26 October 2018

Cosgrove wants spotlight to remain on service personnel

Sir Peter Cosgrove
Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove speaking at the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 Opening Ceremony at the Sydney Opera House on 20 October.

Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove has urged Australians not to “turn off the light” that has shone on the plight of servicemen and women thanks to the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 presented by Jaguar Land Rover.

Camaraderie and empathy has underpinned the success of the event, both on and off the field, with the nation captivated by the courage and stories of the 500 competitors from 18 nations.

The close of the Games is fast approaching, with the final medals to be decided in wheelchair basketball on Saturday, before the closing ceremony to be attended by its founder, the Duke of Sussex.

Praising the event as “a brilliant concept”, the Governor-General said we must all commit to supporting the people whose lives are impacted while serving their country.

“When the Games are over, we will have rich memories,” he said.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that we must continue to promote ways of rehabilitating people who have served their nation and as a result have in some way been damaged.

“We must continue to think about their quality of life and their support going forward. This event shines a light; let’s not turn off that light.”

The Governor-General, who along with Lady Cosgrove, was among the packed stands at the athletics, believes the legacy of the event is a greater awareness of the importance of rehabilitation and recovery for military personnel.

Thousands of school children have been among the throngs of sports fan who have embraced the Games with unbridled enthusiasm cheering on not only Australians, but competitors from all over the world.

Mateship has been more obvious than injury, both physical and mental, as the sports playing field became what many competitors described as their “safe place”.

“I don’t imagine in Australia there has been as stark a depiction of the nature of service and its impacts for a long time,” the Governor-General said.

“To see 500 competitors here because there is a disability attached to their service; some of it is quite stark.

“There was a young man in the 1500m race today with two high-level amputations of the leg on full blades; he led for two laps and finished credibly within the field.

“We see that and say ‘Wonderful’, but I think we all need to say, ‘How would I go if I was carrying that sort of disability for the rest of my life?’

“The Games have had a very therapeutic effect on the wider Australian people and the international audience. We’ve turned the light on – let’s not turn the light off."

“There are some people whose situation doesn’t allow them to participate in sports…let’s not forget them, and find ways to get them out and brought back into greater society where people will see, appreciate and support.”

Sir Peter Cosgrove

The Governor-General praised the Games as “outstanding” highlighting the commitment made by competitors, coaches, family and friends, organisers and volunteers.

“What I have particularly seen as wonderful is the response of the crowd – supporters, school kids, the loved ones and officials – all connecting with the competitors,” he said.

“The competitors have been wholehearted, very sporting, amazingly competitive, they are giving their all and it’s done in that perfect spirit of sport.

“There are gold medals but there’s no national anthems, because it is not one nation verses another; it is all nations combined with competitors enjoying affection and respect for each other.”

The Invictus spirit of unconquered; the openness and honesty from the Duke of Sussex about the impact of military service and previously unmentioned issues like mental health, has resonated highly among the Australia people.

“I’ve always been proud of Australians,” the Governor-General said.

“You can zoom in on particular examples this is one, Australian crowds are a group of people who are energetic, focused and hard to attract, but this has caught their imagination.

“We are put in awe of the courage, energy and determination of these competitors.”

Catriona Dixon
Invictus Games Sydney 2018