08 June 2017

The Road HomeWhat happens when Prince Harry asks the question “How can returned servicemen and women be recognised for their achievements and not given sympathy?”   The answer is the Invictus Games.

About much more than just sport, the Invictus Games capture hearts, challenge minds and change lives while shining a spotlight on the ‘unconquerable’ character of service men and women, their families and their ‘Invictus’ spirit.

With Sydney set to host the Invictus Games in October 2018 the University of South Australia and The Repat Foundation – The Road Home have joined forces to harness the power of sport and support the physical, psychological and social wellbeing of our returned service men and women by launching the Invictus Pathways Program.

The Invictus Pathways Program will be providing allied health training services to competitors and drawing on the expertise of health professionals and UniSA students to support participants and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who serve our country.

This Australian-first initiative supports the development of South Australian veterans seeking to participate in the Invictus Games and provides a fully-funded PhD scholarship to investigate the long-term value of that participation.

Pro Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences, Professor Robert Vink, says the University of South Australia is proud to be supporting the Invictus Pathways Program and its key message that we should all focus on the journey not the end game and embody the fighting spirit of our returned service men and women.

“This unique collaboration between The Road Home’s peer support program and the University of South Australia offers exceptional opportunities for participants, staff and students to harness the power of sport to support wounded, injured and sick service personnel physically, psychologically and socially,” Prof Vink says.

“The Program provides access to UniSA’s state-of-the-art facilities and expertise from staff and students for baseline physiological testing and profiling as well as training and support programs for aspiring Invictus Games athletes.

“The UniSA Road Home Invictus Pathways Scholarship, in partnership with The Road Home will also provide funding to support research, data collection, travel to Games and conference attendance to evaluate the psychological, social and physical health and rehabilitation of the service personnel.”

The Road Home raises awareness and funds to support health and wellbeing research and projects into conditions such as post-traumatic stress for the nation’s veterans, emergency first responders and their families.

Acting Chair of The Road Home, Brigadier Alison Creagh CSC (Ret’d) says The Road Home is extremely proud to be working in collaboration with the experienced and enthusiastic team at UniSA to deliver the Invictus Pathways Program.

“It is fantastic to see different providers work together to create a program which gives veterans such a life changing opportunity, all informed by research,” Brigadier Creagh says.

“This Program has been enabled through The Road Home's generous community of donors and we look forward to seeing the outcomes of this innovative PhD research project through the Invictus Pathways Program.                            

“I’m sure this research will improve our understanding and inform development of more health and wellbeing models and programs to ensure injured veterans, and their families, get the care they need to improve their wellbeing.”

South Australia’s Mental Health Commissioner, Chris Burns CSC, says the program will be a model for strengthening the mental wellbeing of South Australian veterans.

We are learning more about this kind of peer support program and its effectiveness in maximising engagement, retention and recovery of people with lived experience of mental illness,” Commissioner Burns says.

“The manner in which this program and its supporting research continually measures and improves its outcomes is outstanding.”

There are currently nine Invictus Pathways Program participants, like Brendan Hardman and Emily Young, who The Road Home Wellbeing Program Manager, Mark Reidy, says are experiencing the life-changing opportunity of training to compete in the Invictus Games.

“My journey on the Pathways Program has given me the mental and physical tools to believe in myself again and not only set Invictus Games Sydney as a goal but also goals further than this,” Mark says.

“Cycling is more than physical fitness it's my therapy, it is my medication, just as being part of a team such as the pathway program with similar veterans with physical and invisible wounds.”

Emily Young is participating in the Invictus Training Program to meet people with a common background who have had similar experiences and understand what each other have been through.

“The team at UniSA have been very welcoming and accommodating and I’ve been fortunate to work closely with sports scientists in the School of Health Sciences as they help me train for selection for the 2018 Games,” Emily says.

“The Invictus Program is fantastic for Veterans’ physical and mental health, which are so closely aligned. It allows people in similar situations, who’ve had similar experiences to have an outlet where they can be physically active which is great for overall wellbeing.

“I encourage anyone currently serving or ex-service to join this program. It’s really about the journey, getting active and out and about with others, with selection for the Invictus Games being the icing on the cake.”

Brendan Hardman has found a sense of purpose in his life thanks to the Invictus Pathways Program after his world suddenly stopped as he was forced to leave the Army in April last year and return home with a severe back and knee injury.

“Leaving the Army injured was extremely difficult for me because I felt like I lost the sense of purpose as I no longer had structure or daily goals to achieve,” Brendan says.

“Training in wheelchair basketball through this program is keeping me engaged and is a long term process that I feel will maintain my mental health drive, something no other organisation has been able to provide.”

The UniSA Road Home Invictus Pathways Scholarship is open to domestic students (Australian and NZ citizens and Permanent Residents of Australia) undertaking a research degree in the field of health sciences or psychology.

Applications close 31 July 2017 so for further details on how to apply contact Deborah Williams: deborah.williams@unisa.edu.au or (08) 8302 2887

For more information on becoming a participant of the Invictus Games Pathway Program, please visit www.theroadhome.com.au/events/invictus-pathways-program/ or contact The Road Home on (08) 7002 0880.

Media Contact: Katrina McLachlan katrina.mclachlan@unisa.edu.au mobile: 0414972537 

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