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ABC News: - 24 May 2017

The besieged New South Wales branch of the RSL has a new president after Malcolm Turnbull's son-in-law, James Brown, was elected to replace John Haines.

Today's election came after months of allegations of financial misconduct at the top of the organisation.

Mr Brown, 36, is an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran.

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"I'm very humbled to be chosen by the membership today. There's a clear desire amongst the membership — 38,000 members, 360 sub-branches — to have younger branches contributing," he told Lateline.

The New South Wales Government and the RSL's national branch had called for the existing council, including Mr Haines, to stand down while investigations are carried out.

Despite that, the council ran again for election today and five existing councillors were re-elected, along with several younger veterans. 

In March, NSW Minister for Veteran's Affairs David Elliott called for senior members of the NSW RSL not to take part in any official Anzac Day duties.

However, Mr Haines defied that request and laid a wreath during the dawn service at Martin Place.

Police, the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission, NSW Fair Trading and Attorney-General's departments are investigating the NSW branch over claims of fraud, misappropriation of funds, profiteering and cover-up, in some cases going back a decade.

New boss to push for diversity

Mr Brown was elected overwhelmingly 138 votes to 102.
"We've seen today a number of young veterans being elected — we've also seen a woman elected to the state council for the first time in
quite a while," Mr Brown told Lateline.

Former Commando Mick Bainbridge was elected to the board at the age of 32.
"The average age of the RSL membership in NSW is 69 — the membership of the State Council has been older than that," Mr Brown said.
"The new State Council is going to have a good mix of experience and energy."

Mr Brown is the fourth state president in three years and some would ask why he wants the job.
"It's important. I think I'm going to be spending a bit of time in the coming months getting up to speed on what the organisation's been doing and the extent of our problems," he said.

"This is a 100-year-old organisation ... No-one can do what we do. No organisation has the reach, the goodwill and the thousands of volunteers that we have."

The new president is going to have to get to the bottom of where the RSL's money has been spent.

The State Congress has not been presented with annual audited financial accounts. Mr Brown has promised transparency will be the order of the day as will be diversity.

"Traditionally we've had an image as a boys' club. We've got to make sure there are no barriers to anyone joining our organisation," he said.

See the ABC Lateline interview here starting at the 16th minute

SMH ARTICLE - Australian veterans joining forces in the fight against military suicide

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This SMH article by David Wroe 13 May 2017 is a must read coverage of the fight against military suicide

......"Amid soaring concern about veteran suicide and rising dissatisfaction and criticism – some of it fair, some likely less so – of the Department of Veterans Affairs, thriving communities of veterans are self-organising online."

"As the government and the military community searches for ways to reduce the rate of military suicides – which is up to double the rate of the community average in the case of younger veterans – there are calls for better co-ordination among veterans groups and also between them and the government." .......


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The Age Newspaper article 13 May 2017 by David Wroe

....."When we send people to war, we ask a select group of mostly young Australians to prepare themselves to kill or die to defend the nation. That is at the heart of the challenge of military mental health and suicide. The sense of responsibility, the comradeship, the tough internal culture, the mental preparedness, not to mention the experience of combat, can have lasting effects.

A groundswell of concern is being fuelled by revelations that the suicide rate among veterans aged 18 to 24 is double that of their peers in the general community. Among those aged 25 to 29 it is 1.5 times the national average for their age. Those figures, from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare from November, are based on a tally of 292 certified suicides between 2001 and 2014. This total is regarded as conservative by most veterans groups, some of which counted between 70 and 80 military suicides last year alone."

"For every suicide there are many more veterans of the Afghanistan, Iraq and East Timor era who have plumbed the depths but managed somehow to climb out of the hole and often gone on to form their own groups to help others. Invariably they describe moments that were, in retrospect, turning points but at the time could have gone the other way."

Read the full article here

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Tehan Media Release - 2016 Client Satisfaction Survey results support client centric reform

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Dan Tehan

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan said the $166.6 million provided in this year’s Budget to implement the first stage of modernising the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ (DVA) processes and IT system would improve client satisfaction with DVA as results of the 2016 Client Satisfaction Survey were released today.

The 2016 Client Satisfaction Survey of more than 3,000 randomly selected DVA clients, including veterans, war widows/ers, carers and dependants, found an overall satisfaction rating with DVA services of 83%.

(ED. See the 2016 Executive Summary here. Note: For Historical comparison the 2014 results for overall satisfaction (89%) were marginally below the ratings recorded in the 2010 (93%) and 2008 (92%) surveys.comparison. The 2014 Survey results can be seen here)

Mr Tehan said the survey had found DVA needed to continue addressing the specific needs and concerns of younger veterans, especially during their transition from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to civilian life.

“The Government is committed to improving the DVA claims process for veterans and making the transition to civilian life for ADF personnel as stress-free as possible,” Mr Tehan said.
“That’s why in this year’s Budget the Government provided $166.6 million to deliver better support and services for veterans, underpinned by digital access, streamlined processes and modern technology.
“We also provided $2.7 million to support the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program that will help ADF personnel find post-service employment that utilises their unique talents.”
Results from the 2016 survey are available on the DVA website here

Media enquiries:

Minister Tehan’s Office: Byron Vale, 0428 262 894
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 45 46). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.

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