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About us

About Veteran Sport Australia

Sport is a rewarding part of life for many Australians, but for our veteran community it can be so much more.   

As a national program, Veteran Sport Australia works as a peak body to develop a strong and connected system of sporting programs and opportunities for veterans and their families. We aim to unlock many of the 70,000 sport clubs across 97 recognised sports in Australia. Veteran Sport Australia is also a program that recognises the great work already happening in pockets around the country and seeks to enhance their value and reach.   

 At Veteran Sport Australia we:  

  • Partner with national sporting organisations and peak bodies to together open up opportunities, break down barriers and roll out initiatives tailored to veterans and their families 
  • Have a presence in local communities, with Veteran Sport Australia representatives working alongside other organisations on the ground to help veterans of all abilities take advantage of opportunities 
  • Work with the Australian Defence Force to deliver the national ADF Adaptive Sport Program for veterans who are wounded, injured or ill – including supporting the Australian Invictus Games and Warrior Games teams  in partnership with the RSL
  • Advocate for the important role that sport can play in the lives of veterans and their families  

Why is this important?  

Sport is a proactive means of addressing current health concerns or preventing them in the future. Everyone can improve their lives by being involved with sport. 

We know the healing power of sport for veterans and their families through events such as the Invictus Games, but we also know that community sport is equally as important to regularly engage with.  

Anyone who has served one day of full-time service in the Australian Defence Force is considered a veteran. Since federation, more than two million Australians have served in the ADF. Significantly: 

  • It is estimated there are 600,000 veterans in Australia.1 This includes approximately 70,000 veterans who are currently serving or are reservists.2 
  • The median length of service of permanent ADF members is currently 8.7 years and the mean is less than 8 years.3
  • Each year, around 6,000 veterans transition out of the ADF and into the civilian world.4 Of those transitioning, around 18% discharge for medical reasons.5  
  • An estimated 46% of ADF members who had transitioned from full-time service within the past five years met 12-month diagnostic criteria for a mental health disorder using a structured diagnostic interview.6
  • 3 in 4 recently transitioned ADF personnel have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime.7 
  • Half of people who have served in the ADF have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime.8 
  • More than 1 in 5 recently transitioned ADF members report suicide ideation, plans or attempts.9
  • Male ex-service personnel under 30 years old are twice as likely to die by suicide compared to men of the same age.10 
  • The suicide rate for all male ex-service personnel is 18% higher than the rate for Australian men.11
  • The age-adjusted rate of suicide, when compared to the Australian population, is 2.15 times higher for ex-serving women.12 

The history of VSA

On 26 October 2018, Veteran Sport Australia (VSA) was announced as a key legacy of the Invictus Games Sydney 2018; a nationwide program supporting the health and wellbeing of veterans and their families through sport. The Invictus Games shone a spotlight on the power of sport and brought organisations and communities together in support. The challenge remains to harness this goodwill and support to make a meaningful difference.

Federal Minister for Veterans Affairs, the Hon Darren Chester MP, and President of RSL NSW, James Brown, officially launched the program together in Sydney while attending the Games. Supporting the announcement were Veteran Affairs’ Ministers from all States and Territories.

The creation of VSA was led and enabled by the RSL, Australia’s longest-established national veterans’ charity. RSL Welfare and Benevolent Institution NSW, Australian International Military Games and Clubs NSW all contributed financially to the establishment of VSA.

VSA officially commenced operations in December 2019, with the appointment of dedicated staff.

RSL NSW and sport

VSA’s establishment was not the first effort by RSL NSW to engage veterans and their families through sport, to improve health and wellbeing.

In 2011 RSL volunteers came together to start an adaptive sport program. They understood the importance of sport and activity to veterans’ self-esteem and physical and mental health. As veterans, they felt the benefits themselves and saw the spark in other participants.

In 2013 the program was renamed RSL Active and through regular and one-off sporting activities, it encouraged wounded and ill veterans to stay healthy through sport and connect socially with others. In the beginning, the activities were primarily in NSW.

