Current and former service members find community, support and understanding through the Military Brotherhood Motorcycle Club

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Nathan ‘Brick’ Darvill joined the Royal Australian Navy in 2000 and had a decorated 20-year career.

But he, like many others, felt lost after leaving the military.

“The military becomes something you do every day, you’re in routine, you have the same people around you, not much changes from day to day,” Mr Darvill said.

“When you leave the military, you have an empty space.”

But being part of the Military Brotherhood Motorcycle Club changed the feeling of loneliness into a feeling of acceptance and support.

The brotherhood is made up of serving and ex-serving members of the Australian Defense Force (ADF) and Commonwealth Forces, along with their families and friends.

It was formed in 2009 with only one sub-branch in Australia.

Today there are over 20 sub-branches across the country, with at least one in every state and territory. Canberra’s group has just over 20 members and counting.

A row of parked motorbikes outside a pub.
Members of the Military Brotherhood say the club gives them peer support.(ABC News: Emma Thompson)

Grahame ‘Thommo’ Thompson retired from the Royal Australian Air Force earlier this year after working as a flight engineer and reservist.

He said being part of the military brotherhood meant he was still with “like-minded people” who have “got the same stories”.

“A lot of them have been through the same good times and the same bad times,” Mr Thompson said.

“They can just come and talk about it and not worry about what they say or who’s going to condemn them for something they’ve done.”

The group in Canberra meets once a month and goes on tours of the city and its surroundings.

But recently the group traveled further afield to Tasmania where they met up with other sub-branches from Tasmania and Melbourne.

six people in motorcycle gear sit around a table and talk.
During their tours, they take a break to sit down and chat.(ABC News: Emma Thompson)

“It warms your heart to know that there are lots of other people who are fighting the same things that you are fighting,” Darvill said.

“It’s about that brotherhood.”

During each tour there is always time to stop, share a drink or a meal and catch up. For many of the members, this is the main reason why they joined the group.

“We have some members who have suffered a major blow to their mental health,” Mr Darvill said.

“Instead of going down a dark path, they’ve had the support of other members, which has enabled them to grow and learn from the things that trigger them.”

A man in motorcycle gear and a helmet sits on a motorcycle and gives two thumbs up.
Thai Charlie says support from the group has helped his mental health.(Delivered)

Thai Charlie joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 2001 and worked as a cook and translator throughout his career.

He said he battled a “major bout of depression” after leaving the military but was able to feel like he fit in after joining the motorcycle group.

Charlie said it was important to get “all the things I have in my chest” out.

After speaking to another member who shared the same problem, Mr Charlie said they were able to “help each other fight depression and also physical pain”.

Thompson said the group had also worked to support each other to find the right information or point someone in the direction of getting more help.

“Once you’re out of the military, it’s extremely difficult to get that path back to the information you need unless someone else has been through it,” he said.

Two men in motorcycle gear smile with one arm around each other.
Grahame Thompson (right) says the group supports each other to find help when they need it. (Delivered)

But the support the group offers goes beyond just the monthly rides.

“It can be as little as someone moving home, just getting together and helping them move home. Takes the stress away,” Mr Darvill said.

Thompson said a standout memory for him was being invited to serve as an honor guard for a former military member who died.

“We turned up for the funeral and his family were so grateful that there were people from the military there to see him off,” he said.

“It’s great to offer support to anyone I can.”

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