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Invictus Australia 2022 Year in Review

What a momentous and challenging year 2022 has been, not only for Invictus Australia, but the Veteran and Defence community as a whole. The interim report of the ongoing Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, the invasion and continuing war in Ukraine, the first ever Census to capture data and insights into Veterans and their health, an Invictus Games and a new Government and Monarch, to name a few key themes.

Throughout it all, Invictus Australia’s purpose remains to strengthen the health and wellbeing of veterans and families through the power of sport, via collaboration with others who share our vision of individuals thriving post-service. At this time of the year, we reflect on some of those moments.

So, let’s take a look back at 2022.

BUILDING THE INVICTUS MOVEMENT IN AUSTRALIA

In addition to supporting thousands of veterans and their families this past year, we’ve deepened sporting & corporate partnerships, engaged local champions to drive programs and raise funds, secured support from Government, and continued to work with the Defence community – it’s truly been an Unconquered approach to support our Veteran community. 

Invictus Australia celebrates its first anniversary

Just over 12 months ago we became a part of Invictus history. Last year, on the third anniversary of the Sydney Games’ closing ceremony, we were given the honour of becoming the world’s first organisation to use the Invictus brand by the international Invictus Games Foundation.

Such a privilege was not lost on us. Invictus Australia’s primary aim is to honour the legacy, extend support and amplify the power of the Invictus movement across the country, well beyond the Games. Over the past 12 months, we and our partner organisations have worked meticulously to achieve just that.

On October 27th 2022, we celebrated this milestone with our partners at NEC Australia who hosted our birthday celebrations at the Anzac War Memorial in Sydney’s Hyde Park, which included an entertaining and insightful panel discussion hosted by Erin Molan and featuring NEC Ambassador and Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott OAM and Invictus Australia Patron General Sir Peter Cosgrove (Retd), discussing the power of sport to transform lives.

Invictus Australia’s CEO, Michael Hartung’s comments from the launch of Invictus Australia still resonated today one year on.

“We are incredibly proud and honoured to be re-establishing the Invictus brand here in Australia, for the benefit of our Defence community. It is due to the success of Invictus Games Sydney 2018 and the hard work since to implement an effective and ongoing legacy that the Invictus Games Foundation has chosen Australia to pioneer the next frontier of the Invictus movement.”

Watch the highlights from our 1 year birthday event

government support pledges millions to help

Invictus Australia was thrilled with the announcement by the Australian Government to dedicate $9 million of funding over 3 years.

This significant funding will help us to grow the Invictus Australia team by positioning Veteran Engagement Specialists in key Defence communities around the country. With a stronger presence on the ground, we are able to make a direct and immediate impact through grassroots sporting programs, events, local activities and beyond.

Veterans Minister Keogh pledging support for Invictus Australia at Parliament House

This support will also enable us to further assist our international Invictus Games and Warrior Games competitors through training camps, equipment access and travel to international competitions for team members and their families. With the Invictus Games Dusseldorf less than one year away and the Australian team soon to be announced, the Government’s contribution will be put to good use.

The Spirit of Invictus – from The Hague 2022 to Dusseldorf 2023 and Vancouver-Whistler 2025

In our inaugural year, we were honoured to help deliver Team Australia to the Invictus Games The Hague – even if it was postponed twice due to the global pandemic. In partnership with the Australia Defence Force Adaptive Sport Program,, 26 former-serving and six current-serving personnel along with their families, travelled to the Netherlands for the fifth iteration of the Games.

Today, preparation is already underway for the sixth Invictus Games to be held in Germany. Again, we will work with the ADF to support the team of former and current-serving competitors in the training, travel and competition in Dusseldorf from 9 – 16 September 2023. The Games will bring together 550 wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women from 21 nations to compete in 10 different adaptive sports.

Team Australia will be announced early next year, with 2023 packed with training camps, events and activities in the lead-up to the Düsseldorf Invictus Games.

Patience may be a virtue, but when it comes to the Invictus Games, it’s hard to wait. Fortunately, the seventh iteration of the Invictus Games will be held just two years later in Vancouver – Canada. These Games will be the first to incorporate winter adaptive sports including Alpine Skiing, Nordic Skiing and Wheelchair Curling.

Another world first, Invictus Australia sends Team Veteran Australia to Lifesaving World Championships

Invictus Australia, with the support of Surf Life Saving Australia, was granted permission to send a combined military veteran surf lifesaving team to the Riccione 2022 Lifesaving World Championships. This was the brainchild of Invictus Games alumnus, Sean Lawler, who experienced the positive impact sport had in his recovery, and wanted to share that with other veterans.

Historically, individual athletes have competed under their club cap at this pinnacle event. For the first time, Team Veteran Australia made up of military personnel from different surf clubs around Australia competed under a single cap – Team Veteran Australia.

The team of eight current and former-serving military surf lifesavers showed their resilience, mental and physical prowess on the international stage bringing home 16 gold, 9 silver and 10 bronze medals.

“This team of unique individuals represent not only themselves but also the ability to utilise 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,” Team Manager Sean Lawler reflected.

power of sport at grassroots level

As we grow, we can focus more energy in local communities through grassroots sports and recreational activities, reaching the 1 million+ veteran families living around our vast country. Sport can strengthen wounded, injured and ill veterans on their recovery journey; support reintegration following transition from Defence, which can be particularly difficult if it is involuntary or medically driven; play a preventative & protective role on mental health during the entire journey of service personnel; and of course support the families of our Defence community, through social, emotional, mental & physical benefits.

