The RSL – Supporting our community
Many people believe that the RSL only assist veterans and their families when in need. This is most definitely our primary objective, and the RSL have been doing it since 1916.
The RSL effectively cover Australia with a network of state branches and Sub Branches and we provide support to current and former members of the defence forces including those currently deployed overseas and in particular, those wounded in action. We provide many advocacy services to ensure our veterans get their relevant entitlements so that they can live their post-service life with dignity.
In addition to this however, we are a community organisation and our community support is wide and varied including:
• Local sporting groups and clubs
• Educational institutions with grants and scholarships
• Emergency services with equipment and funding
• Health and aged care
• Kindred organisations such as Legacy
• Other mainstream charities doing great work across Victoria.
Below you can read about some of the most worthy community projects we undertake every year.
The Greensborough RSL Sub-Branch established the Living Spirit Fellowship in 2010 because it wanted to nurture younger generations to understand the sacrifices made by many men and women of the Australian Defence Forces in ensuring the great freedom we enjoy today is never forgotten. The eight annual Fellowship provides for the successful applicant and his/her guardian to join an escorted group for an 8 to 10 day tour of Thailand and Myanmar which includes the ANZAC Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass on 25 April 2018. It covers their airfares, accommodation, most meals and related expenses.
The winners of the seven previous Fellowships were:
- 2016-17 Luke Stella from Parade College, Bundoora (the runner-up was a student from Eltham College)
- 2015-16 Bridget James from OLMC, Heidelberg (the runner-up was a student from Eltham College)
- 2014-15 Alana Roberts from OLMC, Heidelberg (the runner-up was a student from the Catholic Ladies College, Eltham who was also awarded the same tour to Hellfire Pass)
- 2013-14 Aydan Hussein from Mill Park Secondary College;
- 2012-13 Laura Muir from Loyola College Bundoora;
- 2011-12 Chelsea Heaney from Eltham High School; and
- 2010-11 Jake Breheny from Greensborough Secondary College.
In previous years, invitations were sent to all 18 secondary schools and colleges in our surrounding area inviting their Year 10, 11 and 12 students to apply for the Fellowship. Applications have been received from students residing in Box Hill North, Briar Hill, Bundoora, Diamond Creek, Doreen, Eltham, Eltham North, Greensborough, Heidelberg, Heidelberg Heights, Hurstbridge, Ivanhoe, Lower Plenty, Macleod, Mill Park, Montmorency, Plenty, Preston, Rosanna, Viewbank, Watsonia and Wattle Glen.
Students are required to make a submission in accordance with the Application Form that includes a Questionnaire Section covering several subject matters. The four member Selection Panel assess the correctness of their answers along with their stated expectations of the proposed visit to Hellfire Pass, Myanmar and what message they would bring back to the community. Interviews are normally conducted with the top three to five applicants in November. The Fellowship has been largely funded by the generous financial support of major sponsors, Cannon Toyota Heidelberg, Audio Clinic Greensborough and the Dyson Group together with RSL Sub-Branch funds and donations.
All previous winners have commented favourably on their experience. In his submission, the winner of the 2016-17 Fellowship, Luke Stella stated that it was expected to be a life changing event. In her submission, the winner of the 2015-16 Fellowship, Bridget James stated that she wanted to walk in the footsteps of her great grandfather who died as a prisoner of war at Hellfire Pass. The winner of the 2014-15 Fellowship, Alana Roberts stated she expected the tour to be “a once in a lifetime experience”. On her return she said the experience was “AMAZING”. Aydan Hussein, the winner of the 2013-14 Fellowship, said he “enjoyed the tour immensely and it was a great cultural and historical learning experience”.
Information Packs containing the Application Form will be available and will be distributed.to all 18 surrounding secondary schools and colleges in the near future. Students who are interested in applying for the next Fellowship, are encouraged to ask their Year Co-ordinator or teacher for a copy of the Application Form. Alternatively, Application Forms may be collected from the receptionist at the Greensborough RSL Sub-Branch or requested by email from: email@example.com. Applications for the current year close on Friday 3rd November 2017.
In May 2015, Greensborough RSL became aware of the circumstances of a young veteran whose story had been published in the local Leader newspaper. Our CEO, Barry Thompson, on reading the article, bought Joel’s plight to the attention of the Committee with the message, ‘we have to help this young man’.
