Players from the Australian and Fijian men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams led a leadership session with participants and mentors from the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) Proud Warrior youth program last month.

Proud Warrior is led by the Australian Army’s 3rd Brigade in partnership with the Queensland Police Service, Department of Youth Justice and Child Safety, Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Australian Army Cadets and local Indigenous Elders.

During the session the rugby Olympians shared their stories of courage, identity and culture with the at-risk youth and participated in a number of military-style activities designed to teach teamwork, communication skills, resilience and courage.

Indigenous man and Aussie sevens player Dylan Pietsch led the yarning circle at the end of the session, where he shared the challenges he faced growing up disconnected from his Indigenous culture.

“It’s a story that is pretty common, which is crazy to think about,” Pietsch said.

“It was really special for me to be able to talk about that with [the Proud Warrior] mob because I know that some of them would be going through what I went through.”

“Just talking to them about what they’ve gone through in their lives and where they want to be, it provided good perspective on where I was at that age versus where they are at and what they are going through, it enlightened me a little bit.”

Major Matthew Daniell from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, who is the Proud Warrior officer-in-command, said showing the kids they had the courage to “have a crack” helped to break down barriers.

“It takes a lot of courage to stand up there and run at people who weigh 120 to 130 kilograms, and it takes a lot of courage for these kids to put their hand up and say they’ve got a problem at home or they’re struggling, or that they want to make a positive change in their life,” Major Daniell said.

“That ability to display that courage, whether it be moral or physical courage, really resounded and really built that mutual understanding between the kids and the players.”

Participants of the Proud Warrior Program take part in a game on Lavarack Barracks, QLD, 22 June 2021. Photo by CPL Brandon Grey.

The ADF reported 75 youth aged between 14 and 19 participated in the program’s trial held from October 2020 to March 2021, with a 71 per cent repeat attendance rate for participants following their first session.

In March this year, the 3rd Brigade was given approval to conduct Proud Warrior as a permanent program.

By Teisha Cloos