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Launch of the Bravery Trek, Australian War Memorial, Canberra


I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal People, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present, emerging leaders and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders gathered here today.

Good afternoon, all.

Attending events at the Australian War Memorial, whether in an official capacity or a private one, is always special. It’s a place where we honour and remember those who have served our country. As Daniel Keighran VC recently said of the War Memorial: 'I have seen the good that place does for veterans, certainly for those who are suffering. They go there and they feel included again.'

It’s therefore a fitting setting for today’s launch of the Bravery Trust’s inaugural virtual Bravery Trek.

As Patron-in-Chief of the Bravery Trust, I’m pleased to see we’ve set the bar for the Trek pretty high — the length of the Kokoda Track.

The memory and legacy of Kokoda are part of the Australian identity. You’ll certainly know who you are and what you are capable of achieving after walking, cycling, swimming or wheeling 96 kilometres.

Matt Anderson, the Director of the Australian War Memorial, has written an important book about Kokoda, and I look forward to hearing some of his insights shortly.

The Bravery Trek will help support the important work of the Bravery Trust to provide emergency financial relief to serving and ex-serving members of the Australian Defence Force who have a serious injury or illness as a result of their service.

The ‘virtual’ nature of the Trek is tailor-made for the current environment. We are all experts in the virtual world now! Physical distancing restrictions as a result of COVID-19 have begun to ease but we’re not fully through those yet. Nonetheless the Trek is proceeding and the timing could not be better.

First, the Bravery Trek is being held during Veterans’ Health Week, an initiative that supports the health and wellbeing of our veterans.

Second, the theme of Veterans’ Health Week is social connection — a theme that has figured prominently in the national conversation this past year, given our experiences with the bushfires and the pandemic.

And, third, the message behind the Bravery Trek is not so much the feat of walking, cycling, swimming or wheeling the 96 kilometres, it’s what transpires during the course of doing it, particularly in the teams.

Creating social connections and raising awareness of the challenges faced by contemporary Australian veterans — social connection is one of the most important contributors to a person’s emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.

I’ve often said as Linda and I have travelled around the country that we are at our best when we come together — supporting, helping, caring, showing interest, acting on a commitment to look out for someone.

It makes a world of difference.

One of the benefits of living at Yarralumla is that the location and grounds provide a perfect setting for veterans’ PT sessions. My message to veterans at the beginning of our sessions is that there are four areas they need to focus on to maintain good health:

  • mental wellbeing
  • nutrition
  • social connection
  • physical fitness

It’s not always easy once you leave the Service to do that, but these are important things. While we served we had the discipline to do that. We need to continue with that discipline after our service.

The Bravery Trek will help us to stay connected.

Linda and I have teamed up! So, form teams, get out there, do this together and discuss the issues that are in front of us. There is an important message about staying connected. It’s about ‘reaching out’. And that’s what we’ve been saying to veterans for a number of years now. There is no weakness in reaching out and seeking help. Help is there and it is waiting for you.

Congratulations to all at the Bravery Trust for organising the inaugural Bravery Trek in virtual form. I encourage all Australians who haven’t done so already to go to the Bravery Trust website and sign up to do the Trek. You’ll feel good that you’ve committed to doing it, and you’ll be on a real high I can assure you when you’ve completed it. And, of course, you’ll be supporting a great cause.

It’s now my great pleasure to launch the Bravery Trust’s inaugural virtual Bravery Trek.