Veterans in Adelaide go around the buoy

Nathan Ross began his military career at the age of 20, serving as an Infantryman. Due to various injuries sustained throughout his career, he was discharged in 2016, but knew he wanted to use his experience to help others. Now a veteran and Community Peer Adviser with Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling, Nathan knows first-hand that getting active can have a positive impact on wellbeing.

With the easing of COVID restrictions in 2021, Nathan developed an initiative to get veterans together and get them active, establishing the Warrior Swim Project. Now known as the Henley Grange Swim Project, it provides an opportunity for veterans and family members to participate in Adelaide’s iconic Jetty to Jetty swim on 26 January.

The 2.2-kilometre swim in St Vincent Gulf is no easy task, and participants train over a number of months, combining sessions at local pools with early morning ocean swims at Henley Beach.

‘The Swim Project came about because we wanted to re-engage with the veteran community,’ says Nathan. ‘We pitched a few different ideas and settled on the iconic sporting event. Ultimately, we wanted to have local veterans and family members come together and connect, and to locate other veterans that we didn’t know about.’

The Jetty to Jetty swim has been running for more than a hundred years and is raced from the Henley Jetty to Grange Jetty in Adelaide, attracting around 300 swimmers yearly. Setting off in age groups, competitors dive from the Grange Jetty and swim to the Henley, in often challenging conditions.

‘This year, the weather was great and the water temp close to perfect,’ says Nathan. ‘However, swimmers were faced with strong wind, creating a lot of chop in the water.’

In just under an hour, the swimmers completed the journey, exhausted but filled with the sense of achievement and success.

The initiative has had a positive impact on Nathan too. ‘I’ve had to become more active and be disciplined with what I consume and how much I sleep. I’ve had to be an example of what recovery looks like and not just talk about it.’

The Henley Grange swim project is funded through DVA Community Grants, administered by the Henley Grange RSL and supported by the Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) Association. The project is a great example of organisations working with each other to support the wellbeing of veterans and their families.

‘The Henley Grange RSL Swim Project has been a real success and the project would not have happened without the support of Henley Grange RSL and DVA Adelaide,' says Nathan. 'We’re always looking for more swimmers, and next year we’re hoping for more veterans and family members to sign up.’

For ideas on how to get active in your community, head to the Open Arms website.

A group of people in swimming costumes stand in front of a blue and yellow gazebo.