Joel was a Regular Army Infantry soldier who served seven months in Afghanistan with the 7th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment as a rifleman. He was awarded a commendation from the USAF for his high standard of soldiering and professionalism. He was also an outstanding footballer who represented Army in inter-service competitions and enjoyed Army life – the all round contemporary soldier of the modern soldiering era.
But all that changed forever on 31st August 2014 when Joel had a fall over a staircase and broke his C2 and C5 vertebrae. The fall left Joel with spinal cord damage as well as fractured thoracic vertebrae and his sternum. At the time he underwent six hours of surgery and doctors were able to stabilise his neck fractures to prevent further spinal cord damage by inserting a titanium cage and fusing the C4 to the C6.
The injury that night left Joel a C5 incomplete quadriplegic, meaning there is still some messages getting through the spinal cord and the extent of his recovery is unknown. Joel has no movement in his legs and his upper body can only activate his biceps, forearms and wrists.
Whilst his injuries occurred in Adelaide where Joel was based, he was airlifted from the Royal Adelaide Hospital to Melbourne’s Austin Hospital followed by 12 months at the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Hospital.
To date, the Sub-Branch has assisted with medical expenses, equipment and home improvements to make his living conditions ‘wheels’ friendly.
Joel will be undertaking two months of rehabilitation in the US (San Diego) under the banner of Project Walk during June and July 2016. Project Walk provides an improved quality of life for people with disabilities through intense activity-based recovery programmes, education, training, research and development. The treatment on offer is not yet available in Australia.
He hopes to be able to come back stronger, more independent and knowledgeable about his injury and how to keep succeeding in his recovery.
Please follow Joel's journey on our website and Facebook page as we share his reports from the US.
Greensborough RSL would like to thank the following sub-branches for their assistance in helping to get Joel to the US: Anzac House, Bairnsdale, Bentleigh, Box Hill, Dandenong, Glenroy, Longbeach, Reservoir, Sunshine and Watsonia.
As we tell those who buy a poppy, your donation helps the Joel’s of this world.
It is with great disappointment that I write my final journal entry for 2016 of my time at Project Walk. I was starting to see improvement and consistency in my recovery and it is a shame that I cannot continue my therapy just yet, because every day for the last 2 weeks saw minor improvements.
Before I came over here people were asking me what my goals were and what I hoped to achieve. This sort of a question was hard to answer because of the damage to my spinal cord and not knowing what a realistic goal was. I had no expectations only an optimistic attitude as to what I could achieve. The improvements that I have made won’t be visible to the naked eye other than a bit of muscle growth. I take away from my short time at Project Walk invaluable knowledge, increased strength and the ability to create movement in my abdominal muscles and legs.
The last 2 weeks of my therapy I have felt a genuine happiness and sense of achievement, I have definitely learnt to appreciate the SMALL things. A 2% improvement in my body has given me joy, pride and has been evident when speaking to family and friends back home with comments being made towards my positive attitude and overall mindset. Fortunately, I have had Elisa by my side at every session for every exercise and she has been filming every minute of my time here with the intention to bring the footage home and continue on from my teachings using this footage.
A goal of mine for the next 6 months during my time back home would be to maintain the standard I am at physically and not let the last 6 weeks of hard work fade away. I will achieve this through reaching out to many people within the community who have unique approaches to neuro-stimulation and alternative techniques. I will obviously still continue my time at The Next Step and hope to add value to this facility with my gained knowledge from Project Walk.
To this day, almost 2 years on from my injury, I still stop and think about my current predicament and ask is this really happening? Is this a bad dream? But before I get too bogged down in negative thinking I look at the bigger picture and consider myself very fortunate. To have the massive support base that I have with friends I know I can rely on any time any day of the week, a massive loving and caring family, a very patient and compassionate girlfriend and to live within a community that is so generous. I am a firm believer of what you put out into the world comes back to you, so to all the people along my journey that I have met, who have assisted me in any way I can’t thank you enough, and when the time comes that I am back on my feet and I am able to repay the favour I will definitely do so.
