Page 1027 - Week 03 - Thursday, 30 March 2023

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weekend, at a mountain bike skills program for veterans. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet with Debbie from Invictus and 36 serving and ex-serving Defence community members. I heard some great feedback from them about Peta, their skills trainer from Dynamic Motivation. She demonstrated to them off-bike what they needed to do and helped them put it into practice on a muddy downhill mountain bike track, where everyone had a great time. One of the veterans who joined in the workshop told Invictus afterwards:

It was an excellent opportunity for us all to get together, exercise and use the great facilities in Canberra. I personally made a bunch of new friends and have new like-minded people to ride with in the future. I’ll be first to sign up if we do this again.

What I most loved seeing was how connected everyone was with each other, how much they appreciated participating in something positive with people who understand their experiences and the constraints on their lifestyle that come with being a veteran, and the benefits for physical and mental wellbeing of getting out on the mountain and doing something fun.

Canberra has a very high concentration of veterans per capita compared to other cities. According to the census data, the ACT has a rate of 5.98 per cent of residents aged 15 and older who have served or are serving in the ADF. This is higher than the 2.8 per cent average across Australia, and means we have 11.2 per cent of households with a veteran in the ACT compared to 5.3 per cent nationally. It is also an incredibly diverse veterans community, with serving and post-service members and their families across the full age range, and with a broad range of different skills, thanks to the wide range of work across all three services based in Canberra.

That is why I have been talking to federal ministers, including a recent meeting with Minister McBain, about the importance of ACT veterans and their families, and the full diversity of ESOs and VSOs providing support and services to veterans and their families, being able to access the veterans wellbeing centre being planned for the ACT and Queanbeyan region.

If the commonwealth government were interested in seeking a suitable location on the ACT side of the border, I would be very happy to help them in any way I can. But as they have been quite public in their commitment to this centre being in Queanbeyan, I was pleased to be reassured in the conversations I have had with my federal counterparts that the intention is that veterans and their families on both sides of the Canberra-Queanbeyan border should be able to access it.

I want to thank Invictus Australia for the opportunity to learn more about their programs, and I look forward to joining them on the track next time they are at Stromlo. I wish them all the best for their ACT Defence Community Sports Day on Saturday, which will include archery, bowls, indoor rowing, table tennis, pickleball, and one that I am really looking forward to seeing soon, I hope—wheelchair sports. You all rock, and I hope you have a great time.


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