Volunteering: A transformative force for social wellbeing and community connection
For many veterans, the structure and camaraderie they experience while serving in the military become essential to their social wellbeing. When they then transition back into civilian life, the loss of these factors can become detrimental to their wellbeing. A recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report which looked at veteran social connectedness identified the problem, and looked to volunteering as a potential solution that these losses pose to those who have served in the Australian Defence Force (ADF)
Post-service loneliness: identifying the problem.
The release of the report on the social connectedness of Australians who have served in the ADF sheds light on the challenges faced by veterans, particularly regarding their social wellbeing. The report found that 1 in 5 veterans reported feel lonely day to day, with 1 in 10 being socially isolated from those around them.
Since international research suggests that being socially connected increases general happiness levels and reduces the severity of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and suicidal tendencies (Flack and Kite, 2021), the substantial levels of social isolation and loneliness among the defence community is a definite risk factor for poor mental health. However, the report suggests engaging in volunteering could become a protective factor for these levels of social isolation in the post-service defence community.
Volunteering as a potential solution.
Volunteering goes beyond providing services to the community; it has profound effects on the mental health of individuals, including veterans. According to the AIHW, volunteering can promote good mental health by offering a sense of purpose, accomplishment, and social connection. With people who have served in the ADF more likely to volunteer than those who haven’t served (19% vs 14% respectively), these positive effects are pleasing to see.
The Department of Veteran Affairs (2022) are energized by these positive effects, encouraging the Defence community to enjoy the potential benefits of volunteering. “By introducing individuals to a new social network, veterans choosing to volunteer may be able to establish connections with individuals and communities and capitalise on the training and expertise provided by the ADF to serve their communities.”
Invictus Australia’s work to improve social isolation in the Defence community.
These heightened levels of social isolation among the Defence community are a key measure Invictus Australia is attempting to address. After expanding our Veteran Engagement Team in early 2023, our six new team members have been working across the country to strengthen the local veteran communities in their area, teaming up with local sporting clubs and organisations and facilitating local sporting events for veterans and their families.
With a Defence background, these frontline staffers understand the importance of social connectedness for their community and believe in the power of sporting events in providing this. Through these events, members of the Defence community are introduced to their local sporting community and are often given the chance to volunteer within this group of individuals. Stay up to date with the sporting events in your local community by joining your local Facebook group.
Volunteering at Invictus Australia
Volunteering is an essential element in sport. Combine this with the positive effects outlined in the AIHW report, it is clear to see that the Defence community can benefit greatly by choosing to volunteer. Hear from Michelle Hoare, a veteran family member and a number of our other volunteers at a recent Invictus Australia community sport day.
We recognise the importance of volunteers to the overall success of many events. By attending an Invictus Australia community event, our Veteran Engagement Team will be able to connect you with our National Sporting Partners who have pathways of giving back through participating, competing, refereeing, mentoring or volunteering at their local events.
Volunteer for the Invictus Games!
Been inspired by the power of volunteering? Want to feel the positive effects of engaging in volunteering for yourself? Expressions of Interest for volunteers for the Invictus Games Canada Whistler 2025.
Looking to get involved in sport in your region? Connect with our staff through your regions Facebook group.
- ACT Local Facebook Group
- SA Local Facebook Group
- Sth East QLD Facebook group
- Nth NSW Local Facebook Group
- NSW Sth Coast Local Facebook Group
- Victoria Facebook Group
- WA Facebook Group