To wrap things up, I would like to thank the amazing people at Project Walk for creating such a positive environment, and an atmosphere that needs to be witnessed to appreciate. Thank you for seeing me as a person first and not my injury. Nothing was ever too difficult and nothing was impossible. There are a few moments in my life I will never forget, my time here being one.
Loss is a hard thing to deal with, human instinct demands that we automatically replace, or attempt to replace, that which we have lost.
As soon as I woke in that hospital bed nearly 2 years ago and was able to comprehend what had happened, the first thing I wanted to do was regain the use of my legs. I was hell bent on walking again, I was willing to do anything to get back the life that I was living. I remember in the documentary my friend Fraser Green made about my story, my main goal and my attitude was directed at walking again. Slowly but surely I heard more and more stories of people like me with the same attitude towards their recovery, but was next to heartbroken and quite depressed for some time when being told that they and I would NEVER walk again (I would like to thank those people who told me this, because you have given me the best motivation to prove you wrong). This effected my personal life and mental state for quite some time, I lost hope and had almost all but given up. I was shattered. I will now admit on a public forum for the first time, although those close to me were aware of this. I had openly basically giving up.
Everyday I contemplated how I could end my life, and It wasn't until a few regular visits from people I consider mentors and extremely great friends that I realised walking again wasn't the be all and end all. Loving life and enjoying my days with my family and friends was just as important as walking. I was given a job through my mate and now boss Glen Ferrarotto at "Ironside Recruitment", started working 2 days a week, started to believe I could still contribute to society. Also, during this time I also became close friends with people at the Greensborough RSL. They have given me the opportunity to get over here along with other Sub Branches and Anzac House and I have absolutely surpassed my expectations of what I could achieve in only 6 weeks (5 so far) and have re aligned my goals and expectations with that day I first woke up in the hospital.
A week of new beginnings, If every journey begins with one small step then I have already made that small step. As mentioned previously my spasms have gotten stronger and more frequent as my therapy continues, this week for the first time since my injury I was able to voluntarily move one of my legs by triggering and utilising a spasm. To those viewing at home or around the world it may not be viewed as a useful movement but it is a stepping stone towards controlled movements in my legs. I legitimately feel that with enough time over here, persistence, sacrifice and dedication I am well on my way to proving those people who doubted me wrong. The trainers have also attributed this progress to the fact I have quite large glute and quad muscles, my big arse that all my friends taunted me about for so long has come in handy after all. This being the end of week 5, my upper body strength and stability has improved so much so that whilst using the standing frame I only require one trainer as opposed to 2 or 3 in the. My abs are well and truly firing and my balance has yet again improved. I can now incorporate upper body exercises while in the standing frame thanks to this newly gained strength.
It's a shame that next week is my final week because all of the trainers are starting to see improvement and getting excited at the progress I have made. This has instilled my drive for an episode 2 of project walk in 2017, for who knows what could have been if I don't return to Project Walk.
Last week I mentioned something about my central nervous system being awaken more and more and spasms in my legs increasing. The last 7 days has seen some extremely strong and new spasms occurring which are both positive yet also frustrating because it effects my sleep and daily living. The upside to these spasms is the potential to eventually understand what sets these off and learn how to control them and potentially assist me in either standing or any other functional movements.
I touched on my ambitions for rehabilitation next year in my previous journal entry and these have not waivered. With the knowledge, strength and confidence gained in this short stint, a six-month minimum period next year will benefit me tenfold. In my post Talbot time, my goals for the next 2-3 years were initially resume studying at university, gain employment and get my life back on track, but this trip has changed my mindset and I have come to the realisation the time for rehab, sacrifice and hard work is NOW. Yet again I couldn’t be here without support from my family and friends back home, various businesses and my sidekick, Elisa, so thankyou again.
In regards to rehab in the last 7 days, it has been quite seamless and educational more so than my physically demanding sessions. I began working with a new trainer who was quite knowledgeable and opened up my mind to new approaches to stretching, techniques, and looking after my body post Project Walk time. I have learnt that rehab is not only physical but also mental in what you can learn and retain for time outside of ‘the 4 walls’. Rehab never stops.
