Veteran health and wellbeing are at the forefront of the RSL’s work, but for one week every year, a federal government initiative throws a spotlight on this important work.
Veterans’ Health Week is an annual health initiative where the Department of Veterans’ Affairs partners with ex-service and community organisations, like RSL Victoria.
It aims to increase the health and wellbeing of current and ex serving members and their families.
Veterans are being encouraged to “Get Moving” as part of the key focus for this year’s VHW (16-24 October).
It’s one of the four themes that DVA rotate each year, which also includes Eat Well, Mental Wellness Matters and Keep Connected.
Michael Harper is the Deputy Commissioner Victoria at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. He says the themes have been especially pertinent over the two years of COVID-19 restrictions.
“Keep Connected, which was last year and coincidentally perfect for all things locked down that were happening last year and then this year’s theme is perfectly timed for this year. We’ve probably all been more sedentary through restrictions and lockdown.”
While the theme aims to spur veterans on physically, DVA acknowledges its links to mental health.
“I think it’s well established now, there’s lots of evidence to point towards physical activity being one of the most important contributors to a persons emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. So getting the body moving and staying active is I’d say even more important given the challenges faced over the last 18 months.”
Social and community connection also plays a critical role.
“I think this is foremost in ex-service organisation’s (ESO) minds. When you look at the list of events that are happening within Victoria you can see that many of them have been designed with social connection in mind.”
The Veterans’ Affairs Minister, Andrew Gee is also promoting the benefits of VHW and is encouraging veterans to participate in what he describes as “one of the biggest weeks on the veteran calendar”.
“We know that physical activity is an important contributor to an individual’s overall health and wellbeing, and getting active is a great opportunity to connect with your mates and others in the community.”
The details have been left in the hands of ESO’s. There are at least 40 events being hosted across Victoria, and more than 600 around the country, from walks to bowls to barbeques and games.
Michael Harper says it’s a government initiative that is best delivered to those closest to the community.
“ESO’s are essential for successful delivery of this type of program. All events, every one of them, is being run by an ESO or community organisation and are all targeted at supporting veterans and their families. We couldn’t do this or deliver it without ESO’s.”
As a former Army Reservist himself, Deputy Commissioner Michael Harper has high hopes for VHW.
“What I’d really like to see is that it can become a fresh start and a renewed focus for any individual’s own health and wellbeing. It might be the first step into something that people can maintain.”