Supporting Veterans’ Families This Legacy Week

SUPPORTING VETERANS’ FAMILIES THIS LEGACY WEEK

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TOMORROW marks the start of Legacy Week, the annual national appeal to support the families of veterans who have given their life or health for this country.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester will join Legacy Australia in officially launching this year’s Legacy Week at the Australian War Memorial and lay a wreath to acknowledge all families and reflect on the important role they play.

 “Tomorrow I have the privilege of representing the Australian   Government at the Australian War Memorial to help launch this very   important fundraising week for Legacy Australia,” Mr Chester said.
 “Families play a crucial part in supporting veterans, especially in challenging times, and they face their own unique challenges as a result of this,” Mr Chester said.
“It is important we all do our bit to help organisations like Legacy which is committed to looking after these families.
“Every year since 1942, Legacy volunteers across Australia fundraise for the families of veterans who have sacrificed so much during their service.
“The money raised will go towards helping the families of service personnel whose strength and resilience play a key part in offering support for veterans.
“I encourage everyone to support Legacy Week and buy a badge, and to think about how we can come together in our own community and support veterans and their families.”
Legacy Week will help around 60,000 beneficiaries through funding essential services and help provide educational resources to children. Legacy Week 2019 runs from Sunday, 1 September to Saturday, 7 September, with Badge Day on Friday, 6 September.
31 August 2019

Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au

Vietnam Veterans’ Day Legacy Remembered

TOMORROW Australians across the country are encouraged to commemorate the service of all those who served in the Vietnam War and the Battle of Long Tan.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said Australians should pause and reflect on the bravery, teamwork and endurance that was displayed throughout the battle and wider war.
“Almost 60,000 Australians served during the Vietnam War, and tragically 521 of them died with a further 3,000 wounded,” Mr Chester said.
“Tomorrow, 18 August, we commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day and the 53rd anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, where we remember the sacrifices of those who died and say thank you to all those who served.”
The Battle of Long Tan took place in a rubber plantation not far from the small village of Long Tan and is widely known as one of the fiercest battles fought by Australian soldiers, who faced wet and muddy conditions due to torrential rain and the loss of their radios.
We also remember the actions of more than 100 Australian and New Zealand soldiers who were vastly outnumbered, facing a force of 2,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops,” Mr Chester said.
“Tragically, some 18 Australians died and more than 20 were wounded. This was the largest number of casualties in one operation since the Australian task force had arrived a few months earlier.
“This Battle formed a significant part of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War – a decade long campaign.”
Later today Minister Chester will attend the Vietnam Remembrance Service held at the Sale RSL Sub Branch, laying a wreath to pay tribute to all those who served in the Vietnam War.
The legacy of Australia’s Vietnam veterans is still felt by those in the ex-service community today. Vietnam veterans were vital in the establishment of the Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service, now known as Open Arms — Veterans & Families Counselling, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Long Tan Bursary scheme which provides education funding support.
Open Arms has been operational for more than 35 years and is a life-saving service that provides free and confidential counselling, group treatment programs, suicide prevention training and a community and peer network to support mental health and wellbeing in the ex-service community.
Tomorrow, applications for the Long Tan Bursary Scheme 2020 academic year will open. The scheme provides funding to help eligible children, and now grandchildren of Australian Vietnam veterans, meet the cost of post secondary education.
Thirty-seven bursaries, each worth up to $12,000 over three years of continuous full-time study, are awarded annually to successful applicants across Australia. Applications close on 31 October 2019.
To find out if you are eligible for the Long Tan Bursary scheme, please visit the DVA website HERE.
To find out more about Vietnam Veterans Day, please visit the Anzac Portal website.
If this anniversary causes distressing memories or feelings for you, or someone you know, please call Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au HERE

ADFRA’s DFRDB UPDATE – JULY 2019

The Australian Defence Force Retirees Association (ADFRA) acts on behalf of Defence Force retirees and their military superannuation grievances.

DFRDB UPDATE – JULY 2019

Hi All,
Most of you will aware that the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s investigation into the administration of the DFRDB scheme with respect to commutation is in progress. But we are not waiting idly for the outcome.

We have continued to pursue the Minister on the narrow terms of reference of the Ombudsman’s investigation and received this Response from the Minister’s Chief of Staff.
The key statement in which is:
“There are currently no plans for further investigation into the overall design of the DFRDB Scheme.”

In an Article – The Albury Border Mail – 20 July 2019, there is this quote from a spokeswoman from the Minister’s office:
“The government consulted with the Ex-Service Organizations Roundtable to develop the terms of reference for the ombudsman’s inquiry. The public had the opportunity to provide input, this has now closed and the Ombudsman will consider this information as part of the investigation.”