This week was a refresher on the previous few weeks of my time at Project Walk, breaking down movements and focusing on fine movements and technique. If there has been one thing I took way from this week, my wheelchair is my worst enemy, it encourages poor posture, doesn’t allow me to stretch out, shortens muscles that shouldn’t be and in general creates bad habits. The first thing I intend on doing upon my return to Australia is employing the handy skills of my father aka Don (or anyone with the tools and skills willing to help), to build me a table like the ones you see at Project Walk for me to stretch out on and replicate some of the things I have done over here.
In a notable difference this week I was able to complete 4 strict pull ups in comparison to my 1 of the previous week. A new core exercise this week saw me sitting on a medicine ball in an upright position with my feet on the ground maintaining my balance. This was by far my greatest display of strength gained while over here, yet also my balancing skills improving dramatically. Previously I was not able to sit up on the edge of my bed, now I am able to hold my balance on a ball that was moving from under me and I had to compensate to remain upright. A very rewarding exercise for my confidence!
With the long weekend approaching for the 4th of July, I completed my week 4 of rehab and hit the road on a 4-hour journey to Las Vegas. Unfortunately, I don’t have a bank account like Mike Conley, so gambling was kept to an absolute minimum, what an amazing experience to spend 4th of July weekend in 45 degree heat in such a crazy city alongside Elisa! That place never stops, but after 9 hours of pushing up and down the strip checking out the sights and sounds, I definitely did! I head into my final two weeks at Project Walk this week and that’s it….for this year.
Thanks for reading and following my journey so far, until next week, Peace.
Monday morning Week 3 and I knew I was in for a big one. No rest day and still feeling the pinch from the previous week.
Fortunately, the trainers at project walk are quite knowledgable and advised me what I should be eating this week. Nutrition being one of the most important parts of my rehabilitation I thoroughly enjoyed refuelling my body each day after rehab. I was also informed that the further into my rehab program I get, my central nervous system COULD begin to awaken and cause many changes in my body. Monday night was the first of 3 consecutive sleepless nights. I was kept awake the majority of the night by uncontrollable spasms, extremely uncomfortable pins and needles for hours at a time and odd feelings in my legs. This as odd as it may sound is a good thing and suggests my central nervous system may slowly be awakening.
Tuesday I had a massive breakthrough as the trainers were able to feel muscles in my quadriceps firing. Although this is a massive positive in the scheme of things, it means nothing in regards to functional movement for me, but it is defiantly something I will take home with me and continue to work with to hopefully improve. Tuesday was a great day in regards to rehab and the start of my journey to recovery!
Wednesday I used the functional electrical stimulation pads in a different way to what I usually do in Melbourne. Previously to my time at Project Walk I would stay in my chair with pads placed across my legs and on my buttocks and when stimulated my legs would move in a cycling motion. Over here whilst using the FES I have been removed from my chair placed in a harness and pads stuck to my legs so that when stimulated I would move from the seated position on the bed to a standing position. When the stimulation would cut out I would return to the bed in a seated position completing one repetition of a squat. This was an awesome feeling and something I had not done in 2 years. A common factor over here seems to be re visiting old experiences from days prior to my accident in doing things such as Standing, walking on a treadmill, squats, chin-ups, kneeling, sitting on the floor and in my own time, swimming.
Thursday; by this stage my body was fatiguing quickly and I was hurting. This was the day I began working on my pull up strength, it was a real shock at how much harder it was to pull myself off the ground and bring my chest to the bar. I really took for granted the strength I used to have in my ability to lift my own body weight. The main focus here at Project Walk has predominantly been correct technique instead of how many repetitions I could complete. Another interesting approach project walk take is making sure I remain out of my chair for the whole 3 hours. The mindset here being rehab in the long term is to get me out of my chair and doing things out of my chair. Whether that happens or not is a different story but there is never any danger with aiming too high.
Nearing the end of the week, the pool and the chef were my best friends! I proved myself wrong getting through this week unscathed and now look forward to spending a weekend with a friend from LA and Elisa relaxing, soaking up the Californian sun and seeing some local bands play. This being only the end of week 3 and with the progress I have made I am already setting my sights on returning next year for a longer period of time as you can only achieve so much in 6 weeks.
