Soldier On’s Women’s Vet Connect program has kicked off across the country, supporting female veterans in their transition to civilian life, writes Soldier On.
Women’s Vet Connect is a national program aimed at rebuilding a sense of family and camaraderie of service. Held over three weekends across the year, the program is designed to address the needs of female veterans transitioning or planning to transition from the Australian Defence Force, into civilian life.
Transitioning from Defence can be distressing and isolating for service personnel, posing significant challenges in all aspects of a veteran’s life. This can often include loss of identity and purpose, career uncertainty, social isolation, mental health difficulties, trauma, and an increased risk of suicide. Soldier On works closely with the veteran community, providing holistic support services focusing on health and wellbeing activities, employment support and education programs, as well as activities centred on connections with family, friends, and the broader community. The Women’s Vet Connect program encompasses activities and support which reflects this integrated approach, ensuring that social connection, learning and change can occur in a supportive environment.
Soldier On national program manager Sarah Hartley said the program has been a remarkable success, with participants taking enormous steps to improve their health and wellbeing throughout the series of weekends.
“It has been fantastic to see a wonderful group of women form meaningful connections with their peers while pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, exploring new experiences and ways to look after themselves and their mental health,” Hartley said.
The free program takes a selection of female veterans to serene locations across their home states, teaching them mental and physical health strategies, relationship building and life skills, while also providing an opportunity to connect with other veterans on a personal level. From horse riding to yoga, massages, morning walks and peer support sessions, the weekend’s activities provided opportunities for connection, education and mindfulness. Soldier On psychologists were also in attendance, providing insights into the mental health challenges that are specific to the veteran experience and the conditions of their service. Psychologists were also present throughout the weekend to support participants through some of the more challenging activities as veterans confronted their own fears and uncertainties following their service.
Program participants said the weekend’s activities provided them with a greater understanding of their circumstances and gave them the tools to thrive in their transition to civilian life.
“To have it broken down to me to understand why our brains are trained for Defence life, and why I am feeling disconnected to my civilian friends, now makes so much more sense. After 16 years, I finally feel that I have a community I belong to, and it has given me so much hope,” a Vet Connect participant said.
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“I am very appreciative and grateful to have experienced the program with other female veterans. The program was something that I really needed. I don’t get out often, I keep to myself, and I don’t do any self-care practices, so it was really nice to be supported, encouraged and spoiled over the weekend,” another participant added.
Soldier On’s Women’s Vet Connect Program is made possible by the support of the Thyne Reid Foundation.
Soldier On is one of Australia's leading veteran support charities. To learn more about Soldier On, you can visit their website here.