RSL NSW MEMBERS ELECT NEW STATE COUNCIL

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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." .......

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

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MENTAL HEALTH - THE UNVARNISHED TRUTH ABOUT VETERAN SUICIDES

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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 www.dva.gov.au/client-satisfaction-survey.

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.

BUDGET 2017-2018: DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS

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Dan Tehan

DVA's Budget Initiatives and Explanations of Appropriations Specified by Outcomes and Programs are contained in The Minister's Portfolio Budget Statements 2017-18 and Budget Related Paper No. 1.4B

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They contain an Overview of The Department of Veterans’ Affairs Portfolio  and details of its resources and planned performance of both The Department of Veterans’ Affairs and The  Australian War Memorial 

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Budget 2017: Veterans exposed to nuclear bomb tests welcome Government decision to grant Gold Card access

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Former Australian servicemen and women who were exposed to radiation from nuclear bombs have welcomed the Federal Government's decision to give them a veterans' Gold Card.

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The Gold Card, which covers health costs, had not been available to those sent to Hiroshima in the 1940s and those who were at British test sites in Western Australia and South Australia.

But that is set to change, with $133 million allocated for survivors in the federal budget.

Speaking in Mandurah, the Member for Canning and former SAS captain, Andrew Hastie, said there was a high cancer rate among the RAN sailors sent to the Montebello Islands off the coast of Western Australia.

"These men worked on the islands only four years after the first atomic test with no protective gear," he said.

"Many were on [the] deck of their ships and fully exposed during a subsequent test, in very close proximity to the explosion.

"Of the surviving 51 members who have been surveyed, 43 per cent have had some kind of cancer. Of the 28 who have already passed on, 14 have died from cancer.

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DVA Minister Release - Recognising female veterans

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Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan has today called for greater understanding of the service and sacrifice of Australia’s female veterans.

“Last year the Government held a forum with current and former female Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel and their families where our female veterans said that many did not feel they received recognition for their service,” Mr Tehan said.

“Many of our female veterans observed that when they wore their medals in public many people assumed they were wearing the medals of their father or grandfather.

“So this Anzac Day, if you see anyone wearing medals on their left side it is because they earned those medals and please tell them ‘thank-you’ for their service.

“Australian servicewomen now comprise 16.1 per cent of the permanent full-time ADF and there are currently 266 women serving overseas on ADF operations, representing about 14 per cent of the total deployed force.

“We now have 82 women in senior officer positions – colonel equivalent and above – compared to 48 in February 2012.

“As a nation we respect and honour the service and sacrifice of every man and woman who serves in defence of our nation, our freedoms and our values.”

18 April 2017

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 confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.

VETAFFAIRS - Autumn Edition 2017

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The Autumn 2017 edition of Vetaffairs is now available on DVA's website.
You can also view this issue in interactive Realview pdf format.
You might also be interested in our online noticeboard.

Below are some of the stories covered in this issue. (Please note that to open web links on this page you may need to right click and select 'open').
Fall of Singapore
Nearly 2,000 people gathered at the national 75th anniversary commemoration service to remember those who died and suffered during the Fall of Singapore. The event took place on 15 February 2017 in Ballarat, Victoria.
On the same day, a life-size bronze statue of an elderly mother clutching a framed photo of her son killed in war was unveiled at the new Garden of the Grieving Mother in Ballarat.
Pensions and allowances rise
Veterans’ pensions were increased from 20 March 2017 following the latest round of indexation adjustments.
The Digital Readiness Bill
On 29 March, Parliament passed the Digital Readiness Bill. This is an important development in giving DVA 21st-century tools to provide a 21st-century service that veterans deserve.
Decision on the Long Tan Cross site commemorations
The Vietnamese government has confirmed there will be no official Anzac Day commemoration at the Long Tan Cross site this year.
Using your DVA Health Card
There are a few things worth remembering when using your DVA Health Card.
Overseas Anzac Day services – opening times and registration
This year, visitors are encouraged to register for a free attendance pass for the services at Gallipoli and Villers-Bretonneux.
Commemorations throughout 2017
This year is the penultimate year of the Anzac Centenary commemorative period, spanning 2014 to 2018. It will feature several milestone commemorations domestically and overseas to recognise Australian service and sacrifice since Federation.