June 20, 2016
Before I begin on a report of week 2, there are a few organisations and an individual who financed this whole journey who I would like to mention. I am aware that there are many other contributions from individuals and private businesses, and I am extremely grateful for them as this wouldn't have been possible.
- Greensborough RSL
- Bentleigh RSL
- Box Hill RSL
- Longbeach RSL
- Reservoir RSL
- Watsonia RSL
- Glenroy RSL
- Sunshine RSL
- Bairnsdale RSL
- Dandenong RSL
- ANZAC House
- Ben 'Ironman' Flannagan
This week saw innovation of old techniques and processes previously tried in Melbourne. Still with an emphasis on my core and posture, functional movements were predominantly the main focus e.g. putting stimulation pads on my quads and glutes to assist me in squatting whilst maintaining correct posture and trying to activate my core. This being a movement not attempted in nearly 2 years, I fatigued extremely quickly therefore making the following exercises for the day a lot harder. I never realised how much (or in my case how little) it takes to confuse and fatigue my central nervous system.
My flexibility and ability to maintain correct posture has come along quicker than expected. Considering how uncomfortable the first hour of each day initially was, this is making things a lot smoother (less pain during stretching and my leg spasms are less frequent).
Tuesday saw an unexpected blood pressure problem which kept me bed ridden, which was unfortunate to miss a day but this industry allows for such days and I will now fill in my lost session this week. Temperature is always a big factor in how I feel physically and mentally due to my inability to regulate body temperature, fortunately the weather here has been warm with plenty of sun allowing me pain free days and a good mindset. This being California the weather will only get warmer from here on in. In the words of the great Borat; 'Great success'.
Thursday I was placed with a trainer for 2 consecutive hours which allowed us to really get stuck into some complex movements yet also EXTREMELY fatiguing. Although I cannot feel or use my abs and oblique muscles, much of my first 2 hours were spent trying to activate and create a muscle memory. I find that with these repetitive exercises, unlike prior to my injury where I could feel my muscles weakening and not being able to operate at full strength, I now have no knowledge of when my last repetition could be before my muscle will just not move or react. This is not a bad thing it just makes exercising interesting not knowing when I could end up on the floor. The last hour all of this became evident when I tried to use the stand up frame and none of my muscles were reacting to stimulation and my functioning muscles weren't reacting when I was trying to move them.
Friday saw a vast improvement in my posture, flexibility and ability to resist against force whilst turning on my core muscles. An exercise called 'The Wall' consists of sitting at a 90 degree angle directly against the wall with legs straight out in front. Due to the lack of muscle in my back, shoulders and neck, remaining flush against the wall is extremely hard to maintain yet very beneficial for me. Being at the end of week 2 of a demanding program, my central nervous system had little left in the tank and by the halfway mark nothing was working, creating a few speed humps for the trainers and what they had planned for me. Fortunately Project Walk have excellent staff who are able to think on their feet and adapt to this sort of situation. For the next exercise, imagine the wall has been taken out from behind me and someone tries to knock me off my balance. The goal here, again, is posture and core focused, maintaining one yet turning on another. I find this one of the hardest things to do.
I am learning things everyday about my body and pushing it to its limits. I am about to embark on my hardest week yet with there being no rest day. Thanks to everybody back home for your messages and phone calls of support, I love it and please keep it up.
1 week down, 5 to go!
June 13, 2016
Week 1 proved to be the most physically demanding of my rehabilitation experiences in the last 2 years. In saying that, this past week I have achieved and done things I thought may take me months of persistence. From increasing flexibility and reducing spasm in my legs, which previously required natural remedies to improving my endurance and blood pressure issues from prolonged standing.
Each day begins with an hour of stretching my legs and provoking pain reflexes to create movements. This is quite uncomfortable for me, but after 40 minutes my legs start playing the game and it is tolerable. The second hour I change to a new trainer and we work on standing and core engaging exercises. This is extremely fatiguing but I have started to feel some muscle activation in my abdomen, which is something I have not yet felt since my injury. By the time the second hour is over I begin looking at the clock and counting down the last 60 minutes knowing it is the hardest, remaining on task and doing as my trainer asks. The third hour has proved to be quite fun in that I have been put in a harness, elevated onto a treadmill or other adaptive walking devices and simulated walking. Another first since my injury.
