A south-west group of veterans who've helped each other find belonging since returning home have tested their past training on a two-day hike.
United by shared experiences in Australia's defence forces, the young veterans from RSL Active have built a camaraderie that some found to be missing at their local RSL branches.
This month veterans from Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Hamilton completed the Serra Terror endurance challenge, an 80-kilometre hike at the Grampians National Park, where they walked through the Serra Range, over Mount William, and around Lake Bellfield.
RSL Active leader Adam Kent, of Warrnambool, said navigating tracks and trekking dense scrub helped group members maintain a positive outlook in their civilian lives.
"The statistics with veteran suicide and mental health are high. In a nut shell what we are trying to achieve with RSL Active is to provide a platform for early intervention through peer support," Mr Kent said.
He said regional areas were particularly challenging for returned service personnel, who typically felt isolated.
"It's hard to explain why it's a challenge to transition back into civilian life. A lot of the logistical stuff is done for you. You're trained to be highly strung, hyper vigilant, and it's hard to wind down from that stuff," Mr Kent said.
Hamilton's Daryl Adamson joined the navy at 18 and served as an aviation engineer in Iraq and East Timor. Mr Adamson said returning home had been hard after he discharged in 2007.
"There wasn't much of a young veteran community in Hamilton. We just tried to get on with life," he said.
"It's hard to communicate with my mates back home who stayed in Warrnambool or Port Fairy, they just haven't had the same experiences. My opinions and attitudes have changed dramatically too."
Daryl's wife Amanda said the south-west group, which meet regularly for family events as they did in Port Fairy this month, helped her family find a like-minded community.
"It's difficult to engage in our local RSL because most of the activities are on during work time, and there's no younger families," Mrs Adamson said
"That's why we come to RSL Active because they are all young veterans, they have little kids and an understanding of each other. You don't have to explain yourself."
She said it didn't matter that veterans didn't necessarily serve together, the group could provide a sense of belonging.
"They just get it. You don't have to justify who you are," Mrs Adamson said.
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