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Pauly Rainbow parkrun

From Veteran to Advocate: The Remarkable Journey of Pauly Rainbow

Last year Pauly, an Army Veteran reached out to Invictus Australia’s Veteran Engagement Team looking to get connected through sport to his local community. Through multiple opportunities with our sporting partners and groups, Pauly has thrived and demonstrated the ethos of Invictus – an unconquered mindset and desire to push through dark times. We are truly inspired by Pauly and share his story in the hope that you will be too.  

Pauly Rainbow parkrun

Pauly’s Story 

Discharged from the Army in 1973 after enlisting as a medic, Pauly’s post service story is one of resilience, community service and an unwavering commitment to supporting other despite facing numerous personal challenges throughout his life.  

Hailing from the Western Suburbs of Sydney, Pauly never considered himself ‘sporty’ but grew up interested in water sports and car racing. From a young age, he has been passionate about donating his time to help others, becoming a St John’s Ambulance cadet from just 8 years old.  

His journey took a significant turn when he joined the Army as a medic. After his discharge, Pauly transitioned to a career in nursing, dedicating a decade to helping others in a different capacity. Since then, he has worked as a case worker, continuing his commitment to serving others.  

Regardless of his impact in the community, Pauly’s personal journey post service has not been an easy one. He has faced challenges with both his mental and physical health, which has left him in a wheelchair with no use of his legs and at times struggling with his mental health. 

Despite the hardships, Pauly embraces a life of optimism and contentment. He views his wheelchair as a new opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. His mantra is clear:

“There is nothing I won’t try. The only failure is not trying at all.”

pauly rainbow

Connecting with Invictus Australia 

Pauly reached out to us looking to utilise sport in a way that would connect him with local veterans and help his recovery. Before hearing about Invictus Australia, Pauly was not attending any regular veteran programs or taking part in community sport.   

He believes that water is his healing place and was determined to participate in sporting events that combines this love with his desire to form social connections with those who he shares experiences with. After reaching out, Pauly met Jye, one of Invictus Australia’s frontline staff working in the Hunter region of NSW. 

Pauly’s connection with Invictus Australia has been transformative. Through the organisation, he has found a network of support and friendship, breaking a 20-year cycle of isolation. Pauly has been a friendly face at many Invictus Australia events, participating in the local walking group every two weeks, attending his local parkrun as part of Team Veteran, trying his hand at Dragon Boating and attending a horse therapy workshop in the Sutton Forest area.  

Excitedly, Jye was able to connect Pauly with Scuba Gym, an organisation dedicated to enabling lasting change for people with disabilities. Pauly has been participating in regular scuba therapy sessions at Woy Woy and was even able to walk underwater recently for the first time since he has been wheelchair bound.  

Pauly is able to walk underwater

Invictus Australia has been honoured to empower Pauly to navigate challenges and build crucial social connections. His story and journey post service inspires those around him, including Jye, our staffer who is regularly in contact with Pauly. 

“After our coffee, I led him to a boat ramp as he wanted to test out his canoe. I watched a 73-year-old man in a wheelchair, remove a canoe from a trolley, put it into the water, get himself in and paddle out on to the Hunter River. It was inspirational. This man does not allow his condition to define him.” 

Pauly enjoys a canoe session

What is next for Pauly?  

Excited he has finally found a strong community to connect with regularly, Pauly will continue to be an eager attendee at his local sporting events, wanting to try as many new sports as he can. He has goals to participate in the next City to Surf in Sydney as part of Team Veteran and hopes to continue to connect with members of the Defence community in his local area.  

Pauly hopes that his story encourages people to “never give up,” and reach out to organisations such as Invictus Australia that are “extremely helpful for forming social connection, especially when you don’t have any.”  

To get active and connected with your local community, see what events are happening for veterans and their families in your local area by visiting our events calendar.  

About Invictus Australia: Invictus Australia encourages veterans and their families to connect and engage with their communities through sport. Whether participating or volunteering at grassroots level, to competing internationally at an Invictus or Warrior Games, Invictus Australia leverages the power of sport to proactively foster good health and aid in recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration. Invictus Australia promotes the physical, social and emotional benefits of sport for all, and shine a light on the unique needs of younger veterans, particularly the challenges associated with transitioning from military to civilian life.