Previously known as Veteran Sport Australia

Latest News

Team Veteran Surf Life Saving Championships 2022 (2)

Invictus Australia supports first veterans team to compete at Surf Life Saving World Champs

In a world-first, Invictus Australia, with the support of Surf Life Saving Australia, has sought and been granted permission by the International Life Saving Federation to enter a combined military veteran surf life saving team into the Riccione 2022 Lifesaving World Championships. 

Historically, individual athletes have competed under their club cap at this pinnacle event. Now for the first time, Team Veteran Australia will enter as a team made up of military personnel from different surf clubs around Australia competing under a single cap.  

Members of Team Veteran Australia hail from clubs from across the country – from Cronulla to Coolangatta, Torquay to Trigg Island – and will compete as a team at the World Championships from 20 September to 9 October. The Italy-based competition was originally scheduled for 2020 however, as with the majority of events including the Invictus Games, was postponed in March 2020 due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

Team Veteran Australia is comprised of eight current and former-serving men and women of the Australian Defence Force. The team will also be supported by Team Manager and Invictus Games competitor, Sean Lawler and Head Coach and former Ironman, Zane Holmes. Competitors, who are participating in a civilian capacity, reign from a mix of backgrounds and disciplines including ex-Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Ironmen, former Special Forces soldiers and Invictus Games alumni. 

Team Veteran Australia will complete in the Masters category in Pool, Ocean and Beach events at the championships including: 

  • Pool events: Manikin Carry, Manikin Relays, Obstacle Relays and Line Throws  
  • Ocean events: Ski, Board, Swim, Ironman/Women and Relay Teams  
  • Beach Events: 2km run, 100m Sprint, Beach Flags and Relay Teams. 

Team Manager Sean Lawler explained why sport, in this case Surf Life Saving, is so instrumental to the mental and physical health of military personnel.  

“I cannot over state how important it is to remain connected. We as soldiers, tend to lose our identity once we leave the Military. Local community organisations such as Surf Life Saving Clubs can provide an environment whereby we are able to regain a sense of self worth. And as Surf Life Saving and Defence have similar core values or community & service, it allows us to help the community on a local and national scale. 

It therefore seems natural that Surf Life Saving Australia and Invictus Australia partner with each other to help support those individuals who not only help protect their local community, but who also sacrifice more often than not, their physical and mental wellbeing during operations in the best interest of the Australian public. 

This team of unique individuals represent not only themselves, but also the ability to utilise sport as a powerful pathway to rehabilitation and an inspiration to other veterans, to stay active & connected and find opportunities to regain your former self.” 

Michael Hartung, CEO of Invictus Australia, says the inclusion of Team Veteran Australia in this year’s Surf Lifesaving World Championships is another example of the positive impact sport can have in the lives of veterans and their families. 

“The power of sport has a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of veterans and their families. To see this team of veterans compete at the Surf Lifesaving World Championships provides another amazing example of how sport is providing aspiration, purpose, community and opportunity during and post service to connect.” 

“Both competitive and community sport provide a range of opportunities and substantial physical and mental health benefits. Getting involved as a competitor, a social participant or a volunteer can help individuals and their families to tackle physical or mental health challenges they are facing or be a proactive way to prevent them in the first place. We hope this team of veterans serve as inspiration for others to get involved in sport.”  

“We are thrilled to be able to support Team Veteran Australia on their journey to Riccione and wish them all the best.” Michael said. 

Team Veteran Australia consists of the following surf lifesaving members: 

former serving members

  • Alex Tibbits (Buddina, QLD) 
  • Kelly Marsh (Freshwater, NSW) 
  • Chris O’Brien (Canberra, ACT) 

current serving members

  • Dane Hurst (Reserves); (Cronulla, NSW) 
  • Ryan Gaylard (Reserves); (Sunshine Coast, QLD) 
  • Dana Richards (Shellharbour, NSW) 
  • Simone Read (Towradgi, NSW) 
  • Louise Skjeime (Sylvania, NSW) 

The 2022 Surf Lifesaving World Championships will be held in Riccione Italy from 20 September – 9 October 2022. The next World Championships will take place on the Gold Coast, Australia in 2024. 

In addition to achieving permission for the team to enter the World Championships, Invictus Australia is providing logistical support to assist the team to get to the event and will be supporting the coverage of the event and the team’s accomplishments. 

For team bios, visit https://invictusaustralia.org/team-veteran-bios-2022-surf-lifesaving-world-champs/

Media Contact: Sean Lawler, Team Manager, Team Veteran Australia, +61 478 157 853 

… end

quotes from the team

Sean Lawler, Team Manager 

Sydney, NSW 

“Over the past 30 years, Surf Life Saving and Military Service has had a major influence on my life. 

Prior to enlisting, I volunteered my time patrolling Park Beach for the Coffs Harbour Surf Life Saving Club. Learning skills that I would eventually carry with me into my military life. Looking back on what I have achieved, it is these core values I learnt as a young Surf Club member and Serviceman that I now attribute to whom I have become. 