The approach of the trainer of project walk is not to neglect or disregard limbs that do not work or parts of my body that have been previously disregarded. Trunk control and activation have been a major part of week one, this is evident by the end of the day when I am longing to get into bed and have a snooze. Another great feature of this facility is the mindset towards remaining out of my chair for the whole session, encouraging me to constantly think about posture and activating my core. The changing of trainers on the hour also introduces different approaches and techniques which I find quite refreshing and beneficial towards remaining on task.
On a side note, for those of you who don't know, California is Americas most progressive city. I have not yet come across a shop with a step to enter, a shopping centre where there were less than 20 or more accessible car parks (on a flat surface with plenty of room both sides of the park), a door that couldn't be opened without a push of a button allowing me to enter and exit without any assistance, toilets with nothing less than a five star accessible rating, restaurants with tables purely for wheelchair users with the ability to roll under, bars with lowered bench tops for me to roll under, pools with functional chair lifts so I am able to get in and out of the water and attitudes towards wheelchair users to be commended. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for my home city, something which I endeavour to change upon my return. I have photographed and documented all my experiences here and will be bringing it to my local council to help change Melbourne for the better.
All in all week one at Project Walk San Diego was extremely taxing on my body but great for my mind. For me, mindset can make or break a session and at the moment I am in a great place mentally. Special mention to Elisa who has sat patiently through every session, remained positive when certain things haven't gone my way and has helped keep my mind where it needs to be.
Sunday 5th June 2016
Flying to America for rehab was quite a big deal to most people except for me. I was trying to keep a lid on things and concentrate on the task ahead. Knowing full well what lies ahead of me, I didn’t want the gloss of the united states to distract me from what I am really over here to do.
The plane ride itself as comfortable as it was, proved to be more difficult than predicted. The cabin pressure on the plane had quite an effect on bowels and bladder (ill let you use your imagination). Once we landed with fresh pants, a different outlook on international flights, the culture shock sunk in and excitement followed. We picked up our accessible roll in van from LAX, plugged in our coordinates to Elisa’s iphone and begun our extremely tense drive on the right hand side of the road on a 12 lane highway, surrounded by massive SUVs going twice as fast as we were.
After a couple of missed turn offs and a traffic filled trip, we SAFELY arrived at our hotel in Carlsbad, San Diego. After now nearly being awake for 24 hours we checked into our new room. This is where disaster struck and we noticed our WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE bathroom was indeed NOT accessible!
The supposed roll in shower was a bath, and there was nothing accessible of our room other than the sign on the door. We were told that this was the only option in the hotel with regards to accessibility. The holiday that had begun so smoothly had suddenly came to a halt. Without somewhere to shower physically could not stay there and it was left up to the staff to sort something out. Things were looking grim. Fortunately, we had a hotel next door from us who were happy to take us in at the expensive of the initially intended hotel. This room was larger and had better facilities excluding a kitchen.
With accommodation sorted, the following day we headed out to check out our surrounding and get our bearings. It seems that America is a country of excess, with everything bigger and cheaper than what we would come to expect in our country (2L of Smirnoff vodka for $16USD)!! We headed to the favourites Walmart, Macy’s etc.
Being in the state of California, there are a number of wealthy areas around one of them being Newport, Orange County. We decided to make our way there, after what should have been an hour’s drive, 2 hours later we arrived in Newport. What an amazing town it is! With streets that belong to scenes of the Truman show and Wisteria lane, we were amazed at what this town had to offer. A world renowned surf spot known as the wedge, something I have watched and dreamt of and possibly even surfing at myself for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, the surfing gods weren’t with me and there was no surf to witness. This did not detract from my experience of Newport.
So far San Diego has given me sunny weather, good food and happy locals. Tomorrow I begin the real journey and reason I am here. Stay tuned for an update on week 1 of rehab.
Over the years the RSL have made it possible for numerous deserving children to attend the annual RSL supported Portsea Camp. This year 6 lucky children were selected from numerous Banyule Primary Schools and yesterday driven to Portsea by our CEO, Barry Thompson and our Secretary, Bill Telfer.
As you can see all the children were very excited about their little adventure away, and after a quick lunch at Maccas it was off to Portsea to start their week of fun and games.
Have fun kids!