In short, the communities are where we can make a big impact!

This year, we hosted scores of ‘Come and Try’ days for local veteran communities around the country. From large-scale events like the Canberra Defence Sport Day, to local lawn bowls, archery, wheelchair sports, rowing and so much more, with thousands of veteran families joining in the action.

To keep on top of what’s happening in your area, follow us on Facebook and the local groups. So far, we have a NSW South Coast Facebook Group, ACT Facebook Group and a Northern NSW Facebook Group, and we plan to roll these out nationally in the next few months as we get more Veteran Engagement Specialists on the ground in key Defence locations around the country.

we truly are unconquered together

Since the launch of Invictus Australia, we have worked with sporting, ex-service organisations, community and government partners to create, promote and share local sporting opportunities for veterans and their families in communities all around Australia. Check out just a few examples below:

Sporting sector collabs

Throughout our first year, we have been proud to work with Royal Life Saving to launch an Aquatic and Recreation Employment Pathway for veterans; Rowing Australia to offer the Riggers Indoor Rowing Coaching Accreditation; the NRL to continue the hugely popular Battlefields to Footy fields program; parkrun and Team Veteran, free Archery Australia activities for local Defence communities around Australia and much more. We also announced a new sporting partnership with Table Tennis.

ESO sector collabs

Our work with Soldier On continues to increase the awareness, understanding and appreciation of the nation’s veterans and families. Our ongoing relationship with RSLs around Australia allows us to reach an even greater number within local Defence communities. And of course, by working with the ADF we can continue to support Team Australia on the international stage.

As a result of a commitment of support by the Shoalhaven Ex Services Group, we were able to increase capacity and access to sport within the NSW South Coast defence community with the appointment of the Nowra-based Veteran Engagement Coordinator, Justine Lugg.

“The club is very excited to partner with Invictus Australia in the establishment and ongoing support of this newly created role.  This role fits with the Club’s core values in supporting Veterans and providing recreational and sporting opportunities in the local area,” said Bernie Brown CEO of Shoalhaven Ex Services Group of Justine’s appointment.

Justine was present at the official opening of the Nowra Veteran Wellbeing Centre in November, run by RSL Lifecare. Here you will find Invictus Australia – South Coast NSW Community working from this modern purpose-built facility, in collaboration with many other ESOs including RSL Lifecare, Open Arms and others.

We also enjoyed generous support from the Anzac Memorial in Sydney, RUSI Library and the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to support our work through the hosting of events, providing backdrops for fundraising efforts and helping spread the impact of our work.

Community collabs

We are privileged to have been named the recipients of some generation donations from communities, local sporting teams and individuals.

The Aberglasslyn Ants raised over $5000 in support of our work. While the incredible veteran, Rodney ‘Rocket’ Cottam set himself a challenge to run 350km in 5 days and raised $40,000 for Invictus Australia in November. The ex-military man of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, ran from the NSW Southern Highlands to Mt Kosciusko in November – that’s 70km a day.

We also had passionate members of the community rise beside our Aussie veterans as part of the ZERO600 Morning Routine Challenge, to raise funds but importantly, change conversations and perceptions of our service personnel, and help save lives.

Not to mention numerous other wonderful people and organisations fundraising and donating to Invictus Australia helping us to reach as many veterans as possible through the power of sport.

Corporate collabs

This year, we welcomed the vital support of a range of corporate partners who share our passion for supporting veteran and families’ health and wellbeing.

With the backing of businesses and organisations such as UNSW Canberra, IPAR and NEC, we are able to provide life-changing and hugely impactful programs across the country, expanding our reach to provide vital physical, mental and emotional support as veterans navigate their journey to civilian life.

We couldn’t make the same impact without this generous support and passionate advocacy from these partners and thank all who have volunteered, donated, fought for the work and stood with us to make a difference for veterans here in Australia. Thank you!

Taking a retrospective look at the last 12 months and reflecting on our heritage, building on the Invictus legacy and making a greater impact now and in the future to support the Defence community, it is incredible to see how far we have come. And we are excited for what lies ahead.

In sharing these moments, we must thank all of those who worked alongside us to make them possible; our funding supporters at the Department of Veteran Affairs and other Federal & State departments and individuals, the many sporting bodies and clubs around the country, our corporate sponsors, the ex-service organisations, the rehabilitation providers, the Australian Defence Force, community organisations, our Ambassadors and, most importantly, all the veterans and their families who we serve. We are Unconquered Together.

If you would like to support our work as we continue to strengthen the Invictus spirit within Australia’s veteran community, you can donate via our website, purchase exclusive Team Veteran merch with more styles to be released soon, or join us as a corporate or sporting partner.

— ENDS — 


why invictus australia exists

There are almost 600,000 veterans in Australia, with an approximate 6,000 transitioning out of the Australian Defence Force each year. Close to 20% of those who leave the service are discharged for medical reasons out of their control which can have a significant impact on their mental health.

Furthermore, The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has identified that younger veterans and especially those who are medically discharged – approximately 18 percent of those transitioning or around 1,000 individuals each year – are most at risk of death by suicide.

Invictus Australia endeavours to reach more of these veterans and their families through the power of sport. Research has proven that sport has the power to connect and support the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing within this community. It aids the rehabilitation, recovery and reintegration of those transitioning out of the military back into civilian life.