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“Skateboards on steroids”; getting active in Altona

Ever tried ‘street’ stand up paddle boarding? It’s just like stand up paddle boarding on water. Except it’s on land. And using a skateboard.

Sheree Symonds, who runs Altona’s RSL Active Victoria program, gave
local veterans the chance to try it out and describes it as “skateboards on steroids”. Sound interesting? Well it’s just one of many activities that
Sheree’s rolling out.

Altona is alive with activity

Altona surely hasn’t seen this much activity since former PM Julia Gillard left town.

Through RSL Active, Sheree Symonds has set up a full range of activities for veterans in the area. And everyone’s encouraged to come along.

Yoga sessions are on twice a week, with more than a dozen regulars. Stand up paddle (the version on the water!) is very popular in the warmer months, there’s a walking group and local veterans can look forward to having a crack at Tai Chi in the coming weeks. Friday nights are even turning into unofficial social nights.

When it’s all said and done, excuses for veterans in the area not to get active are starting to run out.

From little things big things grow

Paul Kelly and Kev Carmondy weren’t thinking of the RSL Active program in Altona when they penned ‘From little things big things grow’, but the initiative has gone from strength to strength since it was set up only two years ago.

“We got 11 people at our first yoga session. Then others started to pop up and come along,” says Sheree. “It was a great start, especially because it wasn’t even advertised – it was more word of mouth.”

It’s been a bit of trial and error to find which activities strike the biggest chord with the local veteran community, but now with a solid core group and more and more veterans joining all the time, it’s all coming together.

Navy roots

Sheree is a Navy veteran. She served in CIS operations and, coming full circle, was instructed by RSL Active Manager Anne Pahl.

Sheree transitioned out of the Navy in 2011 and went overseas for a couple of years. Starting out in London, she worked her way into getting a job initially as a kitchen porter at a hotel on Sark, part of the Channel Islands in the English Channel. She loved it and ended up turning into a jack of all trades – working everything from reception to housekeeping, marketing and running the hotel bar.

Sheree knows that transition out of the defence force and into civilian life is hard and life on Sark was the perfect tonic: “I ripped off the band aid and had no choice but to adapt.”

Finding time to support veterans getting active

Maybe Sheree’s biggest challenge in keeping up the momentum in Altona is finding the time. But helping veterans is something that she’s fully committed to.

Sheree works full time as a Network Operations Centre Lead for Telstra, managing the 24/7 desk for radio for emergency services and life-threatening call traces. She’s a subject matter expert in Emergency Alert and is also the Deputy State Liaison Officer, a volunteer position.

But despite her tight schedule she loves how RSL Active is growing in Altona and what it can do for veterans.

“I probably take on too much, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I do it with the same passion that I had when I joined the defence force.”

Get in touch

Check out Altona RSL’s website at:

If you’re a veteran living near Altona, or anywhere else in Victoria, and are interested in finding out more about RSL Active, make sure you get in touch: or (03) 9655 5573.

‘Street’ stand up paddle boarding