Opinion – ADF called on to step up in coronavirus war

“Australia plays a leading role in vaccine development, which can include both animal and human testing”.

“ADF personnel on deployment can, and often are exposed to dangerous, exotic diseases”.

“Yet again the government has called on the ADF to take a lead with the corona virus outbreak, appointing Lieutenant General John Frewen to head the ADF’s response to the outbreak which, one should argue is not an ADF role”.

READ MORE from Ross Eastgate

Warning on COVID-19 scams

Australians should be aware scammers are adapting existing technology to play on people’s fears around coronavirus and selling products claiming to prevent or cure the virus.

Since 1 January 2020, the ACCC’s Scamwatch has received 94 reports of scams about coronavirus, but warns figures are starting to climb.

Scamwatch has received multiple reports of phishing scams sent via email or text message that claim to be providing official information on coronavirus but are attempts to try and obtain personal data.

“Unfortunately, scammers are using the uncertainty around COVID-19, or coronavirus, to take advantage of people,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

Other scams include people receiving misinformation about cures for coronavirus and investment scams claiming coronavirus has created opportunities to make money.

“We’ve had a wide variety of scams reported to us, including fake online stores selling products claiming to be a vaccine or cure for coronavirus, and stores selling products such as face masks and not providing the goods.”

“There is no known vaccine or cure for coronavirus and a vaccine isn’t expected to be available for 18 months. Do not buy any products that claim to prevent or cure you of COVID-19. They simply don’t exist.”

“Scammers are impersonating official organisations such as the World Health Organization and the Department of Health or legitimate businesses such as travel agents and telecommunications companies,” Ms Rickard said.

“Understandably, people want information on the pandemic, but they should be wary of emails or text messages claiming to be from experts. For the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus, visit the Department of Health and the World Health Organization websites directly.”

If you think you have been scammed, contact your bank or financial institution immediately. More information on coronavirus scams is available on the Scamwatch website, including how to make a report and where to get help.

Hidden Casualties of War

I am of the view that our troops returning home from active service find it a huge challenge to adjust as they pursue their dreams from countless, restless and seemingly endless periods in hostile surrounds. For many, such visions would become reality and for some, they will always remain a dream.  

In jungle where hand signals and whispers are part of a highly disciplined routine, and where even the slightest noise such a cracking twig, the clink of a spoon or mug can identify danger or betrayal of location. Such faint sounds jolt even the weariest of nerves. Imagine the contrast of disciplined silence in such a hostile environment with the first breakfast at home and a radio blaring, squabbling children and suburban din just days later? How about circumstances where a conscript who a just a week before was on a battlefield surrounded and supported by mates he trusted with his life, is suddenly living in a very lonely one- bedroom apartment. Even more challenging are the hidden consequences of arriving home after operational service then quickly transported by a time machine to the very same office desk where the veteran once worked and is surrounded by once familiar work mates who are now total strangers.  

Clearly, re-adjusting is the key to survival.  Understandably loved ones in the beginning are in most cases not familiar with the need for adjustment and learn by trial and error. Yet neglect of such needs by a government bureaucracy is unforgivable, more so given its long learning experience during the frequent deployments of our military in past decades.  

I do know from personal observation, numerous examples of the immense value of partners and families in helping neutralise the impact of PSTD. Yet families of today are learning the hard way the old lessons of yesterday, in how to manage the changing moods of a loved one. Some do not, and the consequences often add innocent families to the hidden casualty lists of war. Perhaps part of the problem is that military families are not assisted to understand and how to cope with an uninvited guest called PSTD?

One thing is certain. Demands of war are constant. If we are to send troops into harm’s way, they must, regardless of their role, be prepared for active service in a tough and demanding training arena involving battle inoculation which tests not only military skills and teamwork but physical and mental stamina so essential in war.  Failing that, we should stop grandstanding in questionable wars, many of which by the way, are not winnable.  

                          A Good Reason to Live

Gidday  Cobbers, it’s early hours and I can’t sleep, thus just a quick note

I see dripping taps transform into empty canteens and parched throats
Hear pattering rain and I’m am back in another place, shivering in an icy coat
Gasping and stumbling in smothering darkness, seeking a switch for light
Dreams of flying in metal chariots mid whirring ceiling fans wocking at night

The comforting laughter and wry humour at chopper pads as we prepared to fly
Masking fear from the madness of it all, and with forced grin, wondering why?
All as one, searching, listening, waiting in a dense green arena of heat and rain
Dreaming of when it will all end, and to be home with loved ones again.

How proud it was, as always we stepped forward as one  
To share punishment for barracks sin, or risk all in a battle that must be won
Now, I see their ghosts, lightly laden, smiling as they pass by on an endless way
Oh, to join them and leave the doubts and pain of all those yesterdays 

As I write, there are clear signs in OZ of more turmoil and strife. 
Discipline faltering and rabid brown shirts trying to destroy our way of life
Danger looms as we keep ignoring costly lessons from times gone by
Our sleepy mute politicians stumbling into tomorrow with no battle cry

Tonight, the column will as always return; singing, laughing, happy as can be
Marching in step, all together, and oh so free
Such a strong temptation to go and join them all
I can’t, there’s a way of life to protect, and “stay and fight” is our column’s call.

