Creating community of care for young veterans

New Cumberland Sub-branch President Matt Jones is also an award-winning conceptual artist.

NEW Cumberland Sub-branch President Matt Jones has come a long way from his days of being homeless in Sydney, camping on friends’ couches and sleeping on trains.


Matt Jones with young friends during his career working as an Army Major and serving in East Timor.

The former Army Major who served in East Timor, is now an accomplished artist winning the Cumberland Art Prize and was a finalist in the Gallipoli Art Prize at Merrylands as well as is winning the 2020 Napier Waller Art Prize – a national competition for veterans – for his work ‘Yarn’.
During his 20-year career with the ADF, the Homebush West resident was not short of adventures but now pours his energy into raising awareness and support for returned veterans.
With a background in artillery, Matt, 55, and ‘conversational’ in Korean, Chinese and French, was a member of the Third Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) Parachute group, involving high-end strategic capability with the ADF and in partnerships with other countries.
“There were many stressful situations but working as an army intelligence officer gave me the opportunity to meet a diverse range of people; there have been rescue operations and I’ve jumped out of many airplanes,” he said.
In a way, though, that was the easy part as Matt struggled to adjust back home.
“To say it hasn’t been an easy journey after leaving the army would be an understatement,” he said.
“At one point, I found myself homeless. I was managing a fairly intricate game of smoke and mirrors, and sleeping on friends’ couches.”
He would sleep on the night train from Sydney’s Central Station to Hamilton near Newcastle or to the Blue Mountains, and would have a swim at Manly in the morning to wash, so that it would appear that he was maintaining some semblance of a “normal” life until the Sub-branch stepped in.
“They helped me find my feet and since then I’ve made close friends,” he said.
It was around this time that Matt found his voice through art and says the perception the RSL and Sub-branches are outdated is very wrong.
“While we respect our older members, we are creating pathways for younger members to benefit and invite all to join our veteran community to meet people with shared experience who genuinely care,” he said.
“Sub-branches in general are emulating what is happening at RSL NSW, offering new education, recreation and support opportunities for all generations of veterans, it’s a really exciting time.”