Gwen Cherne was an Invictus Games Sydney 2018 Ambassador just a year after her husband Pete ended his life by suicide, calling for greater understanding of the challenges faced by Defence personnel and their families, who often grapple with public misconceptions about the challenges of service life.
Appointed as the inaugural Veteran Family Advocate Commissioner on the Repatriation Commission in August 2020, Gwen is the daughter and granddaughter of veterans, a contemporary Australian War Widow and the mother of a currently serving Defence member.
Since the death of her husband she has dedicated herself to advocacy for Australian war widows, defence and veterans’ families, suicide prevention and mental health awareness. “I want to share my story, raise my voice and be in the space, so that when others are willing and able and ready to raise theirs, people listen,” said Cherne.
“The Games encourages resilience and connection. Veterans can take something tragic and do something really good with it. They prove how much they can grow from it, gain acceptance, find purpose and inspire those around them. They often find support from their community that they didn’t think was there.”
Gwen grew up as a competitive ice skater in the US until she was injured in a car accident and had to give up her skating career. She is no longer a competitive athlete, but sport is a key part to her own mental and physical health. She kayaks with her young children, runs, practices yoga and occasionally signs up for things like the 50k Ultra Marathon to keep her motivated and healthy. She is looking forward to finally being able to complete the Kokoda Track when travel restrictions allow.