Soldier On, in partnership with BAE Systems Australia, has announced an expansion of its veteran volunteer program Serving On, with the first activity held at Wayside Chapel in Potts Point.
Serving On supports veterans to build skills, resilience and connection through meaningful volunteer work and has now expanded to Sydney and Melbourne, and will be running in Adelaide from mid-2020, thanks to a long-term partnership with BAE Systems Australia.
The Serving On program involves a monthly project in various locations, in collaboration with other community-based organisations. The launch activity at Wayside Chapel will see Serving On volunteers spending the day in Kings Cross, learning about life on the streets and cooking and serving meals for the homeless, and assisting in cleaning and packing down after lunch.
Soldier On CEO Ivan Slavich said, "Those who join the ADF do so to serve, to give back, and to protect their country. Hanging up the uniform doesn’t stop those feelings of wanting to serve."
On average, there are approximately 6,000 service personnel separating from the Australian Defence Force each year, and one in four ex-service men and women will experience a mental health issue in their life.
Too often when personnel leave the Defence Force, they lose the sense of community they spent years building.
"Since its founding, Soldier On has received enquiries from Defence personnel and their family members who want to keep giving back to the community. Despite significant improvements in the range of support services available, many contemporary Defence personnel still struggle to find meaningful work," Slavich explained.
These issues and difficulties in adjusting to civilian life are preventable through participation in early intervention and pro-active support programs, such as Serving On.
Danielle Mesa, chief people officer at BAE Systems Australia, said, "We are proud of the men and women who have served our country, and are grateful for their sacrifice. This is why our partnership with Soldier On is so important – to support Australia’s veterans secure their futures after their service to our country.
"A key aspect of the program is BAE Systems employees volunteering side by side with Soldier On veteran participants on the projects. This allows veterans to network and build relationships outside the ADF community, and gives our people the opportunity to support and develop the skills of those who have given so much for us."
Soldier On is grounded in the bonds of friendship and a desire to better connect the community to the experiences of Australian Defence personnel, contemporary veterans and their families.
John Bale, Cavin Wilson and Dr Danielle Clout established the organisation following the death of Bale’s close friend, Lieutenant Michael Fussell in 2008, from an IED blast in Afghanistan. After Fussell’s death, Bale returned to their home town of Armidale to find a community that was rallying together to support Fussell’s family and raising funds for those involved in the incident and coming home to a very different life.
More information about Soldier On and its services for Australia's veteran community is available here.