DFWA continues to pursue a number of major issues that resonate with the members and the broader veteran community. These include:
The Tragedy of Veteran Suicide
On 5 February 2020 the Prime Minister announced the appointment of:
- National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention. This appointment is like that of the Repatriation Commissioner; will be independent of government and DVA; initially positioned in the PMs Department then the Attorney Generals. Pending legislation an interim appointment is to be made with the initial task of reviewing the 400 veteran suicides that have occurred since 2001. It is timely to remember that this appointment is permanent, it is enduring whereas a Royal Commission is a ‘point in time’. The Commissioner will be required to make an Annual Report to Parliament.
- Family Advocate. The position will be tasked to work closely with DVA and Defence Families Australia and where appropriate with the Commissioner for Veteran Suicide.
Productivity Commission Report
The Productivity Commission Report into the system of Compensation and Rehabilitation for Veterans – A Better Way to Support Veteran. This Report was tabled in Parliament on 4 July 2019. DFWA made a comprehensive submission to this inquiry. However, eight plus months later nothing has been heard from Government except ‘wait for the budget’. I do not consider this to be an appropriate manner to treat a major ESO that seeks to work positively with Government.
Ombudsman’s Inquiry into the DFRDB Scheme.
We are yet to see a final response from Government is also yet to surface with DFRDB recipients fearful that it may consider apologies by the Defence Secretary and the CDF, and from the CEO of CSC, as sufficient to salve veterans’ anger. The continuing use of 1962 Life Tables is a travesty that has meant that those DFRDB members who had commuted has meant that these same members continue to repay the commuted portion well beyond their life date as per the Life tables. An injustice that an Apology just does not cut it.
The Defence Force Welfare Association advocates for issues affecting current and former members of the Australian Defence Force, including: health and wellbeing, compensation schemes, superannuation and retirement benefits, and Defence Force remuneration and pay cases
Please consider donating to the Association. Your donations will enable this important policy advocacy on behalf of current and former members of the Australian Defence Force, as well as their families.
Ex-Service Organisation Round Table
The ESORT held on 27 February 2020 was a predictable meeting. Anticipated, as the tom, toms from Canberra told us all that no major announcements were in the offering. It is not an election year, the whole of government preoccupation with the the bushfires, and the developing coronavirus issue has focused government in other directions. Yes, it is easy to say, but surely ‘they can chew gum’ at the same time but the reality is that sometimes we have to constantly work behind the scenes and be smarter politically.
Significant issues at ESORT were:
- Strategic Update. The Secretary, Liz Cosson’s, asked the question, “Are we making a difference- having an impact?” Answering her own question, she acknowledged that, “We are not there yet!”. She advised that
- DVA needs a louder voice as the negatives often drown out the positives.
- The ESO voice needs to be heard if it is to make a difference. I will be writing about this issue in the near future.
- We are nearing the end of 20 years of ADF operational deployments and this is reflected in the increased number of claims – a 126% increase.
- With the issuing of the White Card to discharging veterans with accepted condition, 3 to 4 conditions has become 5 or 6 conditions.
- The increase in the workload has meant an increase in staff to assess the claims. These are invariably ‘consultants’ and short term as they then get permanent employment, and not always with DVA.
- ADF Presentation. Women’s Health. the increasing number of female members of the ADF it has been identified that issues peculiar to them must be identified, just as has occurred to male veterans.
- Military Employment Classification Review. Maj Gen Natasha Fox addressed this ongoing review with an update to be provided at the next ESORT.
- SRDP Compensation Option on MRCA Claims. TPI Federation.
- Welfare and Mental Health. DFWA.
- Hearing devices. An ongoing issue.
- ADF Firefighters Exposure to Toxic Chemicals – Air Force Associations talked the meeting through this challenging issue. DVA has picked up the issue immediately as it affects a large number of veterans across the three services.
- Consumer Directed Care. The NDIS and what work DVA is currently undertaking in the space. There is a developing interaction between the two government departments.
- The War Widows Guild. Presentation on:
- Lemnos Commemoration Site Update.
- Partner Service Pension.
- Project Update on Digitisation and Letters.
- TPI Federation. Presentation on:
- Pharmaceutical Allowance without accepted condition.
- White Card Pharmaceutical Allowance, and
- Thematic Review on Hearing Legislation.
- Defence Reserves Association. Presentation on DVA access to PMKEYS.
- ASASA. Presentation on BEST Grants.
- Mind Medicine Australian. This presentation by Mind Medicine Australia on what is describes as ‘a major paradigm-shifting opportunity in the treatment of mental illness, including PTSD’. The presentation had been approved by the Secretary who considered that ESORT members should gain an insight into the research being undertaking in the psychedelic medicines field. Further information is available on their web site: https://mindmedicineaustralia.org/
When the Minutes of the ESORT are available we will advise. Further and more detailed information will be available at that time.
Veterans at University Symposium
DFWA South Australia
The National President attended a Symposium at Flinders University SA organised by A/Prof Ben Wadham (a Veteran) on Higher Education opportunities for veterans in transition and was led by Brisbane based convenor Robert Lippiatt, Chairman of the Australasian Services Care Network – NZ (ASCN NZ) International Webinar and Working Roundtable Program on Military, Veterans and Family Wellbeing.
The link between flinders University and DFWA SA has been promoted by Branch President Lee Bowes and his committee. Great work on their part. More to follow on this initiative.
The Unique Nature of Military Service
With the passing of the Military Covenant into law in late 2019, many people still don’t realise why military service is unique. Military service may have some similarities to other occupations or employment, but when you look at military service as a whole, it really is unique. Here are just a few examples as to why:
- ADF members may be ordered to kill other human beings, either personally, or indirectly by ordering or enabling other ADF members to do so.
- ADF members may be ordered to do things that may result in them being killed or severely wounded, or to order or enable other ADF members to do those things.
- ADF members may be subject to severe penalties, including imprisonment, for not following those orders. There are also penalties for other infringements such as being late or using insulting language.
- ADF members are not employees so do not have the same employment protections as the rest of society. They may not join a union and are unable to negotiate pay and conditions.
- The training ADF members undertake is designed to instil an instinctive obedience and to prioritise the team over individual needs. These instincts become ingrained, part of their personality—part of who they are as people.
If you are talking to people about the military, or writing to your parliamentarian about veteran issues, you can remind them that military service is fundamentally unique: the reciprocal obligation placed on the State—to veterans—is as inescapable as it is enduring.