DVA Minister - Modernising rehabilitation and compensation systems delivers benefits to veterans

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Dan TehanThe time taken to process certain claims for veterans has fallen dramatically thanks to the Government’s investment in updating claims processing systems, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan announced today.

Mr Tehan said the Government had provided $23.9 million in the last Budget to replace outdated rehabilitation and compensation systems and to simplify and improve internal processes.

“Claims for non-liability health care are now processed within a day, and in some cases within 30 minutes where previously the average processing times for these claims was 18 days,” Mr Tehan said.

“Veterans seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse are accessing treatment faster than ever before.

“This system update is ongoing and there will be further improvements to processing times and more consistency in decision making and calculations.

The next system improvements will focus on incapacity claims review, rehabilitation, needs assessment and Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 permanent impairment processing.

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.

2016 Census reveals how ‘average Aussie’ looks

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It’s not Paul Hogan, nor Tony Abbott and it sure as daylight isn’t a rugged bushman.

The first glimpse at census data collected last year has revealed the typical Australian is a 38-year-old married mother of two who lives in a three-bedroom house, which she owns with a mortgage.

Both her parents were born in Australia and have English ancestry.

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The Australian April 11, 2017 by  

Social Affairs reporter
 

DVA Minister - Improved self-help resource available

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Dan Tehan

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan said improvements to an online resource for current and former members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) would better help them manage stress.

Mr Tehan said the High Res website had been updated following user feedback to make it easier to use.

"The High Res website is a valuable tool that current and former ADF personnel can use to help them manage stress," Mr Tehan said.

"Improvements to the website include a simple step-by-step guide to developing a personal action plan, tips for better sleep and self-help tools on controlled breathing, muscle relaxation, managing negative or distracting thoughts and emotions.
"Current and former ADF personnel are increasingly seeking digital support and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is meeting this growing need through a range of mental health websites and apps.

The High Res resource can be accessed through DVA’s At Ease portal 

7th March 2017

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.

Peter Switzer - The Australian economy is screwed. Not!

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Peter Switzer

Australia looks on track for a stellar year. To our Treasurer with his fiscal game plan ahead, I say, “beam us up a great Budget, Scotty!”

All too often I hear media ‘experts’ telling us that our economy is “shot to pieces” and our standard of living is falling! And let’s not talk about our public debt problem!

As the Treasurer embarks on his last month of economic research and reconnaissance on the Aussie economy before next month’s Budget (on the second Tuesday in May), let’s just objectively see what he might be finding out about the place we call our economic home.

And given my acceptance of what Albert Schweitzer said: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success”, let’s encourage success by concentrating on the better, make-me-happy news first.

Read more

Published 03 April 2017

Ross Eastgate Opinion - Hierarchy must give answers on drugs push

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THE late military martinet and Chief of the Defence Force Staff, General Sir Arthur Leslie MacDonald KBE, CB, was never one to mince words.
In the Oxford Companion to Australian Military History MacDonald was remarked as one who “possessed a fierce temper and an often irascible nature which, combined with considerable intelligence and a capacity for hard work, made him a sometimes difficult superior”.
 
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It was not so much sage advice but a clear directive when he declared, “Never ask a question to which you do not already know the answer”.
It was a bold staff officer who attempted to baffle Mac-Donald with a dubious briefing based on dodgy if not simply unsupportable evidence.
MacDonald’s leadership style is long since lost to the contemporary ADF, which has abandoned the organisation’s core values and objectives.
MacDonald served in North Africa and PNG in World War II, commanded 3RAR in Korea and was Australian Force commander in Vietnam.
 
He would never have countenanced proposals for the ADF to take a lead role in minority-gender politics nor have tolerated those who attempted to wrap their individual agendas in ADF uniform.

