16 November 2021
Photography: James McPherson

When Justin was a teenager, he found his niche in the Australian Army.

“Even though my father was a builder, I was terrible at all trades, and I certainly wasn’t going to go on to further education and I had been doing Army Cadets since I was 12…I really enjoyed it. It just seemed I was good at it.”

"I was able to read a map, liked lifting heavy things and I liked the weapons, and I liked the drills and I liked the uniform and I liked the training and the learning. I liked the fact that we were a group of people that got together and the camaraderie of it."

Justin Watts

But his ambitions didn’t go to plan, and for various reasons Justin honourably discharged after six years.

“I was angry that something that I wanted to do, really do, was taken away from me.”

His transition into civilian life was more challenging that he’d anticipated, falling on hard times and overcome by his mental and physical wounds

“I was getting upset about stuff that other people wondered why it was bothering me. I didn’t understand it. I was just constantly angry, angry all the time. I thought it was all normal and in the process I was hurting people.”

Feeling as though he’d been dumped back into the civilian world without the appropriate supports and networks in place, he faced daily struggles and didn’t know where to turn.

Thanks to his uncle, a Vietnam veteran, Justin was urged to seek help.

This led him to an RSL Advocate, who helped Justin to get his health card and income support.

“The RSL got me access to health. With the RSL’s help, I managed to get income support, which helps to pay bills, put a roof over my head.”


"If it wasn’t for the RSL and if it wasn’t for their support and helping me get what I was entitled to, I don’t know where I’d be, I wouldn’t be in a good place."

Justin Watts

Over the past six years, Justin has worked alongside RSL Advocates to navigate what can often be a challenging process to mount a case and various claims with the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA).

"If you’re in trouble, if you’re doing it tough, call the RSL and ask for help. Don’t go through it yourself, there are people there who will help you."

Justin Watts

When an opportunity arose to move into an apartment at a Vasey RSL Care, with lower rent and a secure future, Justin couldn’t refuse.

But it wasn’t that easy. Justin had what felt like insurmountable challenges, which made moving home almost impossible.

“I had no money. I explained I didn’t have the bond, I couldn’t pay for movers. I was living week to week to pay food and rent. They suggested I approach my advocate and so I did.”

The RSL picked up Justin’s expenses to facilitate his move, covering the cost of his bond, cleaners, movers, and two months rent to get him started. Justin has settled into his new apartment, one that he hopes to call home for many years to come.

Justin is so grateful for the ongoing assistance from the RSL, supporting him to live a better and easier life.

"The RSL helped me out, and I am so happy to tell that story."

Justin Watts

If this article has raised any concerns for you, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you are a current or ex-service member of the ADF or a family member of a veteran, you can access free and confidential 24/7 support from Open Arms — Veterans & Families Counselling on 1800 011 046. The Safe Zone support line (1800 142 072) is an anonymous support line also operated by Open Arms.

If you have other support needs, you can reach out to your closest RSL Sub-Branch or contact RSL Victoria’s Veteran Central service.