RSL NSW funding sends veterans on life-changing Kokoda journey

Four veterans share how a journey along the Kokoda Track, supported by the RSL NSW Veteran Support Fund, has improved their mental wellbeing and helped them connect with community.

By Lachlan Haycock and Carlos Manaog

The RSL NSW Veteran Support Fund (VSF) plays a vital role in providing support and services to the veteran community.

It was established to align financial support provided by RSL NSW with the organisation’s charitable purpose: supporting veterans and their families.

Since its introduction, the VSF has ensured donations made by RSL sub-Branches are making a bigger impact on charitable initiatives.

A new narrative

One of the initiatives supported by the VSF is Kokoda – Walk With Us, an initiative of the Raising the Bar Foundation (RBF), which sponsors veterans for an 11-day trip on the Kokoda Track.

It’s more than just a getaway, says RBF co-founder Lachlan Stevens.

“I was pushing back my veteran narrative,” he says. “I wanted to be an entrepreneur and community leader; I didn’t want to be ‘the veteran’, because that tag often has negative connotations – such as the ‘broken’ veteran.”

One of RBF’s missions is to connect people through outdoor activities, such as a journey to Kokoda.

“The concept was about getting civilians to work alongside veterans as they follow in the footsteps of the people who defended Australia when they were directly threatened,” Stevens says. “We can learn so much from that – the history, the values of mateship, courage, endurance and sacrifice – and apply it to our lives, our mental health and our communities.”

A recent trip to Papua New Guinea, the first RBF activity sponsored by the VSF, brought together eight veterans and 15 civilians for a nine-day trek supported by RSL NSW.

Watch the video below to learn how Stevens and three other veterans found a restorative community of mates, and improved their mental wellbeing, as a result of the VSF.

If you’re an RSL NSW member, discuss with your RSL sub-Branch about how to make a contribution to the VSF. If you’re not yet a member, become one today to support its charitable aims.

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