Good news in Veterans Care June 2022

Dear friends, it is hard to imagine that just over four months ago we were wrestling with uncertainty as to how our year would develop. But in that period we have successfully delivered one program in Timor, and two on the Gold Coast. We are well oversubscribed for a larger program to Timor in August. This level of activity and support to the health and well-being of veterans is unequalled anywhere else in Australia at this time. It can only be possible through a collaborative team approach- together – translated ‘Hamutuk’ into Tetun. Together we are making a big difference.

A Veteran who has spent hundreds of days in psychiatric hospitals and on multiple medications that have not delivered recently shared with us on TA19:

This is by far the most impactful program I have done -no amount of medication or therapy could have delivered the same result.”

In this newsletter we will cover:

  • Overview 2022
  • TA18 Gold Coast
  • TA19 Timor
  • TA20 Gold Coast
  • Future plans
  • Reflection on Reconnecting
  • Gratitude and Appreciation
  • Pictures

TA18 – 12-20 Mar 22 

We delivered our fifth standard health and wellbeing program at St Georges , Rainbow Bay ,Gold Coast in March .  This program was our first on the Gold Coast to be able to include interstate participants and was very well received and successful in achieving our aims. Clearly anxiety over COVID was still in the air and while we accepted  25 potential new participants, with late notice withdrawals, on Day one we had 12 new participants,  four peer mentors and four facilitators. Quite a number of other veterans dropped in to see the program as well as many veteran service providers   Participant comments included

1.          How am I feeling today,  in comparison to how I was feeling before coming?

  • Uplifted, happy, feels like home
  • Feeling more inspired and happier
  • A hell of a lot more confident in my ability to move forward
  • Positive experience, feeling reenergized and increased positivity
  • Calmer, more relaxed, less pessimistic
  • Exhausted, personal revelations have put me on my backside and given me painful insights. However, insights are the signposts for healing, so I am grateful.
  • A little more relaxed, have a plan moving forward.
  • Before the program I was nervous and slightly annoyed at having to attend. Now coming towards the end, I am feeling happy and extremely grateful that I was able to participate.
  • I am feeling calm, relaxed and in a clear headspace. I feel that I am now able to make some important life decisions.
  • Much better, less stressed, more empowered, renewed determined for personal development.
  • I was cautious and guarded upon arrival, by the end of the week I was engaged, switched on and feeling really great.

2.          The discussion topic that were the most interesting and impactful?

  • Relationships attachment styles, love language, mindset and makings changes, circle time, shared experiences, all outdoor physical activities.
  • Suicide prevention- it enabled me to unpack what I was feeling about it, not just for myself but for my mates who have gone through it.
  • Relationships seminar and the discussion on suicide. Of my significant others I am the only one who has not attempted suicide.
  • Timor Video- Xanana Gusmao on Forgiveness.
  • All the topics had a profound impact on my mindset and way of thinking, but I found the health and nutrition parts impacted me the greatest.
  • Big talk- putting myself out there and opening up.
  • Relationships, attachment styles and love language.
  • Just the realisation that I am in compassion burnout, and burnout in general , but after a fire the new growth starts.

TA19 – 14-23 May in Timor 

To our great delight,  our transit to , through and back from Timor was effortless and stress free. While planning only a small group due to COVID fears , by 14 may we had a large group of 18 new participants  and 6 staff assemble in Dili for a memorable program that also included meeting with all the nations dignitaries and participation in President Jose Ramos Hortas inauguration ceremony. 

The particular focus of our TA19  experience was engaging with kindred groups and being inspired by their resilience compassion and commitment. These included the Veterans Council c, The Sabeh medical volunteers,  the Pro Ema group supporting victims of domestic violence, the Veterans English language Institute and Vocational training school at Same, and finally the desperately poor who continue to struggle following the devastating floods of 2021.

