ON TRACK: RSL RAEMUS Rover Off-Road Racing Team director Ian Baker.
ON TRACK: RSL RAEMUS Rover Off-Road Racing Team director Ian Baker. Cordell Richardson

Unique veterans rehab program gets national recognition

AN IPSWICH charity program that takes a vastly different approach to rehabilitating medically discharged military veterans has been recognised for its role in transforming the lives of "broken" people struggling to adjust to life out of uniform.

The RSL RAEMUS Rover Off-Road Racing Team has worked with about 800 veterans across Australia after it was resurrected in 2012 and relies solely on work of volunteers.

It is based at the Ipswich Motorsport Precinct in Willowbank, where veterans are driven around the track at more than 160km/h. It also takes participants to some of the most challenging off-road races in the country.

The program has been nominated for Veteran Support Program of the Year in the inaugural Australian Defence Industry Awards.

Team director Ian Baker said he was humbled by the recognition but believed it was going to be a "David and Goliath battle" to come out on top.

"When you look at the other people on the list they are major companies," he said.

"They are some big hitters. To be considered in that field is very humbling. It's satisfying as well considering the amount of work people have put in to make the program work.

"We're the only program nominated working at the coal face. All the other nominees are large scale groups that have employees - we have zero. We're 100 per cent volunteers. All the others are substantial businesses and take very nice wages. We donate our (wages) to this."

But the first challenge will be getting there. Mr Baker said he wasn't yet sure if the team could afford to send anyone to the awards in Canberra next month.

The team behind the program revealed earlier this month their funding, received through RSL Queensland, was lagging well behind demand for the work they undertook.

They said more than double the $40,000 they were given each year was needed to carry out the program effectively, with team members putting their hands into their own pockets to keep it running.

Mr Baker said the opportunity to head down and interact with key players in the industry was invaluable.

"We're going to try and get down there," he said.

"We'll be rubbing shoulders with some of the world's biggest multinational corporations and a lot of the large defence industry players.

"The opportunity to exchange ideas and maybe find that great supporter is very attractive to us. It would be great to come away with a sponsor or financier to help us.

"A nomination against the big players is due recognition of the professional standard that we put out there. It's not bad for a couple of broken down and screwed up veterans out of Ipswich. We're punching above our weight a bit."

Award winners will be announced on September 26.



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