In early 2018, the work and passion of the original volunteers – Darren McManus-Smith,  Brad Copelin, Scott Seccombe and Stewart Sherman – was recognised when RSL WBI employed a professional sport coordinator. Later, this coordinator would transfer to the newly created Veteran Sport Australia.

The Veteran Sport Australia team

Michael Hartung

General Manager

Michael was previously the Chief Delivery Officer for the Invictus Games Sydney 2018, and a member of the 2018 Invictus Games Bid Steering Committee.

Prior to his time working on the Invictus Games, Michael spent 10 years with the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC), carrying out roles including Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, Sport.

During his decade with the APC, he held management positions on four Paralympic Teams (including Chef de Mission in 2010 and Deputy Chef de Mission in 2012).

Anne Rutlidge

VSA Support Coordinator

Anne has been involved in sport for most of her life. A lifelong competitor and rugby tragic, she is passionate about the benefit of sport and recreation for physical and mental wellbeing.

Anne has a Master of Athletic Administration from Central Washington University; completed while coaching the university’s nationally ranked women’s varsity Rugby team.

Anne has a range of professional experience managing teams at domestic and international competitions.

Ceridwen Thomas

Program Services Coordinator

Ceridwen possesses broad experience working in the sports industries in United Kingdom, Canada and Australia and has a Masters of Sports Administration and Bachelor of Event Management.

Most recently she performed the roles of Games Delivery Coordinator and Sports Information Manager at the Invictus Games Sydney 2018, where she witnessed the positive effect sport and recreational activities can have on veterans and their families.

Rachel Kerrigan

Veteran Engagement Specialist

Rachel spent seven years in Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), and saw active service as part of Operation Slipper in 2002.

Rachel knows firsthand the power of sport, selected as a competitor on the 2016 Australian Invictus Games Team to Orlando, and currently competes nationally in Powerlifting and Wheelchair Basketball.

Rachel’s professional experience includes electrical engineering, project management and contract administration. She is a qualified Powerlifting coach and CrossFit Instructor, and is currently studying a Bachelor of Exercise Physiology.

Sam Mcintosh

Sam McIntosh

Participation and Engagement Lead

Sam has worked for mass membership organisations for over eight years. He has previously directed organising, advocacy and political campaigns around Australia and across Europe.

Sam has a Bachelor of Laws and Communications and is passionate about building communities and all forms of sport and recreation.

  • 1Productivity Commission Inquiry Report, ‘A Better Way to Support Veterans’, Volume 1, No.93, 27 June 2019, p.7. 
  • 2 – Productivity Commission Inquiry Report, ‘A Better Way to Support Veterans’, Volume 1, No.93, 27 June 2019, p.7. 
  • 3 –  Productivity Commission Inquiry Report, ‘A Better Way to Support Veterans’, Volume 1, No.93, 27 June 2019, p.31. 
  • 4 – Productivity Commission Inquiry Report, ‘A Better Way to Support Veterans’, Overview & Recommendations, No.93, 27 June 2019, p.30. 
  • 5 –  Productivity Commission Inquiry Report, Overview & Recommendations, p.7. 
  • 6 –  Van Hooff M, Lawrence-Wood E, Hodson S, Sadler N, Benassi H, Hansen C, Grace B, Avery J, Searle A, Iannos M, Abraham M, Baur J, McFarlane A, 2018, Mental Health Prevalence, Mental Health and Wellbeing Transition Study, the Department of Defence and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Canberra, p.iv. 
  • 7 –  Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘A profile of Australia’s veterans 2018’, p.48. 
  • 8 –  Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘A profile of Australia’s veterans 2018’, p.47. 
  • 9 –  Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘A profile of Australia’s veterans 2018’, p.41. 
  • 10 –  Productivity Commission Inquiry Report, Overview & Recommendations, p.34. 
  • 11 –  Productivity Commission Inquiry Report, ‘A Better Way to Support Veterans’, Volume 1, No.93, 27 June 2019, p.34. 
  • 12 –  Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘National suicide monitoring of serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel: 2019 update’, 29 November 2019, p.13.