Climbing takes connection to community to new heights

Lani Pauli 21 August 2021

Our Active Lifestyle events provide opportunities for the Defence community to take part in exhilarating activities in the great outdoors, while connecting with other Defence families.

Natasha Hale

Striking up new friendships as an adult can be hard. It’s even more difficult when you’re also navigating a transition to civilian life, rediscovering your place in your community, or feeling isolated from friends who are still serving.

 

But, as Brisbane-based couple Vincent (Vince) and Natasha Hale found out, group activities like those hosted by RSL Queensland's Active Lifestyle program can make it easier to step outside your comfort zone and into a community of your own making.

 

The program is designed to support the Defence community with activities that focus on health and wellbeing, including abseiling, cooking, blacksmithing and art classes.

 

 

GIVING IT A GO

 

Vince and Natasha both took a leap – literally and figuratively – to try abseiling on the Sunshine Coast. 

 

“I was actually terrified at the start,” Natasha says.

 

“I’d never abseiled before, and I did it because I wanted to be there to support Vince. They made me feel so comfortable and it was one of the best things we’ve done in a while.” 

 

The couple, who are in their 50s, are proof that you’re never too old to try something new. 

 

“When I told friends we were going, they were asking, ‘Are you for real? You’re in your 50s. What if this happens? What if that happens?’

 

I was adamant we were going to do it and it made me realise we can do anything,” she says. 

 

“I was so nervous when we got there but doing it actually gave me so much confidence. And once I’d done it a few times I felt euphoric.” 

 

Vince, who has injuries from service, agrees.

 

“It’s not about whether you do it once you get there, it’s just about having a go. We’re only here for a short time.”

 

 

SUPPORT WITHOUT LABELS OR EXPECTATIONS

 

Natasha, who was in the reserves for six years and supported Vincent’s military career, says she sees how important it is that RSL Queensland offers programs like Active Lifestyles. 

 

“I’m very aware veterans need to be kept active when they finish serving, and to be able to stay in touch with other military personnel,” she says. “That’s one of the reasons we decided to go to the event and now we’re telling all our Defence friends about it.” 

 

“For example, while we were at the abseiling event, we met some other veterans, and we could just talk about things we had in common. It’s that commonality that you’ll never lose.

 

“These events are about getting outside and having a fun day. It makes you forget about things for a while, but at the same time gives you a safe space to share how you’re going without expectations or judgement. There’s no stigma attached to it.” 

 

Vincent says he probably wouldn’t have done an activity like abseiling if it hadn’t been for RSL Queensland providing the opportunity, and it was even better to be with a group with similar experiences. 

 

“Doing these kinds of activities with fellow veterans gives you that common ground and it makes you feel comfortable – especially for some people who may not be comfortable in groups anymore,” he says. 

 

“It was a good way to make us go out and meet people.” 

 

Natasha sees another benefit, having watched Vince and other ex-service personnel go through their own struggles. 

 

“For me I see so many people who tend not to speak at all, especially men. They keep things to themselves and basically suffer in silence. Having activities like this, it gives them a chance to talk about what’s on their mind in a safe place. To me that is so important for mental health and wellbeing.

 

“I think being physically active and doing things is so important. We wouldn’t have done this without the RSL,” Natasha says. 

 

TAPPING INTO A COMMUNITY THAT CARES

Vincent has been involved with the RSL since he was a child, thanks to his father also being a veteran. He’s now a member of Tairo RSL Sub-Branch and says RSL Queensland gives him a sense of community. 

 

“At the end of the day, you’re part of something supportive and you never know when you might want to call on that support. Don’t be afraid of it. Just do it.

 

“We found the Active Lifestyles program on the website after seeing the new RSL Queensland TV commercials. I saw the activities and thought, ‘Wow, I didn’t know these were there.’” 

 

And while both Vincent and Natasha agree they won’t be taking up abseiling as a permanent hobby, they will be looking to book other Active Lifestyle events.

 

“I’m waiting for the dates to be announced for the blacksmithing event and I’ve already told a few other veteran mates about it to try and get them to come along with me,” Vincent says.  

 

There’s a full schedule of events planned across the rest of the year including kayaking, art classes and a blacksmith course. You don’t need to be an RSL member to attend. To register your interest and find out when events are happening, please email partnerships@rslqld.org or visit our what's on page