How you help Curtis the Paralympian

The Combat Engineer who went on to win 3 Paralympic Golds

Updated 11 Feb 2024 (first published Feb 2024)

Meet Curtis McGrath, who is our dedicated hero for VIP Heroes Draw 9. Curtis is a Paralympian with 3 gold medals in para-canoe, and an Australian Army veteran, serving his country for 11 years. In 2012, he was critically injured by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) while deployed in Afghanistan as a Combat Engineer. He tragically lost both his legs in that horrific blast, a moment that changed his life forever.

I don’t remember the blast. I remember opening my eyes on the flat of my back and there was dirt and rocks falling around me. I got on my elbows and could see the blast crater and that my legs were missing.

A service with camaraderie and mateship

Born in New Zealand as a dual-citizen, Curtis moved to Australia straight after finishing school at the age of 18, looking for adventure. He joined the Australian Defence Force in 2006 as a Combat Engineer in Brisbane. He was deployed to Timor-Leste in 2008 on a humanitarian mission for eight months and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 in the Second Combat Engineer regiment. He was medically discharged in 2017.

“One of the great things I enjoyed about my service was the camaraderie and the mateship. I had really great friends that helped motivate me to get the job done”.

On the 23rd of August 2012, three months into his deployment in Afghanistan, he was on a routine patrol to implement a checkpoint. He stepped right onto an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that detonated beneath him. He lost both of his legs in the blast.

“The feelings then were quite intense, I was obviously in a great lot of pain. I was quite an active and fit person before and I thought that I had lost that. I didn’t quite know how my life would be affected from it, but I understood it would be a huge change. A little bit of feeling of helplessness because I was not able to contribute to the deployment and be part of my brick that I was currently part of.”

A focus on the positive things Curtis could do

After his injury, Curtis could no longer continue his deployment. He started to feel isolated without the construct of the military and the camaraderie he was used to. Not only could he not continue his work as a Combat Engineer, he had to rethink many aspects of his everyday life.

“The injury itself impacted me in a number of different ways. Coming to terms with being a disabled person now that requires prosthetics. Getting around I require driving modifications, I use a wheelchair at home, so I need an accessible home. Those are the things people don’t think about but are an everyday situation that you must learn to manage. That can be a very frustrating part of it.”

With the support of the Defence Force, RSL Queensland and his friends and family, Curtis was able to overcome the tragedy by keeping his focus on the positive things he was able to do. That guided him to sports and particularly into kayaking, which became part of his recovery and rehabilitation. Having the opportunity to do active things kept him focused, healthy and happy.

Finding help from new mates

“The services that aided me in my transition was the Mates4Mates organisation. They have been a good part of my rehabilitation. They came and visited me in hospital and told me of the services they provide, such as mental health services, equine therapy and family rehabilitation centres. Having the opportunity to be able to connect with other injured servicemen and women was quite comforting and know that I could go there and have a chat about the issues I was having.”

In 2013, just one year after his injury, Curtis and his father participated in a long 980km adventure kayak from Sydney to Brisbane to raise funds for Mates4Mates and raise awareness of the services they provide. The trip took three weeks and involved other injured veterans.

“RSL Queensland has supported me during my transition by way of an advocate to help me with my DVA (Department of Veteran Affairs) claims and making sure I was not missing out on any entitlements.”

The support that RSL Queensland provides is very comforting to know that there is an organisation that has helped so many veterans and families in the past and has a great understanding of all the services that are provided.

“RSL Queensland has taken people through that process a number of times. It’s great to know that they’re there and always willing to help.”

Becoming a Paralympic Hero

Curtis enjoyed kayaking in high school, after his injury this inspired him to pursue the sport in a professional capacity. The help of his strong support network, his partner Rachel and his family, have pushed him along to achieve his goals to become a kayaking Paralympian.

“Within the military, we get given a task and as a collective, we go out as a section or brick, support each other and complete that task. When I left, I found there was a lot of similarities between military and sport. We’re trying to come together, support the athlete and win the race.”

Curtis won Australia’s first gold medal in para-canoe at the 2016 Rio Games, just 4 years after his injury. He backed this up at the 2020 Tokyo Games and made history by becoming the first para-canoe athlete to win two gold medals at a Paralympics.

