Chairman’s Report May 2024

Chairman’s Report May 2024

Taraidh and Darlene with the customised van we delivered to the family.
I am delighted to present the Commando Welfare Trust Chairman’s Report for May 2024.
Year-to-date we have continued to build strong momentum on our goal to increase our presence so we can raise more funds to support our growing list of beneficiaries and provide more services to better serve Australia’s Special Forces community.
Some of our recent activities include:
  • Raising awareness around the five training deaths over the past 12 months which shows the dangers our current serving members face even in times of no conflict.
  • Our advocacy saw us feature on national television and deliver a strong ANZAC Day statement. 
  • We provided emergency support to the Vowles family after their youngest experienced an unexpected illness. 
  • We delivered a custom-designed van to Australian Special Forces veteran, Taraidh, who suffered a life-changing injury in 2023. 
  • Successfully hosted a Summer Cocktail Party fundraising evening.
As it stands, we are supporting 47 beneficiaries and are helping with the education of over 35 children.

Please sign up for the recurring donations program so we can continue to serve our community and share this report with your friends/family to raise awareness about this group of Australians who have given so much for our country.

Together, we can build a network of Australians committed to making a difference.
See below for an update on our recent activity.

Delivering a Custom-Designed Van to Allow Tariadh Greater Mobility

Tariadh in his custom-designed van.
We delivered a custom-designed van to Australian Special Forces veteran, Taraidh, tailored to allow him to get in and out of the vehicle seamlessly.
This van will be life-changing for the Colquhoun family, as it will increase Taraidh’s mobility.
In May last year, Taraidh suffered severe injuries in a mountain bike accident, which required surgery to restore a break in the C6-7 of his spine.
Since then, the Commando Welfare Trust has remained committed to providing the family with emergency and long-term support through this extremely challenging injury. 

Supporting the Vowles Family During Challenging Times

Kevin Volwes and his family.
Former 2nd Commando Regiment member, Kevin Vowles, who has served with numerous operational deployments, recently had his youngest experience a complicated medical episode which has placed a great strain on their family.

During this challenging time, the Commando Welfare Trust has committed to providing short-term assistance to relieve the stress, ensuring the children can remain in school and their youngest gets the medical care she needs.

9News: Raising Awareness Around the Five Recent Training Deaths

Our Trust Executive, Major Paul Dunbavin OAM (retired), alongside the partners of the men we lost in the MRH-90 crash last year — Caitland, the wife of Captain Daniel Lyon, and Sarah, the partner of Corporal Alexander Naggs — featured on 9News.

The interview allowed us to raise awareness around the dangers our current serving members face, while also speaking about the work the Commando Welfare Trust does to provide long-term financial support to the Special Forces community. 

ANZAC Day Statement

The brave soldiers we have lost over the past 12 months from left, Captain Daniel Lyon, Corporal Alexander Naggs, Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent, Warrant Officer Class Two Joseph Laycock, and Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon.
On ANZAC Day we spoke about the importance of recognising the sacrifices made by those who have served Australia and New Zealand’s military. One of the under-represented elements of ANZAC Day is celebrating current members and our veterans who have served over the past 50 years.
Australia’s strategic environment is at its most uncertain point since World War Two. This is based on strategic competition, the war in Ukraine, attacks in the Red Sea, the war in Gaza, and the ongoing extremist threat domestically. This requires the Australian Defence to maintain the highest level of training for all possible contingencies.

There have been five training deaths over the past 12 months experienced in the Special Operations Commands (SOCOMD) since July 2023, showing the real dangers our Officers and soldiers face even in times of no conflict.

We lost Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon from the 2nd Commando Regiment and members from the 6th Aviation Regime; Captain Daniel Lyon, Corporal Alexander Naggs, Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent and Warrant Officer Class Two Joseph Laycock.

We pay our respects to these courageous men who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country; leaving behind devastated family members, friends and fellow soldiers who have lost a father, husband, son, and mate. 

The Commando Welfare Trust remains committed to providing these families with long-term financial support to alleviate the stress of living without a partner or a father.

Remembering Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon

Tragedy struck the Special Operations Command, as we mourned the loss of Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon from the 2nd Commando Regiment.

On the 7th March 2024, we lost Jack in a parachute accident while he was serving our country.

Jack’s Dad, the Honourable Joel Fitzgibbon, will be running in City2Surf this year to honour his son.

The funds raised will be donated to the Commando Welfare Trust — click the button below to donate.

We admire the strength of the Fitzgibbon family and are thankful for their ongoing support of the SOCOMD community.

Summer Cocktail Party Was A Success

Former defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, who lost his son Jack earlier this year in a training accident and CWT Chairman Mark Smethhurst.
Thank you to all those who came to the Summer Cocktail Party on Saturday, 23rd March, at Sydney’s historic Victoria Barracks.

It was a very special night as we remembered the five soldiers we had lost over the past year and heard speeches from our beneficiaries. 

Sponsored SOCOMD East Family Day

The Command Welfare Trust sponsored the SOCOMD East Family Day, an important event to develop & enhance support networks, increase awareness of support programs/agencies available to Defence families, and acknowledge the critical role families play in maintaining a deployable force.

The Day provided us with an opportunity to directly engage with serving members and their families, allowing us to inform them of the support services we provide them. 

Outlook for 2024

As we close out the first half of 2024, we will continue to build our public presence to increase fundraising to allow us to meet the needs of our rapidly growing base of beneficiaries.

If you know of any areas where there are shortfalls in our Special Forces community or have any ideas on how we can serve them, please reach out to us. We welcome any assistance you can offer in our mission to provide essential support to those who have devoted their lives to serving our country.

Alternatively, if you require support, or know someone who does, please contact us or pass this message on to them.

Please forward this email to your friends and family so we can expand our network, which will enhance our ability to support the Australian Special Forces community even further.

In closing, we are committed to providing ongoing support to the 47 families and stand prepared to support others as needed. Our goal is to ensure that no one is left without assistance during their time of need, SOF for Life.
Mark Smethurst DSC, AM,
The Commando Welfare Trust