Unique rehab program needs boost to help more veterans
THE team behind a unique rehabilitation program for "broken" veterans will dip into their own pockets to sustain the tremendous work they've done for military personnel struggling to deal with civilian life.
Resurrected in its current form in 2012, the Ipswich-based RSL RAEMUS Rover Off-Road Racing Team offers an alternative road to recovery for veterans with physical and mental injuries and those finding it hard to transition to life out of uniform.
Pelting through the bush at more than 160km/h is the first step to "jolting" veterans into sharing their problems so they can be pushed towards the professional help needed; a world away from a "gentle" approach to getting them to open up.
An estimated 800 veterans from Australia have taken part in the initiative and numbers each year are rising as its reputation grows.
But money provided for the program is lagging behind demand and more than double the funding it is receiving is needed to carry out the work effectively, a figure of $100,000.
The four-car team is funded by the RSL and supported by half a dozen key local businesses.
"As it is now, there's a few of us constantly dipping into our pockets just to keep it going," team director Ian Baker said.
"The demand for the program far exceeds our funding. My transmission is $20,000 - that's an extension of my housing loan.
"We're an ongoing program so we're running all year round. We don't want veterans to have to fork out of their pocket. They're probably financially strapped as it is, we can't be putting that barrier up.
"Research says that you take a person who has been in a high adrenaline, high risk environment, their path to engagement... isn't sitting around and hugging."
Mr Baker shut down his own business last month.
RAEMUS are based at a track at the back of the Ipswich Motorsport Precinct at Willowbank, thanks to an agreement with Ipswich City Council. It operates from two workshops, including one at Mr Baker's home.
Mr Baker said the group wants a better fit for a home base away from other homes and wants businesses or large property owners to donate a suitable space, such as a vacant warehouse.
All that's needed is running water, power and toilet facilities.
For more information or to contact the team to help, visit the RSL RAEMUS Rover Off-Road Racing Facebook page.