MacDonald’s Vietnam command coincided with the now-discredited Australian Malaria Institute (AMI) trial of dapsone, a drug otherwise used to treat leprosy.

There’s no doubt AMI snowed MacDonald and his senior medical adviser about its antimalarial efficacy but not its known adverse side effects.

Properly advised, neither would ever have allowed that mistake.

AMI continues to provide dubious advice. It has conducted questionable trials into both mefloquine and tafenoquine with recorded adverse consequences to many who have taken them.

Despite many military and medical jurisdictions distancing themselves from both drugs, AMI seems determined to have tafenoquine registered internationally as a suitable antimalarial prophylactic.

Observing MacDonald’s advice, let’s ask some questions.

1. Has the current ADF hierarchy formally sought independent medical advice about the suitability of either drug or their potential adverse effects, or has it simply accepted AMI’s assurances as to their suitability?

2. Is there a concerted effort by those involved with manufacturing and promoting either drug to have AMI give its professional imprimatur to propose them as safe and effective antimalarial prophylaxes or treatments?

3. Has any AMI member been offered any financial or personal inducements above their military salary and entitlements to promote either drug for long-term use?

4. Are any AMI staff actively collaborating with the manufacturers to achieve this outcome?

5. Has the current ADF hierarchy been aware of such efforts?
 
6. Has the ADF hierarchy given any encouragement that the ADF, through AMI’s advice, will eventually recommend either drug as appropriate for long-term antimalarial usage as either prophylaxis or treatment?
 
This column will appear today in ADF media summaries. The questions have been asked.

No currently serving senior officer will be able to deny in the future that he or she was unaware of them.

If they have not already asked those questions then they should without delay.

They can only hide behind the Defence PR Dysfuncionettes until the truth is out.
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DVA Minister - Enhanced support for veterans’ employment

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30 March 2017

Dan Tehan

Improvements to the Government’s jobactive website are helping veterans find work.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan and Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash today welcomed the response of Australian employers to the improvements.

The improvements were made as part of the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program, launched in November last year to improve employment opportunities for former members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

The Government has created online functionality to flag vacancies listed on jobactive as suitable for former ADF members and more than 300 positions have already been flagged.

A new information page for veterans has also been launched containing resources for ADF personnel to identify their skills and appropriate civilian jobs.

Mr Tehan said the early evidence suggested business understood the unique skills and experience former ADF personnel could bring to the workplace.Mr Tehan said.
“The Government has already made improvements to the transition process for people leaving the military so they are better placed to seize post-service opportunities.

“The first meeting of the Industry Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment will also take place on Friday where business leaders from across the economy will take the lead on developing practical measures for businesses to use when recruiting veterans.”

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Minister Cash said the Turnbull Government was committed to implementing practical solutions to ensure jobseekers were connected with employment opportunities.

“Our unwavering focus on delivering economic growth and job creation includes looking at ways that we can better connect Australians with our employment services,” Minister Cash said.
“Former defence force personnel have an enormous amount of experience that many employers would be keen to benefit from.”

The jobactive website connects job seekers with employers as well as providing additional services, such as help writing a resume, interview preparation and upskilling.

See here for more information on jobactive services, 

Media enquiries:
Minister Tehan’s Office: Byron Vale, 0428 262 894
Minister Cash’s Office: David De Garis 0427 019 692
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203
Department of Employment Media: 02 6240 8667

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.

DVA Minister - Promoting mental health support for our veterans

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30 March 2017

Dan Tehan

The Government has launched a digital advertising campaign to inform current and former members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) about accessing free treatment for five mental health conditions.

“Anyone who has served at least one day of full-time service in the ADF is eligible for free treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and alcohol and substance abuse,” Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan said.

“The program is uncapped, fully-funded and you do not have to prove your condition is related to your service to access treatment.
“This important Government initiative is helping veterans access free mental health and we want to reach as many people as possible with this advertising campaign.”

Mr Tehan said the campaign would run online and across social media targeting current ADF members, veterans and their families.