George Mansford © February 2020

Understanding and Preventing Veteran Suicide

ALL governments are committed to ensuring we are doing all we can to prevent suicide among our serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel following the recent Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester said the agreement by state and territory leaders to support the establishment of a permanent and independent National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention to inquire into all suspected veteran and ADF suicides is a significant step forward in tackling this serious and complex national issue.

“The mental health and wellbeing of our current and former ADF members is an issue of national and enduring importance, and only by working together can we make meaningful change,” Mr Chester said.    

“Leaders at the COAG meeting have asked the Council of Attorneys-General to finalise arrangements, in consultation with chief coroners, to ensure we are doing all we can to understand and prevent suicide in the serving and ex-serving population.

“I thank the members of COAG for giving this issue the attention it deserves and committing to delivering for our ADF members, veterans and their families.”

The National Commissioner will have the enduring powers and resources, formalised by terms of reference, to investigate suicides and related issues as they arise in the future, and also to review past cases, supported by the ability to conduct public hearings, receive submissions, and include families in the process should they wish.  Importantly, these are ongoing powers not restricted to a one-off inquiry as would be the case with a royal commission.

For any current or former ADF member who may be struggling with their mental health, help is available. Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling provides support and counselling to current ADF members, veterans and their families and can be contacted 24/7 on 1800 011 046.

16 March 2020



Health and Stimulus Packages Support Veteran Community

THE Government is doing everything it can to protect our nation from the health and economic impacts of this global health issue, including veterans and their families.

  Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said veterans and their families will benefit from the Government’s commitment of $2.4 billion to bolster the nation’s health system in response to COVID-19 as this   situation evolves.
 “The health package allows older and at-risk veterans to access some health consultations and assessments remotely, via video or phone where video is not available,” Mr Chester said.
“In the event veterans are in home isolation or from a vulnerable patient group, they will also be able to have their Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) prescriptions filled online or remotely and have their medication delivered directly to their home.
“This ensures vulnerable veterans can access the health care they need while limiting the risk of exposure.
“Veterans in residential or home care will be supported by the Government’s commitment of over $100 million to upskill and increase the numbers of aged care staff and nurses.”
In addition, more than 225,000 veterans and their dependants will benefit from the $17.6 billion stimulus package announced by the Government yesterday.
“Many of our veterans receive benefits through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) and the stimulus package announced by the Prime Minister and Treasurer will support our veteran community through this challenging time,” Mr Chester said.
“Those veterans or dependants who receive income support or compensation benefits through DVA as listed below and who are currently residing in Australia, will receive the one-off payment of $750.
“The payment will be automatically paid into bank accounts and will come from DVA or Services Australia, however, recipients are encouraged to confirm their bank details are current and up-to-date by calling DVA on 1800 555 254.

“The Government is committed to putting veterans and their families first, particularly with regards to the health and economic impacts of this global health issue.”
Payments will be made to the following groups from 31 March 2020, with the majority of payments to be made by 17 April 2020. Recipients of:
• Service Pension
• Income Support Supplement
• Age Pension and Wife Pension paid by DVA
• DVA Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders
• Disability Pension
• War Widow(er)’s Pension
• Wholly Dependent Partner payment
• Special Rate Disability Pension
• Permanent Impairment compensation under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004
• Permanent Impairment compensation under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988
• Veteran Payment
• Gold Card holders
There will be one payment per eligible recipient, which will be tax free and will not count as income for Social Security, Farm Household Allowance and Veteran payments.
In addition to the stimulus and health packages, more than 30,000 veterans and their families will benefit from cuts to deeming rates as announced by the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston, which will start flowing through to bank accounts from 1 May 2020.

Further information on the Government’s COVID-19 health commitment can be found at www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert.

Monday, 16 March 2020

The Army Officer Cadet School – Portsea

The Army Officer Cadet School at Portsea is trying to track down all of the 3544 officers who graduated across 67 classes from 1952 – 1985. Many of those surviving graduates are now scattered across Australia and overseas and have lost contact with old classmates and friends. Which is why there’s now a website at www.ocsportsea.or/.  Click on class lists to find your name plus any photos and videos, the web team have been able to find.

December 1973

Update on Anzac Day Arrangements 2020

Here are comments made by Minister Chester over the weekend regarding Anzac Day arrangements.

“The response to Coronavirus is a rapidly developing situation which the Federal Government is monitoring closely in partnership with State and Territory Governments and the community.

“It is too soon to declare a final position on Anzac Day services and the Government will work with commemorative event organisers in the coming weeks.

“State, territory and local governments in consultation with their local RSLs are responsible for domestic Anzac Day services. The recommendation to limit gatherings to under 500 people will undoubtedly affect these services and organisers will need to ensure they advise the public early of their plans to keep people safe. 

“The Federal Government is engaging with the Australian War Memorial regarding the National Anzac Day service in Canberra and will provide further advice as it comes to hand.

“In terms of international events, many people are understandably concerned about the outbreak of COVID-19 and its potential impacts on major commemorative services in France and Turkey.

