Previously known as Veteran Sport Australia

BIO: Karen Thomas

Karen will participate at the Allied Winter Sports Camp in Canada in 2023

competitor Karen Thomas at the Sydney Academy of Sport and Recreation, Narrabeen NSW.

Sport has helped me immeasurably both physically and mentally…I now use sports as a physical therapy to aid in my mobility and ongoing care, as well as something to manage stress and anxiety, and bring me joy. I like being able to set goals that I can train towards and achieve. This gives me a sense of purpose and a focus of energy. 

Karen Thomas

ADF Service

I joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as an undergraduate radiographer in Feb 1996. I completed my university degree in 1997 and internship in 1998.  

After Officer Training in 1999, I was posted to Area Health Services South Australia at RAAF Edinburgh. In 2000 I was deployed on Op Bel ISI in Bougainville. In 2002-2003 I undertook specialist studies in sonography, an emerging deployable capability, to become the first and only accredited sonographer in the ADF. After completing my studies I was posted to No. 1 Air Transportable Health Squadron, RAAF Amberley, 2004-2005. 2006-2009 I took LWOP to accompany my husband (ARA) to Melbourne. During this time I worked as a senior radiographer and sonographer at the Alfred Hospital. I also undertook a six-month working holiday to the UK to work as a reporting sonographer in Brighton.  

In 2009, I returned to RAAF service as an operations officer at HQHSW based in Melbourne and a specialist project officer for the development of deployable CT capability for Afghanistan. I deployed to Indonesia on board HMAS Kanimbla as part of OP Padang Assist. In 2012, I was posted to Garrison Health at Joint Health Command to take up the new role of ADF Chief Radiographer.  

In 2014 I transferred to the specialist reserve so I could take up the role of tutor radiographer at Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth. This was a new hospital and I worked to ready the radiology department for commissioning. I remained in the specialist reserve until 2019, working to develop RAAF clinical governance.  

Age: 45

Hometown:  Perth

Current Town:  Perth

What is the Nature of your injury or illness?

I have a range of musculoskeletal injuries and mental health conditions that have arisen as a result of my service.

Sport background

Sport has always been a big factor in my life. I have participated in a range of sports over the years and I have enjoyed trying new things. Growing up I played netball, basketball and tennis. I did gymnastics, acrobatics, dancing and undertook taekwondo. The sport I’ve undertaken whilst serving in the RAAF depended on posting location but was mainly focused on netball, dancing, and gym work. 

These days, sports participation is limited due to my various injuries. I undertake what I can and what I enjoy. I undertake powerlifting with some modifications on account of my injuries and I do jazz, lyrical and commercial style dancing, with annual performances at Crown Perth. My greatest sporting moment would be playing in the national defence netball competition and being selected in the ADF mixed netball team. 

What role has sport played in your rehabilitation?

Sport has helped me immeasurably both physically and mentally. Whilst my injuries have meant that I have had to accept that I am not able to do the things I used to do or that I’d like to do, this has led me down a path to find sports that I can physically do and enjoy. I now use sports as a physical therapy to aid in my mobility and ongoing care, as well as something to manage stress and anxiety, and bring me joy. I like being able to set goals that I can train towards and achieve. This gives me a sense of purpose and a focus of energy. 

Why did you apply for the Adaptive Sport Program?

I have always loved playing a range of sports, but have had to realise that I am not able to do the things I once did, or that I would want to do. I have had to try and find things that I am able to do. I applied for the adaptive sport program to hopefully assist in my journey of finding sports that I can undertake and enjoy within the limits of my ailments. I feel it is an opportunity to try things I would never have thought of, and I love trying new things.

What will “success” look like for you at the Allied Winter Sports Camp?

Not dying! No, success for me would be me trying out all the different activities. I have rarely seen snow before and never participated in snow sports. The lack of familiarity and frankly some of the activities themselves, scare me. As someone who likes to try new things and doesn’t like to shy away from a challenge, I feel that success would be for me to overcome my fears and uncertainty to give all things a red hot go. 

What is your ultimate goal?

To be comfortable with who i am and accept there are things I cannot change. 

What does Unconquered mean to you?  

Having the strength of self-belief to stay true to who you are. 

What is your greatest achievement to date?

I feel that getting myself to where I am now is my greatest achievement to date. Everything I have now, I have earned through hard work and determination throughout my life. I have a good job, I’m financially secure, I have a great family, a lovely house and good friends. I am happy.

get to know Karen in 60 secs


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