A blatant cop-out.

On a separate front, Christian Bennett has been investigating and established from CSC that the DFRDB scheme is in fact a Trust with the following trustee structure:
1. A Commonwealth entity created by legislation in 2011.
2. Corporate Governance is provided by CSC Board.
3. Directors are nominated by stakeholders, i.e.;
    a. The Minister of Finance, who nominates the Chair person and 5 Directors,
    b. The President of Australian Council of Trade Unions, who nominates 3 Directors, and
c. The Chief of Defence Force who nominates 2 Directors.
Directors can serve multiple terms and tenure is limited to 9 years.
This is a matter of serious concern, because making the CSC and the Department of Finance responsible for protecting DFRDB members’ interests is akin to putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank.

This and the Terms of Reference for a wider reaching inquiry will be raised by Kel Ryan, National President, Defence Force Welfare Association, at an upcoming meeting with the Hon Darren Chester, Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel.

We are not holding our breath and will mount a legal challenge. More details when we have mapped out our strategy.
Regards,
Jim Hislop

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Herb and Jim

Memorial Service – Lcpl Martin Bink 9 RAR Svn – 5 Nov 2019

The RARA ACT will be holding a Memorial Service for Marty Bink in Canberra on 5 Nov 19. He was a member of Anti Tk/Trackers when he was KIA on 05 Nov 69. He was the Battalion’s last Battle Casualty whilst doing ‘protection’ for the Engineer Land Clearing Team down on the Light Green – East of Dat Do

It would be appreciated if you could pass the details on your networks to as many of Marty’s friends, comrades, family, other interested parties, and especially Spt Coy members, as soon as possible.

Details are-

·        Event – 50th Anniversary Memorial Service for L/Cpl Marty Bink, Spt Coy, 9RAR

·        Venue – Armed Services Section Woden Cemetery, ACT

·        Date – Tue 05 Nov 19

·        Time – 1100h

·        Dress – 9RAR tie and medals, as appropriate

·        Afters – Canberra Southern Cross Club, 92 Corinna St Woden starting 1145h. (Lunch & drinks at own cost)

·        Attendance – Please advise if you are attending ASAP. Some of Marty’s family will be attending.

·        Contact – Tony Daniels – [email protected] , 0419400543

NAIDOC Week — The Role of Indigenous Servicemen & Women

ABORIGINAL and Torres Strait Islander people have made a valuable contribution to Australia’s defence since the Boer War, and this NAIDOC Week we celebrate their history, culture and achievements.

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said as part of this year’s theme ‘Voice. Treaty. Truth.’ we reflect on the role of Indigenous Australians — the know-how, practices, skills and innovation which has helped those before us and to shape present day service.

“Indigenous Defence personnel have a long and rich history of contributing to the defence of Australia, which continues today,” Mr Chester said.

“More than 133 Indigenous Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel were recruited through development and pre-recruit programs in 2018-19. Additionally, 29 Indigenous ADF personnel will start other programs before the end of June 2019.

“The ADF has a number of Indigenous community and cultural immersion programs which provide opportunities to increase the representation of Indigenous Australians in the ADF.”

These programs include the Jawun Indigenous Community Placement Program for the Australian Public Service and ADF personnel; the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program; Navy and Army Indigenous Development Programs; and the Indigenous Pre-Recruit Program.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) has an established Indigenous Liaison Officer Network to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans in obtaining their entitlements and benefits. This will ensure that the Department’s strong commitment to helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans and their families is maintained.

Later this year we mark the 80th anniversary of the start of the Second World War, in which it is estimated as many as 6,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have served.

“During the Second World War Australia came under direct attack from Japan when northern Australia was bombed, although all Australians were in some way impacted by the war, this had a direct impact on those who lived in the North,” Mr Chester said.

“Australia’s armed forces employed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in de facto units to carry out reconnaissance of the northern Australian coast line, where they assisted locating Japanese and Allied aircraft crash sites.

“During the first Japanese raid on Darwin in 1942 a Japanese airman crashed on Bathurst Island. Tiwi Man, Matthias Ulungura, took the Japanese pilot prisoner, the first time an enemy combatant had been captured on Australian soil.

“As the war came to the top-end of Australia, the understanding and connection to country that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had proved to be of great benefit in the defence of the Australian mainland and islands to the north.”

The significant contribution to the Defence of Australia’s North and North West by Indigenous service personnel continues to this day.

“The Army’s Regional Force Surveillance Group undertakes Border Protection Operations and supports the ‘Closing the Gap’ strategy via its efforts in Indigenous Engagement and Development,” Mr Chester said.

