Veterans across Victoria are reaping the benefits of RSL Victoria’s RSL Active program.
Since the program launched in 2017, a growing number of Sub-Branches have signed up to the program. With numbers increasing into 2023, RSL Active is now even more accessible right across the State.
“We’ve had tremendous growth this year, with the RSL Sub-Branch uptake increasing by over 50 per cent and an additional three Sub-Branches returning to the program after a hiatus,” said Salina Parton, RSL Active Program and Events Officer.
Regular RSL Active programs are conducted through RSL Sub-Branches and are generally free or low cost to attend.
The program provides a way to connect veterans and first responders through a range of activities and events, all while improving physical and mental health.
Veterans of all ages and their immediate families can participate in everything from walks, kayaking, as well as excursions and experiences, to less physically-demanding activities such as art and music classes and coffee catchups.
One Sub-Branch to launch its RSL Active program early this year was Wonthaggi, where participants were bussed to South Gippsland Tank Adventures, to board and drive around in army tanks.
“I saw the amount of discussion that occurred between the veterans that were there. I think it’s a great thing because we were all socialising, learning each other’s stories and it’s through that collective sharing of knowledge and experiences that camaraderie grows,” said participant and Wonthaggi RSL Secretary, Bert Orr.
Wodonga also launched their RSL Active program this year.
Sub-Branch President, Jamie Wolf, who served in the army from 2003 to 2008 and deployed to Timor-Leste, said it’s an important addition to the region.
"It’s a way to bring veterans and first responders together in a social capacity. There are times where veterans and first responders feel secluded, so this is a way to break that barrier and join forces with RSL Active."
Their first event was an evening of food, fun, conversation, and Tenpin Bowling.
With around 80 participants, Jamie said it was a great example of community and social connection and there’ll be more to come.
“We’re looking to run an event about once a quarter to enable veterans and first responders to come together in a social capacity and build comradeship in the local region.”
Over the years, RSL Active has not only expanded, but is constantly evolving to meet the interests of the broad range of participants.
“We now know, more than ever, the reach RSL Active has and those that we are engaging. We’ve got more of an insight into the participants, their backgrounds, their ages. We are consistently seeing an increase in the younger veteran engagement in the program and in October alone, 30 per cent of our participants were under the age of 30,” said Salina.
Altona RSL Sub-Branch has been part of the program since its inception. Doug Givney is one of the RSL Active Co-Ordinators there.
“We hold many activities, some such as walking, yoga, scale modelling, art and a social dinner are run on a regular basis. We also have one-off events at random times and participate in RSL Active events run by RSL Victoria or the other Sub-Branches.”
Doug is also a regular participant in many of the activities and events.
"I have personally found that the social interaction with the other members make it fun to attend the events which help me to stay fit and healthy, as well as keeping me involved in both the veteran and the wider community."
The RSL Active year culminated with the Wheelchair AFL National Championships held in Melbourne.
Over 100 athletes represented nine teams, including the RSL Active team, in the competition.
“Well done to the RSL Active team on finishing 3rd place in Division 2, as well as showing true team spirit, determination, encouraging and supporting each other during training and throughout the Championships.”
There are regular RSL Active events held through RSL Sub-Branches around Victoria. For more information about events in your location, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (03) 9655 5573.
RSL Active is proudly supported by the Victorian State Government.