The Keith Payne VC Veterans Benefit Group and Lockheed Martin Australia have launched a three-year veterans’ sponsorship to support the health and wellbeing of current and former Australian servicemen and women and their families within the Shoalhaven region.
FILE PHOTO: Participants in the first Veterans Surfing Project surf session, launched at Gerroa, NSW, in February 2021. Photo courtesy Robert Crawford, South Coast Register.
Formed in 2018, the Keith Payne VC Veterans Benefit Group is dedicated to delivering a range of initiatives that assist veterans and their families to re-establish social connections to reduce the impact of mental health issues.
A joint sponsorship has been established with a $30,000 endowment from Lockheed Martin Australia, providing $10,000 grants over three years to help support and sustain vital social inclusion, health and fitness activities for veterans.
Chairman Keith Payne VC Veterans Benefit Group Rick Meehan welcomed the sponsorship contribution from Lockheed Martin Australia.
“Based in Nowra – a Defence town since 1915 – our primary goal is to reach as many veterans as possible,” Mr Meehan said.
“We organise social activities from BBQs, breakfasts, exercise, dinners and more to ensure our veterans remain connected, which helps improve veterans’ wellbeing and recovery from issues such as post-traumatic stress and depression.
“The Keith Payne VC Veterans Benefit Group leads a twice weekly Walk to Talk program, Veterans Health Week, Veterans Lawn Bowls, Vitamins 4 Veterans and the Veterans Surf Project, that sees veterans and families enjoy the Shoalhaven’s beaches while learning how to surf free of charge.
“The group is partnering with the University of Western Sydney to study the clinical benefits of surfing on veterans’ mind, body and spirit with a vision to nationalise the program.
“Over the past 12 months of our surf program alone, we committed ourselves with the goal of 560 attendances but have reached 1556, including 240 family members.
“We have delivered more than 135 sessions and had 119 new veterans sign up to the program.
“A number of those veterans have turned their lives around and have bounced back from severe depression.
“The core of our programs concentrate on social connectedness, health, fitness, nature and are family based to unite our veterans and expand camaraderie.
“Many of our Veterans who come to us now say “before this program I was existing, now I’m living”.”
Mr Meehan said Lockheed Martin Australia’s sponsorship was greatly welcomed.
“It will enable our group to sustain and increase our programs to continue serving those who have served our country
“Our programs are expanding weekly due to the ever-changing and new initiatives we come up with.
“This has without a doubt increased the number of families that we support as we proudly acknowledge our own name as a group but more importantly that we carry on the legacy of Australia’s highest and most decorated veteran, Keith Payne VC AM.”
Lockheed Martin Australia Chief Executive Warren McDonald said the company was honoured to support the Keith Payne VC Veterans Benefit Group.
“Ex-Australian Defence Force personnel make up a large part of our Sikorsky Australia workforce in Nowra and we can see the direct impact these programs have on the health of the local veteran and ex-service community and their families.”