Anyone wanting more information on how to access this treatment can phone DVA on 133 254 (metropolitan callers) or 1800 555 254 (regional callers) or visit www.dva.gov.au/nlhc.

Immediate assistance can also be provided by the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS), which provides free and confidential counselling service for veterans and their families 24/7 on 1800 011 046.

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.

DVA Minister - Government action on NMHC review

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30 March 2017

Dan Tehan
The Government will make the development of strategies to support former members of the Australian Defence Force who are under 30 and have recently left the military a priority.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Dan Tehan and Minister for Health Greg Hunt said today targeting suicide among former ADF who were under 30 was a priority recommendation of the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) Review into the Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention Services Available to current and former serving ADF members and their families, which was provided to the Government on Tuesday and released publicly today.

Former ADF members under 30 had been identified in the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) study Estimation of incidence of suicide in ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel as a group with a suicide rate above the national average.

Mr Tehan said he had also tasked the Department of Defence and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to respond to the review.

Mr Tehan will also work with both departments to address issues raised in the review, specifically how both departments can work more closely together.

“The NMHC has produced a comprehensive document that identifies strengths and weaknesses in the suicide prevention services provided to current and former members of the ADF,” Mr Tehan said.

“The review found the ADF and DVA must work collaboratively to ensure their respective processes are seamless and continuous and we will focus on delivering that change.”

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Minister Hunt said the Review will be considered in the roll out of 12 suicide prevention trial sites around the country.
“This includes the suicide prevention trial site in the Townsville region – which will have a strong focus on support for ex-ADF personnel, in particular for the under-30 age group,” Mr Hunt said.

“As part of the trial, Project Synergy will work with the PHN to develop tailored digital mental health solutions, as part of the Turnbull Government’s $30 million investment in e-mental health.”

National Mental Health Commission CEO Dr Peggy Brown will meet personally with the PHN and steering committee next week to discuss the findings and recommendations of the Review.

“The review highlights the importance of the human experience when dealing with Defence and DVA and we must continue to deliver better support to the families of current and former ADF personnel,” Mr Hunt said.

All serving ADF members can access mental health services through their on base health facilities.

Defence and the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) also offer 24/7 specialist support to current and former ADF members and their families.

The ADF All-Hours Support Line is available on 1800 628 036 and VVCS is available on 1800 011 046.

Anyone who has ever served one day in the full-time ADF can access free treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse by calling the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on 1800 555 254 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Media enquiries:
Minister Tehan’s Office: Byron Vale, 0428 262 894
Minister Hunt’s Office: John O’Doherty 0402 047 852
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.

DVA Minister - First meeting of Industry Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment

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31 March 2017

Dan Tehan

First meeting of Industry Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan has said business leaders on the Industry Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment had an important job developing strategies that would help veterans find meaningful employment as the committee met for the first time in Sydney today.

The Industry Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment is an initiative of the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program, launched in November.

The committee is chaired by George Frazis, chief executive of the Consumer Bank Division of Westpac Group and a former member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF); the Deputy Chair is Ben Roberts-Smith VC, MG, and general manager of Seven Brisbane and Regional Queensland.

The committee comprises representatives of business organisations and will meet regularly to develop strategies that encourage industry to recognise the unique skills and experience that members of the ADF can bring to the workplace.

At today’s meeting, the Committee established a number of priority areas of focus, including availability of data on the employment profile of veterans, improving the transition process from the ADF and translating skills and raising awareness of the value that former members of the ADF offer to Australian businesses.

“The private sector is best-placed to develop the strategies to fully harness the talents of our ADF personnel and support them in post-military employment,” Mr Tehan said.
“As the Prime Minister has observed, one of the challenges faced by ADF personnel after they leave the military is communicating their skills in a language the private sector understands and that will be one of the issues addressed by the Industry Advisory Committee.”
“Since the Government added the ability to flag vacancies on its jobactive website as suitable for former ADF members, more than 300 positions have been flagged by employers which shows there is a genuine interest among the business community in the skills our veterans can bring to the workplace.
“The committee will also help develop the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Annual Awards, an annual award to launch this year that will recognise the excellent work done by small, medium and large businesses employing veterans.”

