathways from military service into industry could not be understated.

“Veterans possess a tremendously diverse skillset from their service experience. Education is a powerful tool for Veterans to advance these skills and their careers after service,” she said

“This collaboration will provide Veterans with valuable guidance in their transition to the civilian workforce and aid in enhancing the field of cyber security in Australia. Soldier On is delighted to see leading organisations working together for the betterment of our Veterans and we look forward to supporting this powerful initiative,” she said.

COMING HOME

After leaving the Army, Owen Brady is creating a
bright future thanks to Soldier On

It’s 1980s regional South Australia, and in Port Augusta, children have two choices: to stay in the town offensively nicknamed Porta Gutta, or get out. Owen Brady chose the latter.

As an Indigenous boy growing up in a town where there was little to do, Owen said he had no interest drinking alcohol or adding to the already high youth crime rate.

However, despite having a tight-knit and supportive family, Owen said at school he was defined by teachers as “just another indigenous boy from Port Augusta with little prospects”.

He recalled sitting quietly in the classroom with his hand up, curious and eager to ask a question. The teacher paid him no attention, he said.

Ignored, he turned to the classroom window and looked out at the dry, red-hued landscape. The land he overlooked is the gateway to Australia’s vast interior, the land of his ancestors. It is land that once held great promise. A seed was planted in Owen’s imagination.   

Owen said he was eight years old when he decided his future was with the Australian Army, but what he did not realise then, sitting in his classroom, is the land of his ancestors would one day call him home to help preserve the natural habitat of his country.

“It was in primary school where I made the decision that I wanted to join the Army. I thought that they were tough and that it was very admirable, also so people would view me as a positive beacon of someone that helped break the stigma of negativity in my community,” Owen explained.

No longer the Indigenous kid refused a voice, after 16 years of service in the Royal Australian Signal Corp as a ‘Geek’, or information system technician, for Owen, now 40, the time has come to leave the Australian Army. It feels right. He is ready to reconnect with the land and his culture, return to Port Augusta and pursue his dream to study agriculture while starting a position in Adelaide with Soldier On Pledge Partner JLB-Yaran, mentoring young Indigenous professionals.

With the support of the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) Veteran charity Soldier On, which takes a holistic approach to employment and education, Owen said his future was mapped out before he leaves the military in May.

Owen says he has always felt different. He is a self-confessed deep thinker, someone with “determination and spirit”.

A smile crosses Owen’s face when he describes himself as someone who prefers not to follow the crowd: “No one wants to be the Wiggles, everyone wants to be a rockstar…”

However, what became clear to Owen, is his infectious determination to not only be different, but to do things differently. He says “I’d rather be the Wiggles and do things differently, but my way.

“An opportunity without preparation is a missed opportunity, do the preparation and the opportunity will present itself.”

Medically retiring from the Army in May, Owen had meticulously planned his exit. His long-term goal after being discharged is to be a self-sufficient regenerative farmer in regional South Australia. Yet what Owen was unsure of, was how he could achieve this dream of building a future in regenerative agriculture.

Owen said the defining moment in his transition to civilian life was listening to a Soldier On education officer. “Soldier On spoke about the importance of staying connected once you leave the military,” Owen said. “It wasn’t until they spoke about education and university scholarships that my future finally clicked for me…learning and training and a means to do it, that’s what got me.”

Through Soldier On’s Pathways Program, Owen became one of the first participants to be mentored using the Career Construction Theory method. Introduced in 2021, the veteran-centric approach will help former military personnel draw on purpose and identity instead of seeking employment based on the skills they acquired in the ADF.

“Everyone spoke to me about a career in IT, this wasn’t for me,” Owen said. “I told Soldier On, I want to work in agriculture, I need to be outside and have that connection with nature and the elements; a career in IT would not satisfy my need to play an active role to regenerate my country.

“Soldier On did everything possible to help me get into university and to map out my future. Soldier On listened to what I am passionate about and where I see my future, they guided me to achieve this.”

Soldier On’s then Education Manager, Daniel Vincent, said: “[During] Owen’s journey through the Pathways Program he took the opportunity to make his transition as successful as possible, by looking at his purpose. Owen’s journey through career construction and discovering his purpose was one of the most inspiring moments.”

Daniel said Owen’s meticulous planning for life after the ADF is a credit to his personal drive and well-honed organisational skills.

“The best time to think about your transition is your first day of service. The next best time is now; this is one of the keys to career construction. His story is truly amazing, and I look forward to continuing being a part [of it],” he said.

The process was simple, Owen said. “Daniel suggested we map out my future goals and how he thought they could be achieved on a whiteboard. Soldier On did the rest.

