More than 70 veterans and their family members from across the country took to the Port Stephens coast on Wednesday as part of a social fishing event to support their mental health.
Twenty boats hit the high seas to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the fishing adventure, reeling in marlin alongside famous fisher and television presenter Andrew Ettinghausen.
The two-day trip was organized by Calypso Fishing Adventures and not-for-profit veteran support organization Soldier On.
Soldier On CEO Ivan Slavich said the event was a great opportunity for the veterans and their families to make meaningful connections and better their mental health in a positive social setting.
“We have amateurs, we’ve veterans who have got a disability, we’ve got veterans who are going through some mental health issues,” Mr Slavich said.
Mr Slavich said the effort of the community members and local businesses who helped get the event up and running meant a lot to the veterans.
“They’ve donated essentially $70,000 worth of fuel and bait and lines and their time, to help 70 veterans who are doing it a bit tough, to get out there and have some social connection and a little bit of fun to help with their mental health,” Mr Slavich said.
“And in fact, on the boat that I’m in, we’ve got a 30 year veteran who caught her first slimy and then subsequently caught her first 70 kg marlin, so an amazing experience for her.”
“I’ve been fishing for 30 years and I’ve never caught a marlin, so that’s pretty good going.”
Mr Slavich is also encouraging the community to get involved in the 96 kilometre March On walk next month to help raise funds for veterans’ mental health programs.