Recharging in the heart of nature

22 February 2024
  • Mateship
  • Veteran stories
  • Health & wellbeing

Central Queensland’s Cockscomb Veterans Bush Retreat is giving military and emergency services veterans a chance to escape the buzz of everyday life.

We spoke with Rockhampton-based Vietnam veteran and Cockscomb Treasurer Nick Quigley OAM about the retreat. 

Nick Quigley OAM

Nick Quigley OAM

The Cockscomb origin story 

The idea to set up a dedicated veterans’ camp in Central Queensland was first conceived in 1997. Cockscomb Veterans Bush Retreat was ultimately born from the partnership between a group of Vietnam veterans and the late Bruce Acutt, a Rockhampton-based psychologist who treated veterans for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

“Veterans wanted a quiet place to go out of town where there were no streetlights, no cars and no people,” Nick explains.  

“Bruce had a 60-acre property in Cawarral named Cockscomb, which was ideal; all you could hear was birds tweeting in the bushes. Night-time was pitch black, like the rubber plantations in Vietnam.” 

Cockscomb Veterans Bush Retreat

From there, the camp was registered and team members worked thousands of hours to bring the vision to life. Many supporters helped with the build, including the RSL Central Queensland (formerly Pioneer-Fitzroy-Highlands) District, which provided water tanks for the property. 

As his personal circumstances changed, Bruce eventually decided to survey off one hectare of his land to bequeath to the veterans and emergency services personnel he dedicated his career to helping.  

“The members of Cockscomb Veterans Bush Retreat – about 800 veterans and emergency services members – now own this plot of land,” Nick says. 

A haven for healing 

In 2015, the retreat was devastated by Cyclone Marcia. Forty trees fell, buildings were flattened and rubbish was strewn across the property. Despite the destruction, help was quick to arrive. 

“There must have been 100 people that came from around the community – the police, the fire brigade, the SES – to give us a hand. We were then able to look at what needed to be resurrected and since then, it’s just been getting better every day,” Nick says. 

Cockscomb Veterans Bush Retreat

As of today, hundreds of veterans from across Australia and the world have made the trip to recharge at Cockscomb Veterans Bush Retreat. 

“People think it’s an amazing place to go. When they drive up the road, they don’t expect to come across a village in the bush, but that’s exactly what Cockscomb is,” Nick says. 

Cockscomb offers all the comforts of modern life: internet and mobile phone reception, hot showers, solar electricity with a bank of batteries, kitchen facilities, two four-bed houses and one five-room donga. 
Perhaps most importantly, Cockscomb also provides a safe space for veterans doing it tough. Emu Park RSL Sub Branch and Legacy have visited to offer support services, and dedicated healthcare is just a phone call away.  

Cockscomb Veterans Bush Retreat

“We've had a few veterans come in with major PTSD problems, so we watch them and make sure that they are safe and okay. We also have facilities where we can ring up one of the psychologists in town and get them some help.” 

Peace and quiet 

For veterans who are on the fence about taking some time off to recharge, Nick shares his personal experience as a guest of the retreat. 

“Cockscomb is a restful place. A beautiful breeze comes in from Yeppoon, through a gap in the mountain and with all those trees around, there's lots of oxygen and you really do feel relaxed,” he explains. 

“I first went to Cockscomb in 1999. I was working and didn’t have many days to take off, so I went one day just to have a look, but I ended up staying. 

“I sat in an armchair when I arrived and looked at the mountain. It was so peaceful that I slept from nine o’clock in the morning to five o’clock in the afternoon.” 


Learn More

Rest and relaxation are vital for veterans’ health and wellbeing. Learn more about Cockscomb Veterans Bush Retreat