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Local impact for Veterans in the Hunter

There’s been lots of hard work happening to provide support for veterans and their families in the Hunter. It’s hinged on working closely with local veteran and sporting organisations and is making a very real difference on the ground.

Support through sport

Rachel Kerrigan is Invictus Australia’s ‘Veteran Engagement Specialist’ and is based in Newcastle in the Hunter Region of NSW. A RAAF veteran, Rachel has an intimate knowledge of the local area and is well-versed in the power of sport from personal experience.

Her goal is to support veterans and families to become engaged in sport and recreation over the long term.

Photo Credit: Warrick Eady
Waves Of Wellness program, Newcastle, NSW

Rachel works closely with veterans who could use one-on-one support, knowing that sport is a great way of connecting back in with a supportive community.

“There can be some complexity in working with individuals who need a hand; we’re all different and have had different experiences” says Rachel. “I work closely with veterans and family members to find the best opportunities and ways to get them back into sport, and the community, but at a pace that works for them. It can be a challenging journey but it’s always worth it and is very rewarding.”

Veterans program at Hunter Strength and Performance, Beresfield, NSW

Working with sports and local sporting clubs – to develop a network of opportunities and support across the Hunter Region – is another important part of the job.

“I work with sporting clubs big and small. We try to create local opportunities through VSA’s national Sporting Partners – for example, we’re planning a really exciting regional tour through the Hunter with Bowls Australia. We also work with clubs local to the area. Look out for some exciting outrigger opportunities coming up!”

Maitland Tenambit BMX Club Veterans and Families Day, supported by VSA and Solider On. East Maitland, NSW

Building partnerships

Veteran Sport Australia’s been working with Open Arms, Soldier On, Newcastle Beacon, RSL sub-Branches and a range of veteran groups in the Hunter Region to provide the best support possible for local veterans and their families.

“Working together just makes so much sense,” says Rachel of the local collaboration. “We all build on each other’s work and make sure veterans and their families get the support that they need.”

Rachel Kerrigan, VSA Veteran Engagement Specialist
‘Commit to be Fit’ initiative, Hunter Region, NSW

And the support’s not just related to sport.

“Individuals who could use a hand getting involved in a local sporting community might also benefit from some employment advice, counselling or getting linked in with one of our fantastic local ex-service organisations,” says Rachel. “Between all the different veteran organisations that are collaborating, we back ourselves to be able to find a way to help out.”

Maitland Vietnam Veterans and Services Legion Golf Day, bringing together young and old in the Hunter Region of NSW

With Open Arms

Working closely with Open Arms’ new team of Community and Peer Advisors has been a particular highlight.

“Since stepping into the role as a Peer Advisor with Open Arms I have crossed paths several times with Rachel from VSA and she always has a warm smile and a list of activities to share,” says Kate O’Donoghue, Open Arms Community and Peer Advisor in the Hunter. “From lawn bowls for the family to golf days, there’s always something on offer for the community.”

“I have found Rachel very open to hearing requests from the veteran community and collaborating with anyone and everyone who offers support and services.”

Kate O’Donoghue, Open Arms Community and Peer Advisor in the Hunter

Join us for a (not)parkrun!

A project that Rachel and Kate are currently working on together is building a community of parkrunners in the Hunter.

Getting involved in parkrun is a great way of joining a community and staying fit, and Rachel and Kate will be doing just that. Together they’ll be recording 15 (not)parkruns in 15 weeks.

They’re encouraging local veterans and their families to join them.

Veterans’ Health Week 2019, partnering with parkrun Australia at Lake Macquarie, NSW

At the moment, the opportunity is to get involved with (not)parkrun, the virtual version of parkrun while events are closed. (not)parkrun is an opportunity to submit a 5km walk, jog, or run time, on a route of your choosing. You can record your time for up to one activity per day, with your fastest time each week included in a weekly results table.

One thing’s for sure, there’s no shortage of amazing spots and trails to get your heart rate up for a 5km walk or run in the Hunter!


Make sure you join the ‘Veteran Sport Australia parkrun Running Club’ when you register for parkrun!

If you live in the Hunter Region of NSW and would like to get in touch with Rachel, send us an email at and follow us on Facebook.

New to parkrun? 

Complete this (free) online  registration form.

Make sure that you join  the Veteran Sport  Australia ‘Running Club’  from the optional dropdown menu!

Already registered with parkrun? 

1. Log in to your parkrun account

2. Click ‘update’ to update your details​ 

3. Choose the Veteran Sport  Australia ‘Running Club’ from the  optional drop down menu!