Meet the Wellbeing Project team

geoff evans

The experience of veterans leaving the ADF is not a forgone conclusion. With your help, we can be there to provide a new mission, new purpose and new identify to veterans.

Geoff Evans
Disaster Relief Australia
CEO and Executive Project Sponsor

Introduction

The Wellbeing Project is crucial to the long-term betterment of DRA, our members, and the amazing 6700 men and women who leave the ADF each year.  I have worked extensively in veteran wellbeing since founding Homes for Heroes (H4H) in 2013, where I worked with the most unwell veterans we have. I chose to sponsor the Wellbeing Project because I have never seen a more powerful tool than the model of continued service offered by DRA.  Yet, there is no actual evidence base to prove what we know is true.

Aspirations for the project

The Wellbeing Project is an independent study of the effects of service in DRA.  It will allow us to better tailor how we operate to improve our members’ experience and it will provide an evidence base that validates our work.  I have had scores of veterans contact me over the last 6 years to tell me that service in DRA turned their life around.  We need to validate their experience.  Once we do so, we can expand, share and grow our model.

Wellbeing Goal

In March of 2022 I testified at the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.  The Commission had a great interest in DRA because we provide a model of hope and opportunity.  At the conclusion of my testimony, I was asked by a Commissioner if we have an evidence base to support our work.  Despite hundreds of qualitative stories and experiences, the answer was ‘not yet’.

By participating in the Wellbeing Project, you are helping your mates, and future generations of veterans.  As a veteran once said to me “I wish I had of found DRA when I first left the Army, then I wouldn’t have fallen so far”.  The experience of veterans leaving the ADF is not a forgone conclusion.  With your help, we can be there to provide a new mission, new purpose and new identify to veterans.  We must be able to prove what we do to be heard.

Meet the Wellbeing Project team 1

I hope to show the true value of what we do.

Anastasia Bougesis
Disaster Relief Australia
Government Relations and Project Sponsor

Aspirations for the project

I have been with DRA for 5 and a half years. Throughout that time, I have seen the positive difference we make to our community by asking people to serve others. It is sometimes difficult for me to put this into words when I am explaining exactly what it is we do. I hope that by completing this project, we will have objective evidence of just that, and be able to show the true value of what we do. I am passionate about wellbeing and finding different ways of supporting the pillars of good mental health are of great interest to me. I believe DRA is one of those contributors, and I can’t wait to see the proof. 

Wellbeing Goal

I have recently set myself two goals. One is physical, the other mental.  My first goal is to get back into physical training. After allowing myself to stay too long in a hiatus, my goal is to regularly attend Pilates classes to build my strength. My wellbeing goal is to restart regular horse riding lessons. This is something I started some time ago, but stopped because I became too overwhelmed with everything else. This is a step towards setting time aside for myself, and reminding myself to value what is important to me in life.

Meet the Wellbeing Project team 2

I hope our volunteers will pause to consider their wellbeing.

Cindy Wadsworth
Disaster Relief Australia
Project Manager, Wellbeing Project

Aspirations for the project

For the individuals who participate in the Wellbeing Project, I hope the project gives them reason to pause for a moment and consider their wellbeing and set positive goals for themselves.

For DRA I hope that members see the true value of this project and give their time generously to participate and help DRA validate their program.

Wellbeing Goal

In October 2022 I will compete in the Noosa 1000 Ocean Swim.  In order to achieve this goal, I will swim 2.5k’s three times a week in a sunrise swim session.  Swimming is like a movement meditation for me and helps to clear my head and puts me in a positive headspace.  Having a goal (to compete in the Noosa Ocean Swim) helps motivate me to get out of bed at 4.30am. 

barb

We want to build evidence for programs that improve the mental wellbeing of veterans.

Barb Snelgrove
Funding Partner – Movember
Movember Knowledge and Program Manager, Veterans and First Responders Mental Health Program

Aspirations for the project

Through this initiative, Movember, in collaboration with The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, will evaluate and build evidence for programs that improve the mental wellbeing of veterans, first responders and their families.

Wellbeing Goal

Each day in October, I will do 60 minutes of physical activity for the men we lose to suicide every hour across the globe.

joep

I am always looking for new ways that people can use to improve the way they feel.

Joep van Agteren
Research Partner (SAHMRI & Flinders University)
Co-Lead Be Well Co and Project Research Lead

Aspirations / Importance

As a mental health and wellbeing researcher, I am always looking for new ways that people can use to improve the way they feel. Volunteering to help people when they need it most – IE when they have gone through a disaster – has tremendous potential as an avenue to do just that, not just for the volunteer but ultimately for the entire community. This makes this project very special to me.

