Melissa's positive new direction

COMPETING: Melissa Roberts is set to be selected in Australia's team for the Unvictus Games.

COMPETING: Melissa Roberts is set to be selected in Australia's team for the Unvictus Games.

MELISSA Roberts is looking ahead.

Looking forward to a new career direction, a better health outlook - and the anticipation of representing Australia in the sporting arena.

Her change of direction is a result of necessity, but she regards it as the start of new horizons.

One of those horizons will be confirmed today when the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Dan Tehan announces the 43-member Australian team for the next Invictus Games, in Toronto, Canada, from September 23 to 30.

The 2017 Invictus Games will bring together over 550 athletes from 17 nations, who have become wounded, injured or ill during their military service, in a celebration of tenacity and courage.

The former Cohuna resident is set to compete in swimming, 1500 metres running, discus, shot put and indoor rowing events.

The lead-up to today's team announcement was meeting the Invictus Games founder, Prince Harry, during a recent training camp in Sydney. 

Her role as a Royal Australian Air Force firefighter effectively ended on June 24, 2013, just after leaving work at RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory when she was critically injured in a collision with a tree after swerving in her car to miss a wandering wallaby.

Leading Aircraft Woman Roberts suffered severe head injuries in the collision and remained in a coma for 28 days before her long road to recovery began, involving months of rehabilitation and three years of reconstructive facial surgery.

Her injuries prevented her from resuming as a firefighter, so she has embarked on a teaching career.

Her final classroom placement before gaining her qualifications will end this week at her former high school, Cohuna Secondary College, where she is working alongside some of her former teachers.

Qualification as a teacher will lead to further studies before Melissa seeks an adult teaching role within the RAAF.

Training for the Invictus Games selection has been enormously positive.

"Competing for Australia will be a dream come true," she said.

"I was a strong swimmer and runner at school and I always dreamed of doing it for Australia."

Melissa and her mother, Lesley, a nurse, received a private audience with Prince Harry during the launch for next year's Invictus Games in Sydney.

"I was a bit surreal," she said.

"He is so down to earth and he talks with such passion, something that's obviously close to his heart.

"After serving in Afghanistan and seeing people in coffins and comas, it drove him to launch Invictus, which means 'undefeated'".

Ms Roberts said that she can look back and wish that her accident had never occurred, but it has given her new opportunities.

Her family have been supportive from the start. Her father Brian, a shire employee, is a former RAAF firefighter and now a RAAF Reserve warrant officer and her brother, James, is an RAAF aircraft technician.

Her rock throughout has been her fiancee, Ryan, whom she will marry next year.

She had not heard of Invictus until recently, but has found it a very positive experience. 

"It's helped me, to be honest, embrace my injury. I had accepted it, but not I feel I have embraced the new me.

"Previously I struggled to embrace the new me like I do now.

"I used to think I was useless, but my family, friends, workmates never gave up on me. I feel now that I am who I am and I am undefeated.

"It (being involved in Invictus) has really helped. There's a lot of people worse off than me. There's no judgement, because everyone understands.

"It's very inclusive, a very positive environment."

Ms Roberts believes that sport empowers people by bringing them together.

She is looking forward with anticipation to the new direction in her life, starting with the Invictus Games.

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