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Invictus Pathway to Success

Partnership helping South Australian veterans harness their health through sport 

Veteran Sport Australia (VSA) is proud to announce a formalised partnership with the University of South Australia’s Invictus Pathways Program (IPP). Operated through the University, with the financial support of The Hospital Research Foundation Group, this Australian-first program is designed to harness the power of sport as a tool to improve the health and wellbeing of current and former serving Defence force personnel.

Drawing upon a similar ethos to VSA, this innovative and specialised sports initiative is a wellbeing program stemming from the spirit of the Invictus Games. It is based on using the power of sport and exercise to inspire recovery, rehabilitation and community integration. The program is open to all current serving and veteran defence force members and first responders who have experienced physical, emotional or psychological conditions.

The partnership will give UniSA the opportunity to better understand the relationships VSA has with a range of sporting clubs and organisations, whilst also giving them support to expand their offering in other states & territories across Australia. The partnership will also open up greater prospects for all veterans and their families to experience programs like the Invictus Pathways Program and other community sporting events, who all work towards a common goal – supporting the health and wellbeing of the community. 

UniSA Allied Health & Human Performance students play a vital role in delivering the program, undertaking placements in the adaptive sports and wellbeing fields. Students get invaluable real-world experience, while veterans benefit from receiving personal training two to three days a week, all supervised by qualified academic staff. From a community and grassroots level, there are a range of offerings from wheelchair sports to archery, cycling, indoor rowing, bowls and more.

VSA and UniSA will work together to build on the already solid foundation to identify innovative and new ways to support veterans and their families. This will include promoting and developing social connections, increasing physical activity, finding purpose and bettering mental health through sport.

Invictus Pathways participant Chris Pitman has seen the benefits of the partnership already stating, “VSA support has been fantastic for me. They initially helped me with indoor cycling equipment, but also with sport in general – it’s been amazing for my recovery and rehabilitation. The collaboration (with IPP) is what it’s all about really. VSA & IPP have a great partnership & will continue to help veterans and first responders all the way through.”

Participant Danielle Hale agrees – “I’ve already seen the power of sport in my recovery & witnessed it in other’s recovery. Before I started the Invictus Pathways Program and found out about VSA I didn’t really want to hang out with people. Sport has brought me a long way because now I look forward to coming to basketball and playing with a group of people – it doesn’t matter what injuries you have and where you come from, because we all have that acceptance for wherever you come from and whatever you’ve been through. IPP and VSA coming together is even better than the two separately because the IPP is focusing on South Australia but if VSA can join, hopefully the program can spread further.”

VSA’s CEO Michael Hartung explains why this relationship is making such an impact on veterans, stating, “There are many similarities in our respective missions, to see sport play an important role in the lives of veterans and their families. It’s no surprise we share this ambition, as we both have our origins tied to the Invictus Games and the power of that incredible movement,” Hartung says.  

“Every day we see the positive, proactive impact sport is having on individual veterans, their families and their communities. Our partnership with the University of South Australia’s Invictus Pathways Program is one built around potential and what opportunities may look like in the future. It’s an exciting prospect.” 

Invictus Pathways Program Lead, Dr Brad Stenner, says the new partnership will have many benefits. 

“It is important in this age of heightened health awareness that our students are supporting the health and mental wellbeing of veterans, first responders and their families – to give back to the men and women who have given so much to society,” Dr Stenner says.  

“Partnering with VSA will provide further opportunities for our participants to engage in community-based sport and exercise, which will assist in their reconnection with their local community.” 

But let’s leave the last word to someone who has had experience with both Veteran Sport Australia and the Invictus Pathways Program. 

Darren Peters, IPP participant and competitor at Invictus Games Sydney 2018 and 2019 Warrior Games, says “VSA helped me with encouragement to get back into sport. It’s a very positive environment. And the IPP program has given me opportunities to get back into basketball and archery, a sense of worth to try and better myself and get back into the big wide world again, which is hard sometimes. Once you do these programs, you leave on a high note and it’s really good for the soul. The collaboration between VSA and IPP is an amazing thing, because you’ve got two really fantastic programs that are now combined and they’re working extremely well with each other. You can’t ask for a better environment and it’s a really good system.” 

Darren Peters, Team Australia

VSA is excited to build on this relationship and make a positive impact for our veteran community. If you would like to know more about UniSA Invictus Pathways Program visit here.