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Michael and Maxine Starkey

Collaboration and Sport driving recovery

In 2014 Maxine Starkey’s life changed. After being together for 14 years, her husband Michael joined the Navy as an Aviation Technician Avionics (ATV). The transition to a life as a military family, and the challenges that would arise, were quickly realised while Michael was away at recruit school.

To help lessen then burden on the family unit, Maxine found herself seeking the support of others living the Defence lifestyle and reaching out to ESO’s like Invictus Australia, Soldier on and her local Defence Families Association, Kookaburra Retreat.

“From the moment I walked in the door, it was like coming home and my involvement has been life changing for me,” Maxine said of her introduction to Kookaburra Retreat

“This support creates strengthened family and community functioning” Maxine Starkey

“Being a serving member or family becomes part of your identity. It is something to be proud of. The sacrifices families make are often undervalued though or not acknowledged. When members discharge for whatever reason, it can often be hard to readjust to civilian life and to find ‘where you fit’,” Maxine added.  

Unfortunately, this change of lifestyle will be once again realised with Michael being medically discharged from the Navy after more than eight years of service. Both Maxine and Michael have been battling health issues over the previous years, while also juggling the demands of an active family unit but have been able to find an avenue to improving their mental and physical health through sport.

Michael and Maxine Starkey have been using sport to help with recovery
Michael and Maxine Starkey

“Before our health issues occurred and after having children, we never had much time for sport. Invictus Australia has really sparked our interest again and it has motivated us to go along to organised events. We appreciate the variety that is being offered to Veterans and their families on the South Coast, which has a positive impact on or mental and physical health,” Maxine commented. 

Through Invictus Australia, Maxine and Michael have been able to try a range of sports that work with their new way of life, seeking sporting activities to help with fitness, endurance and strength.

Michael was also able to attend the Remount 2021 program. 

Remount is a not-for-profit organisation delivering horsemanship programs for current and former service men and women and their families.

Equine therapy provides a “circuit-breaking” opportunity and helps people who may be experiencing stress or suffering from PTSD, depression, isolation or lack of self-esteem as a result of their service.

Invictus Australia and Soldier On recently formed a partnership to better support the health and wellbeing of Australia’s veterans and their families. The partnership sees the facilitation of more sport and recreational opportunities, events and resources being offered to the Defence community.

Invictus Australia’s Veteran Engagement Specialist, Debbie Dimmock said, “It’s great to partner with Soldier On and to be able to share our knowledge and expertise in sport, by working together to bring more opportunities to the Defence Community.   

“The power of sport whether playing, officiating or volunteering can be so good for health and wellbeing, but it also gives social connection and friendship.  Helping someone to find their tribe and the difference it makes to their life is so rewarding”, she said.  

As Maxine and Michael come to terms with their new way of life, they will be actively looking for activities they can do as a family. The importance of Defence support services like Invictus Australia and Soldier On play an integral part in helping veterans and families to connect with others in similar situations, or to maintain that sense of identity.   

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