In the spotlight: St Marys RSL sub-Branch

St Marys RSL sub-Branch in Western Sydney is making strides in supporting the wellbeing of veterans and their families through a wide range of activities and services.

At a glance:

  • St Marys RSL sub-Branch launched its Veterans’ Wellbeing Program earlier this year, which aims to encourage social interaction and skills development.
  • The program offers a wide range of activities and services including social gatherings, day trips and classes.
  • The sub-Branch extends its support beyond the organisation, with Wellbeing Support Officers visiting hospitals and veterans’ homes.
  • The program has attracted new faces to the sub-Branch as well as strengthening the bonds between existing members.

St Marys RSL sub-Branch has introduced a transformative program aimed at supporting the wellbeing of veterans and their families.

Launched on 1 March, the sub-Branch’s Veterans’ Wellbeing Program has been instrumental in helping veterans connect with like-minded individuals and access the support they need to thrive in their post-military lives.

As well as sweetening the deal for new members, the program has provided a platform for existing members to engage in meaningful social interactions, forge new friendships and cultivate new skills.

“This has evolved from individual activities that have been going on for years and some new activities that we have put together in a well-rounded package,” sub-Branch Secretary Tony Fryer told Western Weekender, announcing the program’s launch.

“It has been designed to encourage veterans to come and mix with other like-minded individuals and to share their experiences, especially if they have issues as a result of exiting the forces or if they are still serving.”

Fryer said that the program’s development was spurred on by concern for Australian Defence Force personnel returning from overseas tours, who may find it difficult to return to civilian life.

“These sorts of tours can get to you, through what they experience and the stress associated with that,” said Fryer.

“It can be very difficult for them to assimilate into civilian life when their time in Defence is over, so we are looking to provide opportunities to ease them back by allowing them to mix with like-minded people.”

A healthier membership

The program at St Marys was inspired in part by the success of similar initiatives in other sub-Branches as part of the RSL NSW Sport and Recreation Program. Launched last year, the Sport and Recreation Program is an initiative of the RSL NSW Strategic Plan 2021-26, and a crucial component of sub-Branch-led renewal.

St Marys RSL sub-Branch has cast its net wide with this program, ensuring that all members as well as other veterans and their family members are included, fostering a true sense of belonging within the veteran community. Veterans and their families have reported an improved sense of belonging, increased social interaction and enhanced overall wellbeing as a result of their participation in the program.

Among the sub-Branch’s most popular activities are the ‘Coffee and Chat’ sessions held on the veranda of the St Marys Outpost. During these sessions, veterans gather over a brew to ‘solve the world’s problems’ (per the program description), with the option to participate in gardening and maintenance tasks if they’d rather be on their feet.

For those with an appetite for more than conversation, St Marys also organises monthly barbecue breakfasts, barefoot bowls and exercise classes, catering to the diverse interests and preferences of veterans and their families. They’ve even struck a chord with the Guitars for Vets initiative, providing instruments and training to veterans keen on mastering the guitar or ukulele.

A dedicated Social Guild also conducts a variety of events and outings throughout the year, including raffles, day trips to local attractions and the sub-Branch’s highly anticipated annual Christmas party.

As well as encouraging veterans to build a stronger social network, the program places great focus on equipping veterans with the knowledge and skills necessary to adjust to civilian life. Weekly technology classes take place at the sub-Branch, and veterans are encouraged to explore a range of employment and training support services they may not know are available to them.

Supporting the broader community

The sub-Branch’s commitment to supporting wellbeing doesn’t end at its own doorstep. St Marys understands the importance of lending a helping hand to veterans in hospitals and those confined to their homes, and has implemented the Wellbeing Support Officer program to do just that.

Operating from the Veterans’ Support Centre, the sub-Branch’s officers visit hospitals and make outreach calls to provide companionship, lift spirits and assist veterans in accessing additional support services.

The program has also extended its support to the families of deceased veterans, with monthly lunches creating space for widows and widowers to share their experiences, concerns and issues, and help others who may be facing similar difficulties.

By fostering these connections, the program creates a supportive network that extends beyond the sub-Branch.

The program has attracted fresh faces to the sub-Branch, and strengthened the bonds between existing members and their families. By offering avenues for socialising, skills development and tailor-made support, St Marys RSL sub-Branch continues to champion wellbeing, enrich the lives of veterans and support overall quality of life.

Take the first step towards a more social, connected membership for your sub-Branch by signing up for the RSL NSW Sport and Recreation Program.

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