While improving health and well-being of veterans and their families is at our objective it was very clear that the inspiration of collaborative charitable activities and community engagement is a most powerful way of reprogramming veterans into a future life filled with love compassion vitality and purpose. I’m very grateful to the efforts of all of our team and our supporters who are just contributing to make this happen I am also mindful that any work in the health and well-being space is messy and at times unpredictable because people have been wounded healer or injured don’t get healthy in a tidy linear progression we all need to be humble respectful and understanding and working in the space.

TA20 – 16-21 June at the Gold Coast

This was a modified health and wellbeing program to validate the efficacy of addressing the key points of health and wellbeing as well as an introduction to peer mentoring. There were 13 new participants, four peer mentors and four staff involved at St Georges. Two other booked particpants withdrew at the last moment due to COVID and a personal matter and were unable to be replaced on such short notice.  Inspirational guest speakers involved  RSL ambassador Pete Rudland , DVA Dep Sec Stuart Smith AM DSC  and Vietnam war hero Capt John White DSC.  The program was well received with all participants wanting to progress to the next stage of healing of helping out in the ESO community.  

Conclusion.   

Each program had a unique group of participants who have bonded and formed a mini community that continues in contact.

The longer I spend in this work the more I am convinced that our personal witness to compassion empathy and resilience in the face of uncertainty impacts needy people more than anything else. With this in mind, I look forward personally and as a team to a reduced activity period in September and October concluding with a gathered retreat program at Saint Georges from 28 October 2 to November, where we can have some intentional teambuilding activities conduct our AGM and undertake some specific planning and preparation for 2023.

Future Plans 

Like everyone we await the our new governments indications of what they plan in the veteran space. The Royal commission will be issuing Interim recommendations in August which no doubt will improve and sharpen focus on key issues. But actually, we are not waiting for anyone or anything . We see needs and are meeting them. 

Based on the experiences of this year and the need to have bookings in place for group activities I advise of the following activities in 2023:

  • TA 23 at the Gold Coast 25 Feb  to 5 March 2023
  • TA  24 in Timor from 22nd April to 3 May ( includes special ANZAC commemoration at Christo Rei)
  • TA  25 at the Gold Coast from 16 to 24 June 
  • TA 26 in Timor from 16 to 27 September ( INTERFET anniversary ). OR 16 to 25 August ( FALANTIL anniversary )  TBC

We will  would seek to conclude the year with a retreat at St George’s the Gold Coast from 16 to 21 November

Reconnecting

2022 has been a year of reconnecting for many of us after the disconnections and disruptions of Covid and the many restrictions placed on our gathering and travelling. While this opportunity for reconnecting is available,  I am mindful that not all of our veteran community have come back out of the isolation that they have been experiencing. As a chaplain I see the devastating impact of isolation when it results in depression and suicidal ideation and people ending up in crisis situations.

The devastating impact of disconnection is also seen in racism, tribalism, “us and them”- none of which is healthy or life giving.

One of my immediate action drills with people in crisis is to see  how I can get veterans reconnected with people that have been supportive of them in the past , and more broadly reconnect them with the veteran community. It really has many things to offer people these days.

People might be intrigued to know that the word “re-ligion” means to re-connect – like a ligament does. To be religious is to be a reconnector. . The foundational intention of all the great religions was to gather people together to love their neighbour rather than fight them, and come together as one community ,rather than a host of tribal adversaries . Clearly over the years religion has got a bad name because of bad behaviour by some people, but the underpinning fundamental of religion is to reconnect us.

For us to be involved in helping us reconnect is a good thing, a necessary thing, and a life giving attitude. 

May we all do our best to reconnect ,especially with those in need , for certainly that is something – the  major thing, that God would desire of us. 

Gratitude

We are grateful for  financial support that continues from our major sponsors RSL Queensland, Bolton Clark,  and Saint George’s at Rainbow Bay, as well as generous individuals who make regular donations. Thanks also to our committee members and staff who model the values of compassion, commitment and integrity that we promote in or programs.

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