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Mates help veterans make the transition

Mates help veterans make the transition

RAAFA has launched Transition Mates, a new program that aims to create a network of supporters for veterans exiting service and returning to life as a civilian.

Transition Mates connects veterans who have left the Australian Defence Force in the past three years with RAAFA volunteers who have undergone training through RAAFA to serve in the capacity of a 'Mate'.

Mates undergo a specialised induction, are provided with a resource guide and have access to ongoing supervision and support from a qualified counselling psychologist. Each Mate is educated in the 'art of listening' and learns skills to create psychological safety, allowing them to build a healthy and mutually purposeful relationship.

CEO Michelle Fyfe, said the Transition Mates program is a pilot designed to see how the organisation can help with what can be a difficult process for many who leave the armed forces. Michelle believes improved mental health and wellbeing of veterans through connection to community builds on the organisation's commitment to support those in need.

"Transitioning from service in the Australian Defence Force to life as a veteran can be challenging. Respecting that everyone is on their own journey, Transition Mates aims to improve the wellbeing of veterans through mateship. It's a simple yet effective way to help bridge the transition from service to civilian life and by creating a dedicated program with trained volunteers we hope to encourage veterans to engage in this vital service," said Michelle.

Mates come from all walks of life, some of them are veterans themselves, some are partners of veterans and some have no prior connection to the Australian Defence Force — but are members of RAAFA and are eager to offer their support.

Wendy said, "My husband Robert served in the Navy and we both wanted to support people exiting."

Wendy and Robert de la Nougerede both wanted to offer their support to the program, volunteering as mates for the support they felt they could give as well as what they would gain. "Robert served in the Navy in the submarine squadron and when he went through the transition he faced many challenges," said Wendy. "He was lucky enough to have a strong supportive family network. I felt I also had something to offer, having been through the journey together."

Janette Bonser said, "I was interested to see if this program may be beneficial to help current serving members who were departing the forces, and if so, I was very keen to be part of that system. With a military and nursing background I felt I could be an asset."

Volunteer mate Ian Hurst said he was keen to be involved in the program because he was associated with RAAFA through the Pearce Flying Club whose membership included some ex-military. He said, "I can see the benefit and hopefully this program will help bridge the gap during the transition period into civilian life."

"I'm the sort of person who likes to talk to people," said volunteer mate Steve Lucks. "I suffer from PTSD and years ago I had a neighbour who was dealing with a life-threatening illness. One day I was busy dealing with my own issues and didn't stop to chat and heard that two days later he had passed away. I have pledged since to always take the time and make the effort to stop, listen and ask the question."

The Transition Mates pilot program builds on RAAFA's recent Andrew Russell Veteran Living (ARVL) appeal, which aims to support veterans at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness in Western Australia.

With the pilot program now underway, RAAFA is inviting veterans to register their interest in connecting with a Mate via:

Upon expressing interest, veterans will be connected with a dedicated program team to understand their personal circumstance and search for the best suited Mate to introduce them to.

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