During my service, I sustained a various injuries which I now carry with me. If it wasn’t for the support of Invictus Australia and the opportunity to compete at the Invictus Games, I may not have been able to manage my injuries to an extent I am able to today. 

Surf Life Saving and Defence have similar core values, allowing us to help the community on a local and national scale. It seems natural that Surf Life Saving Australia and Invictus Australia partner with each other to help support those individuals who not only help protect their local community, but who also sacrifice more often than not, their physical and mental wellbeing during operations in the best interest of the Australian public. 

This team of unique individuals represent not only themselves, but also the ability to utilise sport as a pathway to rehabilitation. 

I cannot over state how important it is to remain connected. We as soldiers, tend to lose our identity once we leave the Military. Local community organisations such as Surf Life Saving Clubs can provide an environment whereby we are able to regain a sense of self worth. 

Team Veteran Australia will showcase the importance of remaining healthy. No matter how injured or old you are, there are always opportunities to regain your former self.  

You need only take the first step.” 

SBLT, Dana Richards, RAN 

Shellharbour, Sydney 

‘Why is this opportunity to compete at the Worlds under the Team Veteran banner so important to you?’ 

It is great to be able to link my sport and the communities of Surf Lifesaving and Team Veteran together. I have been a long standing member of SLSA, SLSNSW and my local Surf Lifesaving club at Shellharbour on the South Coast of NSW.   

The networks and community of my surf club has allowed my whole family a healthy lifestyle. I have actively patrolled the beaches for close to 30 years as a volunteer, and the friendships and memories are part of my whole being.  

As a current serving RAN member, it is somewhat similar. The friendships and comradery that I currently have, plus the support networks Australia wide from past and present serving members is a community that has also provided so many fond memories as well.  

I feel that as an ADF member, past or present we have special bonds, we have this community at our fingertips and it is becoming more visible to the public through programs within Invictus Australia.  

I want others to see that we are all team players, whether past or present ADF, as it has been ingrained from our training and service, the connections and community provide us a sense of belonging and this is why Team Veteran is so important to me, I want to encourage these conversations and create an inclusive space where it doesn’t matter what ability you have at sport or fitness, just need to get up and be part of this community as it is embracing and powerful.  

Team Veteran is an amazing opportunity that I am grateful for, to travel as a team with the support of Invictus Australia is really exciting. For me, the training journey is fun, the process of setting goals is enjoyable and it gives me a purpose every single day to try and be a better version of myself than the day before. 

What role does SLS play in your overall wellbeing – whether it’s physical, mental, emotional or social? 

My overall wellbeing is a reflection of my physical activities, and that I will give anything a go. I have a little mantra about my physical and mental capabilities being that I am on the shorter side of life, and that is ‘look at what my body can do, and I control it through my own healthy thoughts and the power of the mind, heart and body’ 

SLS gives me an outlet and purpose to get up and do some kind of physical activity every single day. Some days are harder than others, physically I have carried injuries over the years and it affects your mental wellbeing, as physically my body doesn’t want to do what my brain is trying to tell it to do. But by doing my training and sometimes just thrashing it out in the water, or just going and diving in or catching some waves is my reset button. 

I love the ocean, it is my happy place and has created a social space for me. Years ago, I worked out that by ocean swimming, I could block out the white noise and not think about anything else apart from the water movement, the sand beneath me and sometimes the beautiful ocean creatures that would often join me in my swims. I have found a great group of people where I live, who also enjoy similar things to myself. So often we schedule in our swims, board or ski sessions and then we have a coffee and a chat afterwards.  

If I travel, the first thing I look for is a group to join in with to have a swim in the ocean, if I can’t find a group and there are so many now up and down the East coast of Australia, I’ll just go by myself or my daughter will often join me. This SLS lifestyle has provided my whole family with healthy coping mechanisms around the sport and the ocean and I plan on being a part of the SLS community for a long time. 

Kelly Marsh 

Freshwater, NSW 

“This team opportunity has been both life-changing and life saving. Access to participation in sport has reconnected me to community and various local sports, giving me back the confidence and space to develop new skills and importantly connection. I will be forever grateful for our journey, the support of Invictus Australia, our mateships and adventures so far. 

“My inclusion in the team in 2020 was my motivation to reconnect to sport, challenging myself and facing fears, engaging in community and importantly a return to surf club culture in a supported healthy environment. It’s been the driving force behind my development to new skills, self-growth and health. The pandemic allowed our journey to be extended and presented more opportunities to participate and extend ourselves beyond anything I imagined. My highlights so far has seen me inspired by each sporting community and members I have met along the way. Both this and my family are my motivation each day to keep saying yes to new adventures.” 

“I love the mateship, connections and community engagement that both Surf Life Saving and the Defence Force shares. It is my hope that our Team Veteran journey can open opportunities for others, reminding clubs of the importance of sport- encouraging them to provide access, inclusion and participation for every one in every community.” 

I hope my journey can inspire anyone, but particularly veterans & families, to ‘be brave, to ‘just start’ and ‘say yes’. You won’t regret it!” 

read more