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Annual Report 2013-14

Feature articles

The Long Way Home: rehabilitation through the arts

Photograph of the audience looking towards the stage for the play The Long Way Home.

Photo: Sergeant Rob Hack

In an innovative performing arts initiative, Defence partnered with the Sydney Theatre Company to produce The Long Way Home, a play focusing on experiences of war.

Men and women from the ADF worked with the Sydney Theatre Company, sharing their personal stories with Australian playwright Daniel Keene. They participated in acting and movement workshops and were mentored by some of Australia’s finest theatrical talent. The Long Way Home portrayed the reality of conflict and the fear and disillusionment that some ADF members face on their return home from operations, including the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The project is one of the many ways Defence is addressing military mental health and highlighting the efforts that are being undertaken to reduce the stigma that still exists around mental health in Australia.

One of the project’s aims was to assist with the rehabilitation and recovery of ADF members who had been wounded or injured, or become ill in service. It also provided insight into the sacrifices made by ADF members and gave the Australian community an opportunity to understand the impact a decade of operations can have on the ADF.

Former Chief of the Defence Force General David Hurley said the play provided a unique opportunity to tell an important story.

The Long Way Home offered an important insight into the war experiences of a group of servicemen and women who have had the courage to share their stories with us’, he said.

‘It’s a very human story. It’s the Australian Defence Force’s story and it’s an important one to tell.’

Brigadier Alison Creagh, Director General ADF Theatre Project, said that there was a long-held tradition of men and women of the Navy, Army and Air Force doing remarkable things on behalf of Australia.

‘It has been my great privilege to lead a remarkable group of men and women from the ADF who have upheld this tradition and have shown great courage’, she said.

‘Their goal has been to help others, make a difference and share their experiences, and they have excelled.’

The production opened in Sydney in February 2014 and was presented in eight major cities across the nation as part of the official Centenary of Anzac program. It was performed for more than 30,000 people over 40 performances. There were standing ovations and close to sell-out performances throughout the tour.

A significant outcome of the project has been a marked improvement in the confidence and self-esteem of the ADF participants, placing them in a much stronger position to deal with their own transition. The Long Way Home has also helped further the important conversation on military mental health, and is one of the many ways the ADF is addressing the issue of veterans’ mental and physical health. This is an important focus for Defence after a decade of high operational tempo.

Defence and the Sydney Theatre Company raised funds through corporate donations and sponsorship to help deliver The Long Way Home. The project was supported by many areas within the Department of Defence as well as the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Photograph of a scene from the stage production of The Long Way Home. There are two armed soldiers in the background while in the foreground a man bends over a vacuum cleaner as a concerned woman wearing a dressing gown looks on.

Corporal Tim Loch as Tom and Odile Le Clezio as Beth
Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Photograph of a scene from the stage production of The Long Way Home. A man lies in a hospital bed and a doctor holding a clipboard stands next to the bed.

Brigadier Wayne Goodman as Dr Cutter and
Lance Corporal Gary Wilson as Zac
Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Photograph of a scene from the stage production of The Long Way Home. A man in pyjamas stands in a darkened garden while the silhouette of soldier looks on.

Corporal Tim Loch as Tom
Photo: Lisa Tomasetti