Perth charity Bravery Trust steps in to avoid pauper funeral for military veteran

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Kate Campbell, PerthNow Sunday Times
 July 23, 2017 

IT was a travesty narrowly avoided — an ex-soldier estranged from his family who had taken his own life almost ending up in a pauper’s grave because no one would pay for his funeral.

That was until Perth-based charity Bravery Trust stepped in to ensure this man — who had served his country, but like many others had returned home broken, damaged and fighting his own internal war — received a proper farewell.

They even bought replica medals for his teenage sons, which they proudly wore to his funeral and promised to wear on Anzac Day.

Even though it was not strictly in Bravery Trust’s charter, when chairman Peter Fitzpatrick heard about how the Government and 12 other military charities had declined to help, his first thought at the prospect of this veteran being buried in a cardboard box was: “Not on our watch.”

“How can you say someone is not in need if they’re going to be put in a pauper’s grave when they’ve served their country?” he said.

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Peter Fitzpatrick, chairman of Bravery Trust, a charity that gives urgent financial aid to veterans in crisis. Picture: Daniel Wilkins

Sadly, this man’s demise is not isolated and he’s one of dozens of veterans who have taken their own lives so far this year.

There have been 325 confirmed suicides of people with at least one day of service with the Australian Defence Force between 2001 and 2015.

Mr Fitzpatrick estimated that figure would be more than 400 by now — 10 times the number of soldiers killed in battle over the same period — and more than 40 suicides alone so far this year.

Bravery Trust was one of more than 400 organisations and people to make a submission to a Senate inquiry into suicide by veterans, which was prompted by an investigation by The Sunday Times one year ago. A report on its findings is due next month.

Bravery Trust, which started in Perth in 2012 and is lesser-known than other military charities such as the RSL and Legacy, is an urgent financial safety net for veterans and their families, helping them pay their mortgage or rent, utility bills, children’s school fees, health expenses and providing them with Coles food vouchers.

The charity spends about $100,000 a month — or more than $1.1 million last year — to help struggling families. On top of that, it provides education and training scholarships for veterans and their partners.

Mr Fitzpatrick said it was a sad truth that we seemed to be more focused on honouring the dead than supporting the living.

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Bravery Trust - Supporting those who Serve

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Fighting for your country is hard, but the fight afterwards can be even harder.

Bravery Trust provides urgently needed financial support to our veterans and their families, who are suffering as a result of their service. The physical and mental impact of service can be overwhelming for our brave families. Help give them the support they deserve.

They gave everything for Australia. Australia, it’s time to give back to them.

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Tehan Media Statement - JOINT COMMUNIQUE LONDON 2017 INTERNATIONAL MINISTERIAL (5-EYES) CONFERENCE ON VETERANS’ ISSUES

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On 19 and 20 July 2017, Ministers for Defence People and Veterans from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand meet at the International Ministerial Conference on Veterans’ Issues in London.

They came together under a shared commitment to their defence and veteran communities to discuss veterans’ mental health and transition from military to civilian life.

 Over the two-day conference, the five countries identified many overlapping themes and mutual challenges, including for some nations addressing and treating post-traumatic disorder, rates of suicide and homelessness among veterans, barriers to mental health care, alternative therapies, veteran-centric approaches to the provision of services, and early intervention.

Delegates had an opportunity to hear from leading expert, Professor Sir Simon Wessely on veterans mental health challenges and were taken by the extent of the research and the key facts and findings. 

Delegates recognised that to face these challenges and progress reforms it was essential that evidence based research and data informed policy decisions and implementation. Ministers heard from clinical experts how myths about veterans' mental health were damaging efforts to encourage veterans to seek help as early as possible. They agreed that efforts must continue on improving the provision of information to the veterans community and to transform the delivery of support and services to the defence and veteran communities in all five nations.

Delegates agreed to establish a network between the five nations to share and undertake research and emerging data, confirming their continuing commitment to collaborate on strategies that recognise, support, and care for the defence and veteran communities across the five countries. The initial research that will be undertaken will look at risk assessments and prevention strategies for veterans at risk of suicide.

READ THE FULL CONNUNIQUE HERE

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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They deserted him': Veterans' department accused of contributing to digger's suicide

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The family of an army veteran who killed himself believes the rejection of his compensation claim by the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) pushed him to take his own life.

Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans' Affairs Dan Tehan has told 7.30 he has now ordered the Defence Department and DVA to review their handling of the case.

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Jesse Bird, 32, took his own life last month, just weeks after losing a claim for permanent impairment he had been pursuing for almost two years.

The decision came despite DVA accepting initial liability, in August 2016, for Mr Bird's post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder and alcohol abuse.

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DVA Enews - A review of DVA's Newsletter "Vetaffairs"

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DVA e news

Read the latest edition here

A  Highlight item is DVA's invitation to you -  We’re conducting a review of Vetaffairs, and we’d like to hear from you!

Vetaffairs is DVA's newspaper, which is distributed quarterly to about 220,000 members of the veteran and ex-service communities. It includes articles about Government policies, programs and initiatives, with a strong emphasis on mental and physical health and wellbeing.

DVA is interested in how to make Vetaffairs more useful and relevant to the transitioning and contemporary ex-service communities. DVA would like to know what information you would find useful and how Vetaffairs could best deliver this to you.

The survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete and your responses are anonymous.

Take our short survey here

You can Vetaffairs current and past editions.online, visit www.dva.gov.au/vetaffairs.

To subscribe to the print edition or audio CD version of Vetaffairs, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Other items in this  e-news edition include:

Gold Cards for BCOF and BNT. As a result of a 2017–18 Budget measure, Gold Cards will be provided to both the surviving Australian participants of the British Nuclear Test (BNT) program in Australia, and Australian veterans who served as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) during the occupation of Japan immediately following the Second World War.

70 years of international peacekeeping.  In September this year, a National Service of Commemoration will be held in Canberra to mark 70 years of Australia’s involvement in international peacekeeping.

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