That’s a wrap and what a year it’s been for Invictus Australia!
As 2021 draws to a close, it is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the year that was. As we look back, it is evident just how far we have come. Not only as an organisation, but as individuals, teams, communities and now an international movement.
2021 has been a watershed year for the Invictus movement here in Australia, as well as setting a benchmark within the global Invictus community. On the 3rd anniversary of the Invictus Games Sydney closing ceremony, we launched Invictus Australia. Australia has now become the first nation to take ‘Invictus’ beyond the Games using this powerful brand and its values to deliver sporting pathways and support to the Defence and veteran community. It is a tremendous honour and has been extremely well received.
There have been so many highlights and quite a few challenges (thanks, COVID!) that together, we overcame. In sharing these highlights, we must also thank all of those who worked alongside us to make them possible; the many sporting bodies and clubs around the country, the ex-service organisations, the rehabilitation providers, the Australian Defence Force, Federal and State governments, community organisations, our Ambassadors and, most importantly, all the veterans and their families who we serve. We are Unconquered Together. So, let’s take a look back at 2021.
WE ARE INVICTUS AUSTRALIA
On 28 October 2021 we officially took on the identity of Invictus Australia. Although we bid farewell to the Veteran Sport Australia (VSA) name, the life-changing work of VSA continues under our new moniker. We continue to support the Australian Invictus Team on their journey to the Games, as well as exploring and developing opportunities for all veterans and their families through the power of sport. Our efforts stem from a community and grassroots level, right through to the international stage.
Invictus Australia would like to thank all those involved in making our launch such an overwhelming success, including our Patron Sir Peter Cosgrove, Momentum Connect, GoodPR, our ambassadors, board advisory committee and staff. Check out them all out here.
ON THE GROUND ON THE SOUTH COAST OF NSW
With the support of the NSW Government and NSW Office of Sport, we were offered an invaluable addition to our team this year – Debbie Dimmock, Veteran Engagement Specialist for the NSW South Coast region.
Debbie is an Army spouse of 24 years with first-hand insight into all aspects of military life. Her role was introduced to support the veteran community from Canberra to Nowra and the surrounding areas. Debbie immediately hit the ground running and is already bringing sporting opportunities to life in the area alongside some of our wonderful partners, Bowls Australia, RSL LifeCare, Office of Sport, NRL – National Rugby League and parkrun.
THE NOWRA VETERAN WELLBEING CENTRE OPENED FOR BUSINESS
This year also saw the soft-opening of the Nowra Veteran Wellbeing Centre, further strengthening our presence and impact within the South Coast community. We joined Defence support organisations RSL LifeCare and Open Arms in offering our services, all under one roof. We look forward to our permanent, purpose-built centre officially opening next year.
VETERANS’ HEALTH WEEK – WE GOT MOVING!
A highlight in the Defence community calendar each year is Veterans’ Health Week (VHW). This year’s theme ‘Get Moving’ proved to be quite timely as we emerged from lockdown and sought activity! To celebrate this year’s event, Invictus Australia joined forces with parkrun Australia, Open Arms and RSL Australia, to promote Team Veteran – our national walking and running group for veterans, families, friends and supporters.
We launched Team Veteran in 2020 as a way to build connections, share experiences, stay active and connected via national parkrun events. At the start VHW, Team Veteran had 250 members and was parkrun’s 33rd largest running club. So, we set our sights high! Our aim was to get Team Veteran into the top 5 parkrun clubs. During VHW hundreds of individuals ‘Got Moving’ and joined the team. We are pleased to announce that Team Veteran is now the 5th largest club with 659 members. What an amazing result!
TEAM AUSTRALIA PREPARES FOR THE INVICTUS GAMES THE HAGUE 2020, 2021, 2022!
2021 was definitely a year for building resilience. The Invictus Games The Hague was originally planned for Spring 2020, but COVID restrictions pushed the event to 2021. Just when we thought we were in the clear, COVID reared its ugly head postponing the Games for the second time. The Invictus Games The Hague has now been locked in for 16 – 22 April 2022 and Team Australia could not be more excited.
