RSL LifeCare Veteran Services 2023 Wrap-up
2023 was a year of achievements and innovation for the RSL LifeCare Veteran Services team, and also another year of pride in serving our community of veterans and families. We’re proud of the outcomes we have been able to deliver to our community and look forward to continuing to boost these services for veterans, family members, and the community in the coming year.
Veteran Wellbeing Centres – more locations, more access
We now have four operating Veteran Wellbeing Centres with the opening of the Northern Beaches VWC based at Dee Why RSL in September. Our Riverina and Nowra centres celebrated their one-year anniversaries in March and December respectively, and we also commenced operations of a centre in the Hunter region based in Newcastle in February. RSL LifeCare, in collaboration with RSL NSW, also progressed to developing business cases for four new centres under the Federal Government’s Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs initiative. This initiative will see new centres developed in Queanbeyan, Tweed-North Coast, Hawkesbury and the Hunter region. In addition, we have been successful in applying for a one-off grant from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to develop a centre on the Central Coast in 2024.
The locations of the centres are convenient for communities with a high population of veterans and families, and will mean easy access to key services.
In 2023, we had over 2,900 veterans or visitors check in to our centres and took part in more than 160 events with over 6,500 attendees, which included celebrations, social gatherings, fitness sessions, art classes, and more!
Wellbeing – keeping veterans connected
Employment and education services are key to help veterans confidently move into civilian life. We were proud to launch a pilot program in collaboration with Optus and ASI which provided laptops to 50 veterans or family members to access education courses and employment opportunities.
Professionals who support veterans need to be equipped with tools and knowledge to correctly provide support. To drive this knowledge sharing, we are pleased to continue leading our two Professional Development Networks, one national and one NSW-centric. The intent of these networks is to provide professional development and learning from stakeholders within our broader community to help us provide the best wellbeing support that is current and evidence based to our veteran community. Various ex-service organisations (ESOs), ADF and DVA staff, and other community support services link into these PD opportunities.
We were also successful in applying for a DVA Wellbeing Grant for: Developing and maintaining an emotional regulation program for the veteran community: A feasibility study of reach and effectiveness. The program will begin in February 2024. Our Wellbeing team are developing the tailored emotional regulation program utilising virtual reality headsets, information sessions and courses.
Throughout 2023, our Wellbeing team also provided over $450,000 in financial assistance to veterans or family members in need.
Housing – a step to safety and security
Homelessness continues to be a challenge for many veterans. Throughout 2023, the Homes for Heroes transitional accommodation at Narrabeen has been at or near full capacity, supporting 35 veterans. Our goal for the program is to support each veteran to find long-term sustainable housing pathways, and we are glad to have helped connect our clients with suitable living options across retirement living, or access to private rental properties through our Rent Choice veterans program, or through social and private rentals. In addition to housing, a number of our clients have also been helped with financial assistance, claims and advocacy, and also attendance at our Spur Equine Program in Picton.
Through our Rent Choice Veterans program, we also assisted over 140 who were experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Our Housing team continues to establish strong links with other organisations such as Homelessness NSW, End Street Sleeping Collaboration, Services NSW, Corrective Services NSW and Wounded Heroes.
Claims & Advocacy – leading the cause
In the past 12 months, more than 3,900 claims were lodged to DVA – the highest number we have lodged to date.
This demands a high level of detail and rigour from the team to ensure their knowledge of the relevant legislation is current and clients are properly informed during the claims process. Our team is proud to take a leading stance on this, co-hosting two AVLAN (Australian Veterans Law Advocacy Network) forums with other leading ESOs this year, which support collaboration and knowledge sharing across the ESO network.
Spur – galloping to the finish line
Our Spur team have given incredible support to 83 veterans who enjoyed the camaraderie and confidence of engaging with the equine program.
This year, we expanded the course offerings with a new 4-day and 5-day riding course which helps veterans develop their skills as they prepare for the Trek through the Snowy Mountains.
The team also took part in six sorting events throughout the year and brought joy to the residents of four different RSL LifeCare Residential Aged Care facilities on visits with Apache, the Spur pony.
Fundraising – championing the cause
In 2023, we hosted or collaborated on a number of fundraising initiatives. In the early hours of ANZAC Day, a small group of participants ascended the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge for a special Dawn Service at the summit. Then, in the afternoon, attendees at Sydney’s Town Hall were treated to some incredible performances as part of the Lest We Forget ANZAC Day Tribute Concert, hosted by the Australian Remembrance Foundation.
At the end of October, keen golfers took part in the RSL LifeCare Remembrance Golf Day, and on the night of Remembrance Day (11 November), RSL LifeCare, in partnership with the Royal Australian Navy and RSL NSW, and with support from Raytheon Australia, hosted a 420-guest black tie gala ball aboard the awe-inspiring HMAS Adelaide (III).
Funds raised from all of these activities go towards supporting our service delivery for veterans and their families. Combined, these events raised over $200,000 in support of our charitable purpose.
These events and the services we deliver wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of our partner charity, RSL NSW, and its sub-Branches, as well as our sponsors and supporters.
The RSL LifeCare Veteran Services team is proud to have supported so many veterans and family members in 2023, and we look forward to continuing to serve the veteran community in 2024.
If you’d like to stay up to date on what the team is doing, please subscribe below for our regular newsletter updates.
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