Soldier On reeled in another successful deep sea angling event at Port Stephens last week.
The sixth edition of the two-day marlin fishing adventure paid thanks to serving and ex-serving veterans – and worked to strengthen social connections and mental health for them and their families.
The annual pilgrimage, hosted by the not-for-profit support organisation, has witnessed considerable growth since its inception.
In its first year, the event attracted 11 participants across three vessels.
However, in 2021, a total of 70 people dropped a line, from 25 boats, with the help of 40 captains and crew donating their time and resources.
“The fishing trip is very much about assisting the health and wellbeing of veterans and their families as well as encouraging them to form and maintain meaningful social connections,” Soldier On CEO Ivan Slavich said.
“The Port Stephens community displayed a remarkable amount of support, with generous donations of time and resources from a number of partners and local businesses.”
Calypso Fishing Adventures captain Tim Dean has also been instrumental in the continued success of the event.
“To be honest, it could not have happened without the help of Tim,” Mr Slavich said.
“He’s been a fantastic supporter of Soldier On, organising this event, recruiting vessels and skippers, and bringing everything together on the day to give our participants a terrific time on the water.
“We are able to do what we do because of the sacrifices that our service men and women have made.”
Mr Dean said it was a real privilege to have the veterans on board.
“At its core, fishing is a team sport,” he explained.
“And, that really resonates with the veteran community.
“Win, lose or draw, you do it together.”
With proven links established between positive social connections and enhanced mental health, activities like this are a key component of Soldier On’s veteran support services.
Participant Eraine McArthur attended the event after retiring from the Army earlier this year following three decades of service.
“For me, these activities keep me connected,” he said.
“Through these events, I am able to stay in touch with the Defence community and be supported and encouraged by people in the same circumstances as me.
“Being in Defence, it is like being a part of a family.
“When you leave, Soldier On helps you stay connected to that family.
“For me, that is really important in my transition.”