VIRTUAL TRAINING – ANZAC DAY ROWING CHALLENGE
Team Australia was able to take part, albeit virtually, in team challenges both within Australia and internationally. Rowing Australia’s Anzac Day Indoor Rowing Challenge saw Aussies and New Zealanders row 2504 metres as many times as possible, throughout Anzac Day, at home on indoor rowing machines.
During lockdown, Team Australia launched a ‘friendly’ physical challenge for all Invictus Games competing nations. Our team members smashed out 20 reps of their chosen exercise, plus one extra for the additional year of training they were doing in preparation for The Hague. The challenge was set and sent around the world.
TEAM AUSTRALIA TRAINING CAMPS RETURNED
After a 12-month hiatus, February 2021 saw the long-awaited return of Invictus Games training camps, with the team, their family and friends, gathering in Adelaide. Competitors were presented with their uniforms, reconnected with their teammates, and revelled in a weekend of face-to-face competition.
In April, the Wheelchair Basketball and Wheelchair Rugby teams made their way to Sydney for an intensive weekend training camp. May saw Team Australia’s cyclists travel to Adelaide for their training camp. Our cyclists will compete in the roadbike, handbike and recumbent bike categories, in the criterium and road races events. Our partners at the ADF and Invictus Pathways Program ensured the cyclists were well supported as they took over the track at Pakapakanthi (Victoria Park).
Our swimmers dived into their first training camp in June. Being winter, they were glad to be hosted at the Gold Coast Performance Centre, giving them the chance to soak up the Queensland sun.
STRENGTHENING OUR PARTNERSHIPS & COLLABORATIONS
In 2021, we formalised our relationships with a number of wonderful sporting organisations that share our ethos to support the veteran community, with MOUs signed. This takes our number of official sporting partnerships to over 30, with plenty more ready to come on board in 2022.
Welcome to our newest partners:
Royal Lifesaving NSW
Invictus Pathways Program
Throughout 2021 we also hosted 18 collaborative forums to generate collective impact. These included:
8 meetings of the Veteran Organisations Sport & Recreation Forum, attended by:
The ADF, Open Arms – Veterans & Family Counselling, RSL National, RSL Active- Victoria, Solider On, Kookaburra Kids, Invictus Pathway Program, Legacy, Swiss 8, Mates4Mates, NCVH Concord Hospital (RSL NSW) and various veteran centres.
7 meetings of the Sailing Forum, attended by:
ADF Sailing, Sailing Australia, Saltwater Veterans, Derwent Sailing Squadron, Royal Perth Yacht Club, Resilience Sailing, Cruising Yacht Club South Australia, Maritime Warrior, Invictus Pathway Program, SV Navy Dayz, One and all Ship, Veteran Sailing Program- Coffs Harbour
3 meetings of the Research Advisory Community (RAC)
Members of our advisory committee are Dr Anne Grunseit, Ellie Lawrence-Wood, Dr Anna Lewis, Karen May, Steve Milanese, Julie Pert, Dr Lindsay Reece, Dr Simon Rosenbaum and Dr Miranda Van Hooff.
LOOKING TO 2022
This year, the Australian Government announced the establishment of a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide – a national crisis and a matter of deep concern and importance. This reminds us why our work and our Invictus community is so important.
Invictus Australia remains at the forefront of delivering programs and services to improve the health and wellbeing of veterans and their families, using the power of sport. Through our collaborations and partnerships this year, we have been able to reach more within the 600,000+ strong veteran community than ever before.
We would like to wish our community a happy, safe and active festive season. We understand that this time of year can be hard. So, if you are struggling, please reach out to Open Arms. They are available 24/7 via 1800 022 046.
This is just the first chapter in the Invictus Australia story. We have achieved so much in just a matter of months, but we are just getting started. We look forward to expanding our reach, strengthening our impact and developing new partnerships. Thank you for supporting us on this journey, we are Unconquered Together.
Bring on 2022 and bring on The Hague!