“Today’s discussion set a solid foundation for the committee to address various matters that will improve the lives of our veterans, including their transition to employment after service, capturing reliable data, and raising industry awareness to increase opportunities and wellbeing of our ex-service people,” Mr Frazis said.

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

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.

Government welcomes NMHC review into veterans’ mental health

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The Government today received the National Mental Health Commission’s (NMHC) review of suicide and self-harm services for veterans and members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

Dan Tehan
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Dan Tehan and Minister for Health Greg Hunt acknowledged receipt of the review.
“The Government has a responsibility to the men and women who defend our nation and we are committed to addressing veteran and ADF suicide,” Mr Tehan said.
“The Government will look closely at the recommendations in this review and respond in due course. We will also release the full review to the public on Thursday.
“This review will complement other Government initiatives to tackle suicide.
“We have made mental health treatment free for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and drug and alcohol misuse conditions for anyone who has served one day in the full-time ADF.
“And last year the Government released the first-ever robust data on the incidence of suicide among past and present ADF personnel and more specific findings will be released this year.”

Minister Hunt said the findings and recommendations from the Review would be an important consideration in the rollout of mental health services.
“We’ve already announced the establishment of 12 suicide prevention trial sites across Australia – including one in the Townsville region that will have a focus on veterans’ mental health,” Mr Hunt said.
“The Commission’s report will be used as a guide to inform ongoing trial design and suicide prevention strategies developed and implemented.”

28th March 2017

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.

Government abandons plans to release veterans' personal information

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ABC News by political reporter Henry Belot

The Federal Government will abandon its push for new powers to release the personal information of veterans should it wish to correct deliberately misleading public statements.

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The ABC revealed concerns about the legislation earlier this month with sections of the veteran community fearing it was designed to silence public criticism.

The proposal was wrapped into a larger Digital Readiness Bill aimed at improving veteran services and will now be dropped to secure passage through the Senate.

The powers would have given the department secretary the ability to disclose otherwise protected information about veterans provided they obtained a public interest certificate.

Veterans Affairs Minister Dan Tehan said the broader bill was an important piece of legislation that would modernise the Government's IT systems and provide better services.

"The public disclosure measures were aimed at strengthening privacy protections for veterans but given misinformation in the community we decided to act in the best interests of the veterans' community and remove this section of the bill," he told the ABC.

The proposed changes passed the House of Representatives within hours of Labor referring Human Services Minister Alan Tudge to the police after he authorised the release of a welfare recipient's details to a journalist.

That prompted Labor's veteran affairs spokeswoman Amanda Rishworth to raise concerns about the legislation, despite her party voting for the bill hours earlier.

On Monday, Ms Rishworth welcomed the Government's decision to sideline the public interest disclosure provision entirely.

"While Labor was continuing to work with the Government to strengthen the rules to ensure veterans were not left any worse off, we believe that their amendment to remove them entirely is appropriate given the amount of community concern," she said.

"Labor has continually raised concerns about the provisions to release personal information and in light of recent community concerns, are pleased the Government has sought to remove the Public Interest Disclosure provision from the bill."

When the bill was introduced into the Senate last week, Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore said she was "very concerned about the eventual release of personal information".

"There is a fear in the veteran community that these measures will only service to silence them from speaking out," she said.

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie said the Government's claim that veterans had been consulted about the proposal was "absolute rubbish", and said the bill failed to protect veterans' personal information.

"Veterans make an enormous sacrifice to serve and protect our great nation," she said.

Under the proposal, the Government would have had to notify a veteran in writing of an intention to disclose information and provide them with an opportunity to object.

In a bid to ease concerns, Mr Tehan had previously agreed to an external privacy assessment of the proposal.

The Government had maintained the proposal was designed to strengthen privacy procedures, rather than undermine them.

"The privacy safeguards that currently exist for protecting veterans' privacy information are pretty feeble," he said earlier this month.

"There is not really any stick to go with them if someone decides to exploit a veteran's information."

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