25 October 2021

Author: Aileen Phillips
Photography: RSL Victoria

Veterans were asked to “Get Moving” this year for the annual Veterans' Health Week (VHW) - which ran from October 16 to 24 - and that they did.

The Federal Government provided over half a million dollars to help fund activities that focused on enhancing the overall health of veterans and their families.

More than 700 events were held across the country promoting physical health and encouraging veterans to stay active.

RSL Victoria is proud to have contributed to dozens of those events in both regional and metro Melbourne, with around 19 Sub-Branches hosting Covid safe events from in-person barefoot bowls, guided garden walks, fitness classes and online events including cooking and an energy-filled Zumba session.

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Jonathan Brown served for nearly 10 years in the Australian Army following a lateral transfer after 24 years in the British Army.

The 54 year old from Williamstown jumped online a few times during VHW, firstly to hone his culinary skills in the Greek cooking class.

“I learned how to cook some great food and I’ve made some since then.”

Despite giving it his best shot, he hasn’t quite become an overnight master chef just yet.

“That’s not going to happen, I’ve got a family of food critics so it’s never going to be right!”

As uncoordinated as he says he is, he even gave Zumba a go.

“I think I was the only person that had their camera off, so it was all arms and legs and trying to put it all together.”

Despite that, it was quite the workout.

“I haven’t done anything physical like that for a while and I was absolutely sweating at the end of it.”

Patrick “Paddy” Turner and his wife Kim live in Kyabram in north central Victoria. They both participated in several online activities.

“I consider myself quite fit, but I actually was puffing, puffing by the time I finished the 45 minute Zumba,” he said.

Paddy served as a medic in the British Navy from 1975 to 1997, while Kim was a nurse in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service from 1975 to 1982.

The pair immigrated to Australian in 2004 and found themselves connecting with the RSL just 18 months ago.

Paddy, decked out in a poppy apron, logged on to the cooking class as a way to upskill his culinary abilities.

“I actually do all the cooking at home and so, you know, somebody teaching me some new cooking skills is just fantastic!”

Often, the benefits of the event are so much more than the activity itself, driving social connections and conversations that veterans and their families need and appreciate.

“You’re in your kitchen cooking your stuff, and they’re in theirs, but there’s a bit of banter going on and it’s just that connection of people who have a shared history or shared experiences.”

VHW cooking class
Patrick 'Paddy' Turner during an online cooking class event for Veterans' Health Week

"Anything that can get people together in a physical sense or even a virtual sense gives people back that sense of camaraderie, mateship and banter…the type of banter that comes from service people is different."

Paddy Turner

He and his wife Kim have been actively involved in all things online for RSL Active since Covid began last year, giving them the ability to stay connected and social.

Kim and Paddy Turner (top left) and Jonathan Brown (bottom left) participate in RSL Active's online cooking class.
Kim and Paddy Turner (top left) and Jonathan Brown (bottom left) participate in RSL Active's online cooking class.

"All the little zoom faces come up and everybody’s smiling and waving. I think over the last 18 months it’s all helped to keep us sane. We would normally do quite a lot of entertaining, so that social contact was missing for us."

Kim Turner

She says it’s been wonderful to see new faces popping up during VHW.

Jonathan says he’s really struggled this lockdown and VHW has given his something to look forward to.

"It’s been a tough one for some reason. The days and weekends have all sort of merged into one sort of long drag. So, it’s just broken up the monotony for me of the routine."

Jonathan Brown

It’s allowed Jonathan to step out of his comfort zone, all while in the comfort of his home.

“It’s been nice to push the boundaries a little bit occasionally.”

Adam ‘Buzz’ Lawson is the Chief of Veterans’ Services at RSL Victoria.

“Being active is critically important for health and wellbeing, it’s not something that can be underestimated for both body and mind.”

Buzz has been out and about too, even trying his hand at kayaking on the Yarra River.

RSL Victoria requested VHW participants share a selfie on social media to promote the week.

Photos rolled in of people weightlifting, surfing, golfing and even polishing concrete!

"It’s been fantastic to see veterans and their families out and about being active in so many creative ways. It doesn’t matter how you get moving, just get moving."

Adam Lawson


Veterans' Health Week (VHW) may be over, but through RSL Active veterans can connect with a community of other veterans who are getting moving every week.