On Sunday 18th September at South Coogee Beach, Matt Thistlethwaite, Assistant Minster for Veterans & Defence Personnel, and Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving, farewelled the first ever military Veteran team to compete at the Lifesaving World Championships in Italy.
Minister Thistlethwaite said the government was committed to supporting serving personnel, veterans and families.
“We are proud to see a team of current and former-serving military personnel from surf clubs across Australia competing now for the first time under a single cap.
“Team Veteran Australia is showing how sport at all levels of competition can benefit our nation’s veterans during and post-military service.”
The 2022 Surf Lifesaving World Champions will be held in Riccione Italy from 20 September – 9 October 2022. The next World Championships will take place on the Gold Coast, Australia in 2024.
Invictus Australia, with the support of Surf Life Saving Australia, was granted permission by the International Life Saving Federation to enter a combined military veteran team into the Riccione 2022 Lifesaving World Championship.
In addition to achieving permission for the team to enter the World Championships, Invictus Australia will provide logistical support to assist the team to get to the event and will be supporting the coverage of the event and the team’s accomplishments.
Team Veteran Australia consists of the following surf lifesaving members:
Former Serving Team members
- Alex Tibbits (Buddina, QLD)
- Kelly Marsh (Freshwater, NSW)
- Chris O’Brien (Canberra, ACT)
Current Serving Team Members
- Dane Hurst (Reserves); (Cronulla, NSW)
- Ryan Gaylard (Reserves); (Sunshine Coast, QLD)
- Dana Richards (Shellharbour, NSW)
- Simone Read (Towradgi, NSW)
- Louise Skjeime (Sylvania, NSW)
CEO Invictus Australia Michael Hartung said the inclusion of Team Veteran Australia in this year’s championships is another example of the positive impact sport can have in the lives of veterans and their families.
“To see this team of veterans compete at the world championships provides another amazing example of how sport is providing aspiration, purpose, community and opportunity during and post service to connect,” Mr Hartung said.
“Both competitive and community sport provide a range of opportunities and substantial physical and mental health benefits.
“Getting involved as a competitor, a social participant or a volunteer can help individuals and their families to tackle physical or mental-health challenges they are facing or be a proactive way to prevent them in the first place.
“We hope this team of veterans serve as inspiration for others to get involved in sport.
“We are thrilled to be able to support Team Veteran Australia on their journey to Riccione and wish them all the best.”
Historically, individual athletes have competed under their club cap at this pinnacle event.
Now for the first time, Team Veteran Australia will enter as a team made up of military personnel from different surf clubs around Australia competing under a single cap.
Members of Team Veteran Australia hail from clubs from across the country – from Cronulla to Coolangatta, Torquay to Trigg Island and comprises eight current- and former-serving men and women of the Australian Defence Force.
The team will also be supported by team manager and Invictus Games competitor Sean Lawler and head coach and former Ironman Zane Holmes.
Competitors, who are participating in a civilian capacity, hail from a mix of backgrounds and disciplines including ex-Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Ironmen, former special-forces soldiers and Invictus Games alumni.
Team Veteran Australia will complete in the Masters category in pool, ocean and beach events at the championships.
Team manager Sean Lawler explained why sport, in this case surf life saving, was so instrumental to the mental and physical health of military personnel.
“I cannot over state how important it is to remain connected.
“We, as soldiers, tend to lose our identity once we leave the military.
“Local community organisations such as Surf Life Saving Clubs can provide an environment whereby we are able to regain a sense of self worth.
“As Surf Life Saving and Defence have similar core values of community and service, it allows us to help the community on a local and national scale.
“It therefore seems natural that Surf Life Saving Australia and Invictus Australia partner with each other to help support those individuals who not only help protect their local community, but who also sacrifice more often than not, their physical and mental wellbeing during operations in the best interest of the Australian public.
“This team of unique individuals represent not only themselves, but also the ability to use sport as a powerful pathway to rehabilitation and an inspiration to other veterans, to stay active and connected and find opportunities to regain your former self.”