“The Federal Government has updated our travel advice to Australians to reconsider all non-essential overseas travel.

“While these services are run each year by the Australian Government through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, we all need to be mindful that they are delivered in countries other than our own and we need to respect any decisions those countries make in relation to COVID-19.

“Anzac Day services in Turkey and France hold a special significance to many Australians who have relatives that fought and died there during the First World War. We are working with the host nations and will provide updates as they come to hand.

“Similarly, we are monitoring the situation in the Asia-Pacific where large Anzac Day events are traditionally held in Thailand, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia. Further information will be provided to people intending to attend these events as soon as it’s available.”

Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak

Beyond Blue recognises and understands the feelings of anxiety, distress and concern many people may be experiencing in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and offers the following wellbeing advice.

Try to maintain perspective

While it is reasonable for people to be concerned about the outbreak of coronavirus, try to remember that medical, scientific and public health experts around the world are working hard to contain the virus, treat those affected and develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.

Find a healthy balance in relation to media coverage

Being exposed to large volumes of negative information can heighten feelings of anxiety. While it’s important to stay informed, you may find it useful to limit your media intake if it is upsetting you or your family.

Access good quality information

It’s important to get accurate information from credible sources such as those listed below. This will also help you maintain perspective and feel more in control.

Conversations with children and young people

Families and caregivers of children and young people should discuss news of the virus with those in their care in an open and honest way. Try to relate the facts without causing alarm, and in a way that is appropriate for their age and temperament. It is important to listen to any questions they may have, to let them know that they are safe and that it’s normal to feel concerned. If the media or the news is getting too much for them, encourage them to limit their exposure.

Try to maintain a practical and calm approach

Widespread panic can complicate efforts to manage the outbreak effectively. Do your best to stay calm and follow official advice, particularly around observing good hygiene habits.

The Australian Psychological Society has advice about maintaining positive mental health during the outbreak.

Try not to make assumptions

To contribute to a sense of community wellbeing, try to remember that the coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of their nationality or ethnicity.

Seek support

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by news of the outbreak, particularly if you have experienced mental health issues before.

Where possible, it can help to maintain normal routines. It can also help to stay in touch with friends and family, eat a balanced diet and stay physically active.

Acknowledge feelings of distress and seek further professional support if required.

Beyond Blue has fact sheets about anxiety and offers other practical advice and resources at beyondblue.org.au.

The Beyond Blue Support Service offers short term counselling and referrals by phone and webchat on 1300 22 4636.

You can find more information about well-being, quarantine and managing self-isolation here.

50th Anniversary of Operation Hammersley

DVA held a National Commemorative Service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Operation Hammersley.18 February 2020

Commemorative event
Photo: Veterans of Operation Hammersley are thanked for their service during the National Commemorative Service for the 50th anniversary of Operation Hammersley. Department of Defence.

On 18 February 2020, DVA held a National Commemorative Service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Operation Hammersley, conducted in Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam. The service took place at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial in Canberra.

More than 350 attendees paused to acknowledge and remember the service and sacrifice of all those who took part during the Operation. The next of the kin of those killed were among those who laid wreaths.

Operation Hammersley began in February 1970 when C Company, 8th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (8RAR), along with a troop of armoured personnel carriers from 3 Cavalry Regiment, tanks from 1 Armoured Regiment, sappers from the Royal Australian Engineers, a mortar section from 8RAR’s Support Company, along with air support, were deployed to secure a quarry site at the foot of the Long Hai Hills.

The Long Hai Hills were a stronghold for the Viet Cong and had been the target of previous operations and air-strikes. The Australians had early success during Operation Hammersley and the scope was increased until most of 8RAR became involved. While the Australians had the support of armoured vehicles, the enemy knew the lay of the land and were able to use the caves running beneath the Long Hai Hills to their advantage.

When it seemed like the Australian troops were in a position to drive the enemy out of the area, they were ordered to withdraw to make way for a B-52 air strike. The strike was accurate, but few of the enemy were killed as they expected the raid.

The Operation saw 12 Australians killed and 59 wounded, with a further two killed in the days following. Most of these casualties were caused by landmines.

Dr Robert Hall, an 8RAR veteran of Operation Hammersley, delivered the Call to Remembrance. He said:

Today is a day to reflect on the qualities of endurance and courage that characterised the Australians’ service in Vietnam, often in the most trying, difficult and dangerous of circumstances.  It is a day to reflect on what the war in Vietnam, and what operations like Hammersley, cost Australia – what it cost those who served, and what it cost their families. 

If you would like to watch the Operation Hammersley National Commemorative Service, visit the ‘Live videos’ on the DVA Facebook page. More information about Operation Hammersley is available on DVA’s Anzac Portal or on the Australian War Memorial website.  

“Danger Close” – The Battle of Long Tan Movie on Foxtel

Dave Sabben has advised that Foxtel is intending to broadcast “Danger Close” on its “Movies Premier” channel (401) on Sunday 22 Mar at 08:30 pm (10:30 pm on channel 411); on Monday 23 Mar at 12:40 pm ( 2:40 pm on channel 411); and on Sunday 29 Mar at 09:15 am (11.15 am on channel 411).