Personal Story / Goal

For me everything comes down to “walking the walk”. My job consists of giving advice on what to do to build your wellbeing, and while I may know what the research tells me, it is still easy to fall into patterns that have the opposite effect. My big wellbeing goal is to continue connecting back to what I value and what is important to me, to help me learn from past behaviour and continue learning new ways to help me improve the way I feel, so I can become a better partner, father, colleague and person.

Meet the Wellbeing Project team 3

I know that helping others on their worse day with my skill sets helps me be a better husband, father, and human.

Dean (Westy) West
Member’s Lead Project Advocate

Aspirations for the project

I’m participating in the Wellbeing Project as the Members Lead Project Advocate.

The Wellbeing project is a great way we, as DRA members, can help the defence and emergency service personnel.

I know that helping others on their worse day with my skill sets helps me be a better husband, father, and human.

And this project is going to prove what DRA does WORKS.

Personal Story / Goal

I was a wreck when medically discharged from the army. Both physical and psychological injuries from a training accident in Malaysia where 5 Australian soldiers were killed, and I blamed myself for not doing enough to save them. The old army saying of don’t let your mates down came back to haunt me as I thought I did the ultimate let down by not being able to keep them alive for their family’s and kids.

So, 15 years of self-destruction followed alcohol,  drugs, violence all in front of my children.

Until I stopped feeling sorry for myself and decided to get help.

So physiological counselling and medications helped a bit, but I was now on the Drs merry-go-round. I needed to feel like I can make a difference again not only for myself but for my kids who had only seen the worse in me. I saw an ad on Facebook for Team Rubicon wanting ex-military people for Disaster work.

I signed up and was in Huston Texas within months.

Holy crap I worked harder than I had in years, but I didn’t have the survival guilt anymore. Helping others was helping me balance the ledger in my head. I felt like I can help people who were going through there worse day. And tell them things will get better and tell them a bit about my journey to let them know they weren’t alone in hurting. And to not waste 15 years of their life. To get help now to use their networks and come back stronger.

And now I want to let the people of the defence force and the emergency service personnel about DRA and how it can make them a better human if not for themselves for their families.

I try and live my life by one simple rule.

Be the change you want to see.

barb

I believe that talking openly about mental health will open opportunities to find the help that is needed to live a happy, healthy and mentally stable life.

Dianna Georges
Project Advocate – Membership Team

Aspirations for the project
I am one of the Project Advocates from the Membership Team and I’m excited to be a part of the Wellbeing Project because I believe that although much progress has been made in identifying and acknowledging PTSD, and Mental Health and Wellbeing, we still have a long way to go. Mental health issues are more common than we realise, yet there still seems to be a negative stigma associated with it. I believe that talking openly about mental health will achieve a more positive social acceptance of this very real condition, and in turn open opportunities to find the help that is needed to live a happy, healthy and mentally stable life.

Personal Story / Goal

As an advocate of the Wellbeing Project, I was asked if I would like to share my goals with you, the reader, but I found it to be a difficult task. Being a wife and a mother of 3 means I often put myself at the bottom of the priority list.  I usually live each day as it comes and deal with the multitude of issues as they arise, while trying to stay positive (or at least pretend). My focus has always been to raise good, stable and loved children and that my success would be valued according to the way my children live their lives.

Being constantly tired and locked somewhere in all the chaos of work and family, I now realise that I lost the drive and energy to be fit and healthy even though I have always wished to live to a ripe and wrinkly age of 104. So, I have now set myself 2 goals. My short-term goal is to spend 20min each day reconnecting with my faith so I can find peace amongst the chaos. My longer-term goal is to run the SMH Half Marathon in May 2023. I will achieve this by closing the kitchen at 8pm, eating healthier, slowly build my distance training 3 times a week and light muscle training 2 times a week. I must remember, little steps first….focus….then pick up the pace.

david pirie advocate

I’ve seen first-hand the positive results of volunteering with DRA.

David Pirie
Wellbeing Project Advocate South Queensland

Aspirations for the project

After being with DRA since 2019 I’ve seen first-hand the positive results that it makes, not only to the communities we serve via Operations and Service Projects but for the members themselves. Having said that members can be affected by the trauma we witness first-hand as well as potentially triggering previous personal trauma.

The Wellbeing Project is an excellent way to safeguard our members by monitoring their wellness both in the short and long term. The Project will achieve this by identifying any areas where extra support could be required as well as reinforcing existing elements.

Wellbeing Goal

My goals are to maintain/improve my physical and mental health. Physically I want to keep my Type II Diabetes under control by regular exercise, eating right (never a problem on Ops!), monitoring my blood sugar levels and seeing my doctor on a regular basis.

Mentally to keep doing activities that engage my brain in a positive way. For example I just qualified as a JP, am rebuilding an old MG car, keep my social work knowledge and practice contemporary and volunteer as an advocate at a RSL. Finally, I’ve learnt to rest when I need to and to ask for help when I need it.