“Soldier On took my ideas and where I see my future and helped me design a path to achieving my goals. They asked me what I wanted to achieve, not what their expectations of me were based on my military experience.”

National Psychology Services Manager for Soldier On, Joe Losinno said using the career construction method will help veterans map out their future career pathway and tailor the process to the Veteran’s future ambitions and goals.

“Career construction is a communication pathway for the veteran moving forward, it crystalises a life worth living and an ability to find an ethical self, led by values in the civilian world. It is not a directive; it is about the veteran. It is moving away from just writing resumes, it’s about building resumes.”

Owen said it was not until he attended the talk given by Soldier On that he felt that he was listened to and that he had a voice. The Indigenous boy discouraged from making future plans could now see his future studying at university and living off the land.

“I need to get back to Country and to my future ambitions, Soldier On has helped me achieve this. I was always passionate about the environment and animals. That is probably one of the main reasons driving me to become a regenerative farmer but preferably an environmental scientist.”

Owen said for anyone considering leaving the military, “Don’t be so quick on your decision to get out, go to the Soldier On information sessions, make an informed decision but don’t get out before knowing what you want to do.

“I am not the smartest person, but it does not mean I can’t learn new things, learn something you are interested in, that’s Soldier On and without their help and the opportunities they gave me I would not have applied to study agriculture at university. They presented me the idea and I ran with it, Owen said. 

Daniel Cooper, Operations Manager for Soldier On Pledge Partner JLB-Yaran said: “As a proud Indigenous and Veteran owned company, JLB-Yaran are passionate about assisting Indigenous Veterans such as Owen with employment outside uniform.

“Owen represents everything our company stands for. He is a proud Indigenous man who has served his country and he is now passionate about giving back to his community which he will be able to do as an Indigenous mentor in our Indigenous Development and Employment Program (IDEP).”

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 MENTOR PROGRAM RECOGNISED IN AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE INDUSTRY AWARDS

Former Army rifleman Andrew Horne’s recent career success shows just why Soldier On’s Mentor Programme was recognised at the Australian Defence Industry Awards in December.

Soldier On received the Training and Mentorship Program of the Year award for their work with veterans helping to transition them from the defence forces to civilian life.

The programme sees former and currently serving Australian Defence Force members and their families matched with a trained industry mentor to maximise their opportunities to find employment.

East Timor veteran Andrew, who was paired with a BAE Systems mentor, said the programme helped him realise his worth away from the Army.

“Coming from a defence background, you know personally what you have to offer is what you have been trained in. Unfortunately for us we downplay a lot and don’t realise there is so much we can offer to an organisation unless it’s shown to us or put in front of our faces.

“For me, I have an army background in the infantry, I thought I was only capable of doing three or four things. It’s important to remember we have so many things we pick up on the way: teamwork, professionalism, the fact you can start something and follow through with it,” Andrew added.

Andrew said the mentoring programme and position at Soldier On helped him regain his identity.

“As soon as you get out of the Armed Forces, you lose your uniform, your nametag, your rank, you feel like you have no identity within society. The mentoring programme opens your eyes to your self-worth, but it also helps put veterans into roles where they have a purpose,” Andrew said.

Hunter veteran and Soldier On Ambassador, Chris Harris, said the programme offered him the opportunity to support his fellow veterans.

“In 2018 I was fortunate enough to receive Soldier On support to gain employment within the Hunter Region. Soldier On’s Pathways Program was an invaluable resource for me during my transition from the Australian Defence Force. It has been a great honour to return to the program as a Mentor to my fellow veterans,” Chris said.

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 Australian Defence Industry Awards, which recognises excellence from defence professionals, organisations and businesses across the country, was held in December.

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.

102-YEAR-OLD SERGEANT BERT LE-MERTON NAMED NSW SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR FINALIST

102-year-old retired Sergeant Bert Le-Merton has been named as a 2021 Senior Australian of the Year finalist in a ceremony held yesterday.

Recognition in these awards 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.

Bert’s mission did not end there. 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.

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

“Sergeant Bert is an inspiration to us all and is incredibly deserving of this wonderful award. Bert is a true living legend. His bravery and sacrifice during World War II is admirable to say the least. His family have followed suit, with his children and grandchildren also defending our nation and communities on the frontline. It is clear that his passion for supporting our current and future generation of veterans and their families is close to his heart,” Mr Slavich said.

“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. We thank Sergeant Bert for his commitment to our veterans,’ Mr Slavich added.

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.

“I thank all those members of the public who have joined me by taking part in the challenge and making donations. The funds raised through March On will do a great deal to support the young men and women who have served our great country,” Sergeant Bert said.

Sergeant Bert will celebrate his 103rd birthday later this week.