Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 2 2010 Contents 48 www.defence.gov.au/defencemagazine
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JOINT hEALTh COMMAND
THE inaugural ADF Paralympics Sports Program (ADFPSP) brought
wounded and severely-injured ADF members with acquired disabilities
together in March to foster teamwork, conduct fitness and ability
testing, and specialist physical training and rehabilitation sessions.
heal the wounds
Soldiers touted as future Paralympians
By SGT Brian Hartigan
ADFPSP, a Joint Health Command program, also
assists in improving career prospects for ADF
members with severe restrictions.
Among the five Army members who participated in
the camp were Warrant Officer Class Two (WO2)
Dennis Ramsay who lost both legs through severe
illness and Private (PTE) Liam Haven who was
blinded by an improvised explosive device in Iraq.
WO2 Ramsay is already an accomplished
wheelchair basketballer, while PTE Haven was
identified through this camp as having potential
in field events and hopes to participate in national
competition this month.
WO2 Ramsay said this was the first of what was
intended to be a biannual camp and, while it was
all Army members this time – by circumstance
rather than design – subsequent camps would
include RAAF and Navy members as well.
“This camp was designed to look at everybody
with restrictions through either battle casualty,
serious illness or injury within the ADF,” WO2
“It also gives us opportunities to meet other
ADF members with restrictions, and will be very
beneficial for us as individuals and, by extension,
“At the end of the day what we are getting out
of this is a lot of motivation as well as career and
PTE Haven said the camp was about giving
wounded or injured personnel in Defence a chance
to explore options in rehabilitation and sport, and
to take their career in a new direction.
“The Defence Force and the Australian Paralympic
Committee have got together and developed this
program to recognise possible talent for sport,”
PTE Haven said.
“It’s modelled on what the American and the
English forces do – recognising that even though
members are injured, they are still physically fit,
have endurance and are highly motivated.
“I went pretty well in the assessment. They say I
have possible talent for shot put and discus, so I’m
pretty happy about that.
“I might be going to the nationals in Perth.”
PTE Haven said that while he was very keen to
get into sport and looked forward to the training
regime he would be given, he was also looking
forward to advancing his career within Defence.
“Obviously it would be good to excel at something
enjoyable and be the best I can be at something,
but life goes on too,” PTE Haven said.
“At the moment I’m at the last little bit of my
rehabilitation and am at the stage where I’m just
about ready to get back into employment.
“Defence has been very supportive so far,
exhausting all avenues to find jobs for me.
“At the moment I’m looking at a course at the
School of Languages and then a possible transfer
to Intelligence Corps and, hopefully, a posting to a
human intelligence cell.”
WO2 Ramsay also has a new posting as the
training development officer for movements and
postal based at Bandiana.
“I really can’t fault Defence in the way they are
looking after us,” WO2 Ramsey said.
“It’s not like the old days when if you were broken
you were turfed out.
“Today there’s a plan in place and a Defence
“So, while you wouldn’t get into Defence with a
disability, acquiring a disability by any means when
you are a member is no longer cause for discharge.
“Also, on a practical level, workplaces are being
modified for wheelchair access, for example.
And my own workplace is even having a lift
installed, and special showers.”
He said members with severe restrictions were
new to Defence and it had been a very interesting
journey for everybody concerned.
PTE Haven said that Defence’s new attitude
towards restricted members and rehabilitation had
been very important to him right from the start.
“When I was in hospital, I was reassured almost
straight away that I would be taken care of.
“Hearing that so early made my experience a
whole lot easier.
“Instead of experiencing massive ups and downs
and depressive spells, it was actually quite smooth
because I knew I had job security.”
PTE Haven said, however, there was no change in
how his work colleagues treated him.
“That’s actually the best thing about the Army – if
someone is hurt, your mates won’t treat you like a
sissy or wrap you up in cotton wool – I know they
are going to give me s**t.
“That’s mateship and I definitely wouldn’t want it
any other way.”
WO2 Ramsay agreed. He said mates still hid his
leg from time to time.
“If you can’t joke at yourself, then there’s
“At the end of the day, we have a very good family
– Defence is our family and they are looking after
LeFT: Experienced Paralympic coach Iryna Dvoskina (AIS) gives WO2 Dennis Ramsay
valuable advice on obtaining the best performance from his prosthetic legs.
Photo: Mark Brennan
ABOVe: PTE Liam Haven and the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, share a laugh
with participants at the inaugural ADF Paralympics Sports Program.
Photo: SGT Brian Hartigan
When asked for his assessment of the sport
camp overall, PTE Haven’s most critical feedback
reflected more basic needs.
“Oh God, give us fatty food – I don’t know how
much more tofu and rice crackers I can take.”
On another subject, PTE Haven wished 6RAR good
luck in Afghanistan.
“I wish I was with them – but I’d like everyone to
think about them once in a while.”
ABOVe: Chief of Army Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie discusses
the ADF Paralympics Sports Program with WO2 Dennis Ramsay.
Photo: SGT Brian Hartigan
BeLOW: Vision-impaired PTE Liam Haven from 6 RAR is guided
around the track by coach and physical training instructor WO2
Simon O’Regan. Photo: Mark Brennan
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