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Invictus Australia’s inaugural SA Defence Community Sports Day: building wellbeing through sport 

Collaboration the key to sustainable wellbeing

On June 30th 2024, the first-ever South Australian Invictus Australia (IA) Defence Community Sports Day, held at the SA Veterans Wellbeing Centre with support from SA Health, attracted over 150 veterans, families, ex-service and sporting organisations together for a day of connection and fun. This event, spearheaded by IA’s South Australian Veteran Engagement Manager, Vanessa Broughill, is an example of our ethos to create effective collaboration between ESOs and developed sporting systems to benefit the Defence community in local regions. 

“Today we attended the first SA Defence Community Sports Day! There were so many families playing sports, connecting with each other, eating fairy floss, gaming, crafting and learning about all the services that can support their families! Well done Invictus Australia it was an amazing event! I especially loved all the conversations between the children and parents about service!”– Hayley Ann Boswell, Defence Kidz 

A day packed with activities and camaraderie 

The day drew crowds of veterans and their families eager to explore how they can implement sport in their lives, offering a range of benefits. Veterans like Emma Kearton highlighted the event’s significance for local Defence communities:   

“Days like this give you that camaraderie [similar to the Defence Force] and are also really good for your physical and mental health. A lot of people when they leave the Defence Force are searching for something that gives them the sense of achievement they once had, sport can do that,” – Emma Kearton 

From interactive pickleball and light sabering to sitting volleyball and e-sports, there was something for everyone with activities offering adaptive versions. The young and young-at-heart weren’t left out either, with face painting, fairy floss, and fun games keeping them entertained. Information booths staffed by organisations supporting veterans provided valuable resources and connections. 

Beverly Em, event attendee and child of two veterans, perfectly captured the spirit of the day: “We Sabered, Soccered, Pickleballed, joined parkrun Team Veteran, joined Australian Partners of Defence (APOD) and wheelchair danced – Absolutely awesome day!” 

Support from Government 

Huge thanks to SA Health, the Government of South Australia and the wonderful facilities and staff at the SA Veteran Wellbeing Centre for providing the space for this inaugural event! We even had the café open specially, to keep us warm when the weather got chilly.

It was great to see Ms. Louise Miller-Frost MP, Member for Boothby, as well as Catherine Hutchesson (on behalf of Minister Joe Szakacs) attend this event, to show their support for the work of Invictus Australia within the Defence community.  

Both women heard from event organiser, veteran and Invictus Games alumna Vanessa Broughill, about Invictus Australia’s commitment to grassroots sport to support the almost 600,000 veterans plus families around Australia, how sport is integral for veterans at all stages of their military career to either prevent or improve physical or mental health problems, support transition and connect families.  

Having the presence of government officials at events such as these allows the Defence community to be seen and heard as well as shines a light on some of the unique challenges and experiences that veterans and family members face at all stages of one’s military career.  

Strong Partnerships lead to success 

The event wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of sporting organisations like Pickleball SA, Veteran Gaming Australia, parkrun, Sitting Volleyball SA, and Sons of Obiwan Saber Academy. Additionally, ESOs such as Open Arms, Defence Kidz, Operation Unity, Legacy SA, Kookaburra Kids SA, Veterans SA, APOD SA, Pro-Active Health, and Soldier On ensured veterans and families had access to vital support services, and Defence Health provided the always-popular photo booth. 

We were also grateful to have the support of Ventia and IPAR, two of our Premier Partners. The two organisations chatted to local Defence community members about the support their organisations offer veterans, as well as providing face painters and other engaging activities 

A Look Forward: Building on a Strong Foundation 

This collaborative event served as a powerful platform to showcase the positive impact of sport on veterans and their families by providing information and resources to the South Australian Defence community in regards to:  

  • Supporting the transition from military life: Engaging in sports can ease the challenges of transitioning from military service to civilian life. 
  • Building camaraderie in the civilian world: Shared passion for sports provides a foundation for building new friendships and a sense of belonging in the civilian community. 
  • Enhancing mental and social well-being: Physical activity and social interaction through sports can significantly improve mental and social well-being, especially for at-risk veterans. 
  • Creating crucial support systems for families: Sports events like this can foster a sense of community for families, creating crucial support networks for veterans who are currently serving, newly transitioning out or former serving. 

Reflecting on the day’s achievements, Vanessa Broughill shared her perspective: “Building on the success of our inaugural event in Canberra three years ago, it’s incredibly rewarding to see the Invictus Australia Defence Community Sports Day reaching new communities. The spirit of camaraderie and resilience on display today was truly inspiring, and it aligns perfectly with Invictus Australia’s mission to support veterans and families through sport.” 

The SA Defence Community Sports Day serves as a shining example of the power of sport to foster connection, well-being, and a sense of purpose within the veteran community as well as continue to address some of the findings and recommendations being released by the current Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. With this event proving a powerful way to showcase how ex-service organisations and sporting bodies can collaborate to provide positive resources to veterans and families, support transition and strengthen family ties, Invictus Australia looks to hold similar events across the country.  

“What amazing day this was to be apart off. Well done Vanessa and the team from Invictus Australia for creating such a family friendly atmosphere, that allowed Veterans and their families to come together and enjoy a day of fun filled activities on offer. The APOD (Australian Partners of Defence) Nerf Guns where certainly a hit.
 
It was great to see Mark and the SA crew from Veteran Gaming Australia representing with their racing simulators, along with many of the other fantastic support organisations such as Defence Kidz, Veterans SA (the list goes on).” Wesley Woulleman, National Support and Engagement Manager at APOD| Veterans Advocate, Retired Army 

When asked what advice she would give to members of the Defence community looking to utilise sport in their lives, Army Veteran Emma had a simple response:  

Just give it a go, see what it is like. Everyone is very welcoming and ready to form strong bonds.”

EMMA KEARTON

ARMY VETERAN


Looking to get involved in sport in your region? Connect with our staff through your regions Facebook group or email support@invictusaustralia.org


About Invictus Australia: Invictus Australia is the NFP responsible for organising the Invictus Games Sydney 2018. We carry on the legacy of the Games every day in local communities, as all veterans and their families can benefit from involvement with sporting communities, particularly ‘at risk’ veterans. As well as promoting the physical, social and emotional benefits of sport, Invictus Australia shines a light on the unique needs of younger veterans and the challenges they face as they transition from military to civilian life. Find out more at www.invictusaustralia.org