I would like to thank the supporters of the RSL Art Union because your contribution funds services, such as Mates4Mates, to help veterans like me.

How your support changes lives

Our regular supporters are so important for RSL Queensland to provide much-needed help to veterans and families. The money raised helps deliver a range of impactful services and programs to help in real and meaningful ways. In 2023, 20% more veterans and families were supported by RSL Queensland’s services than the previous year, including:


veterans and families supported by RSL Queensland’s services.


claims and appeals submitted to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.


jobs found for veterans and their partners.


veterans and families housed in safe, permanent accommodation.

Frequently asked questions

How your support helps
What does my contribution to RSL Art Union go towards? 

Funds raised through RSL Art Union allows RSL Queensland to provide practical support, assistance, advice and camaraderie to current and former Australian Defence Force members and their families across Queensland and nationally.

RSL Queensland’s mission is to provide care, commemoration and camaraderie to enable veterans and families to live with dignity and respect.

For example, in 2023, RSL Queensland supported 8,411 veterans and their families with their services, found jobs for 285 veterans and their partners, and helped 202 individuals into safe, permanent housing.

You can read about our services and stories at

How can I get assistance from RSL Queensland?

Life always has its ups and downs. But as a veteran, or the partner of a veteran, you don’t have to face them on your own.

Whether you're looking for employment, scholarships, wellness programs, or assistance with DVA claims, RSL Queensland has free programs, and people at the ready, to help you achieve your life goals.

To learn more and get assistance, visit or call 134 RSL.

Our Prizes
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Every year we bring you 10 multi-million dollar properties, some with added gold bullion or even luxury cars. Get a sneak peak at future prizes with up to 5 games available for purchase or pre-order at any time. See the VIP Calendar for more on prize draw dates.

What are the VIP Heroes Draws?

In addition to our 10 prize home draws each year, VIP Club members have exclusive entry in two VIP-only Heroes Draws worth millions in gold bullion (subject to State/Territory Licensing approval). In other words, you must be a VIP Club member to be able to purchase these tickets. See the VIP Calendar for more on prize draw dates. Or find out about how you can become a VIP here from $5 a ticket.

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What is the Bonus Gold prize?

If you purchase a ticket book worth $10 or more in one of our 8 prize home draws, or a ticket book worth $30 or more in one of our 2 Golden Treasure prize home draws, you're eligible to win a Bonus Gold prize!

Ranging between $10,000 and $100,000 in gold bullion, the Bonus Gold prize is awarded to the first prize winner and determined by the value of their ticket book purchase.

For more information, please see the Terms and Conditions.

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Please note that selling costs and market variations apply when selling gold bullion.

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After each draw, we attempt to contact the winner by phone as the priority. The winning ticket number will also be posted on our Winners page, Facebook and Instagram shortly after the draw.

See our latest winner stories.

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For the latest draw updates, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

If you're signed up for our emails, we'll email you on the open day of each draw, giving you all the draw details and the chance to order tickets.

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The transfer of all our lottery prizes to prize winners is not taxable for the prize winner. There may be tax consequences for the prize winner for the ongoing use or sale of the prize. More detailed information can be found via the Australian Taxation Office.

Please note RSL Queensland is not able to provide financial or taxation advice. We advise all our prize winners to seek professional financial and tax advice to fully understand any implications.

Where are the draws held?

RSL Art Union draws are held at ANZAC House, 283 St Pauls Terrace, Fortitude Valley, QLD 4006 or as specified in the Terms and Conditions for each draw. Draw results will be published online, on Facebook and Instagram.

Are all of your prize homes new?

The majority of RSL Art Union prize homes are built brand new, while some are existing homes, expertly renovated. In both instances, RSL Queensland works closely with our accredited partners in the building industry to ensure the highest quality of standards is maintained.

Are your prize homes open for viewing?

Due to the often residential location and popularity of our prize homes, RSL Art Union has not been permitted by regional councils to conduct open homes because of the disruption to the local community.

Our prize homes might be closed to public viewing, but you can explore them in just as much detail online, any time you like! Visit our Prize page to access draw brochures, photos, videos, floor plans and virtual tours. All addresses are listed on our prize pages, so why not take a drive past and explore the neighbourhood. RSL Art Union will continue to assess opportunities to re-open prize homes to the public into the future.

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