“Drawing on the proud heritage of Indigenous service in Australia’s North during the Second World War, the Group has the highest rate of Indigenous participation of any Formation in the ADF, providing capability for Australia’s security, while also delivering ongoing opportunities for Indigenous Australians.

“This NAIDOC week I encourage all Australians to acknowledge Defence’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defence personnel as well as our veterans, and stand together on our commitment to reconciliation and ‘Closing the Gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.”

For more information visit Indigenous Australians at war on DVA’s website or go to the Indigenous Veterans’ Liaison Officers network webpage for help with DVA’s services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans.

NAIDOC Week events
Find out what NAIDOC Week events are happening across the country and don’t forget to share your own!

8 July 2019

ABC News – Veterans put ‘through a lot of hoops’ in bid to claim compensation, minister says

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) has been “too adversarial” when it comes to handling the compensation claims of former defence personnel, Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester says.

Key points:

  • Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester says his department “has been guilty of being too adversarial” over compensation claims
  • Mr Chester said the culture in the department has been improving
  • He said he would act upon a recommendation to from a cross-party group on veterans’ mental health issues

Mr Chester made the comments to 7.30 after holding a summit in Canberra about veterans’ mental health on Wednesday.

The department has been criticised by veterans, their families and even the Productivity Commission, which said in a draft report that the compensation claim process for veterans was not fit for purpose.

One mother of a veteran who committed suicide started a petition on Change.org, which received more than 220,000 signatures. As part of the petition, she called for a royal commission into the rate of suicide among veterans and accuses the DVA of treating veterans poorly when they make compensation claims.

“I believe in the past that the DVA has been guilty of being too adversarial in terms of whether it’s protecting the public purse or putting veterans through a lot of hoops,” Mr Chester told 7.30.

He said the culture in large organisations was difficult to change but that the DVA was making progress.

“The changing culture now is around taking a more beneficial approach to the veteran or their family in terms of providing those support measures. So I think there has been improvement, I think there’s real progress here,” he said.

“The feedback I’ve received from the key ex-service organisations in about [the] 15 months I’ve been in the role is that they are seeing improvements, and they want to see us keep working with them to bed down even further improvements in the future.

“The DVA has to win back the trust of Australian veterans and their families and the service community more generally.”

Cross-party group to be set up

Darren Chester addresses the veterans summit in Canberra

PHOTO: Darren Chester addresses the veterans summit in Canberra. (ABC News)

Mr Chester said he would act upon a recommendation from the summit to contact MPs from all parties with military experience to form a group that will look at veterans’ mental health issues.

When it comes to a royal commission, Mr Chester said “all options are on the table”.

“But what I’ve been saying also quite clearly is, in about four or five days’ time the Productivity Commission is going to give me a report, which it has been working on for the past year,” he said.

“I understand it’s a 1,000-page report, looking at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and making sure it’s fit for purpose for the next 100 years.

“That needs to be worked through as well.”

Discovering ‘why these people have been doing nothing’

Jesse Bird posing in army camouflage with gun

PHOTO: Jesse Bird’s claim was rejected by DVA. (Supplied: Karen Bird)

In 2017, 7.30 reported on the case of Jesse Bird, a veteran of the Afghanistan conflict who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Bird took his own life after his claim for permanent impairment was rejected by the DVA.

He died at the age of 32 with just $5.20 in his bank account.

Mr Bird’s stepfather John told 7.30 his file shows his pleas for help were not taken seriously.

“He had his rejection papers prominently displayed along with a lot of other paperwork that he’d had to endure with the DVA,” he told 7.30 in 2017.

Mr Bird’s mother Karen Bird said her son had been pushed into a corner and could not see any other way out.

“He was my first-born son and I don’t have him anymore,” Ms Bird said.

Since Mr Bird’s death there have been major changes inside the DVA and the Government is spending $230 million a year on veteran mental health.

John McNeill, a volunteer who devotes his time to helping veterans navigate the complex claim system, wants a royal commission because of the failings he saw first-hand with Mr Bird’s case.

“The same story has been said over and over and over again about what needs to change. Now it hasn’t,” he said.

“So I believe the royal commission would find out why these people that have been entrusted to be the voice of the veteran community are sitting back and doing nothing to help until the spotlight is shone on them.”

Hundreds of suicides

Warrior's Return collates statistics on suicides by veterans

PHOTO: Warrior’s Return collates statistics on suicides by veterans. (ABC News)

An official estimate records more than 370 suicides involving current or former defence personnel since 2001, with one volunteer group called Warriors Return keeping its own figures on suicide by veterans across the country.

Their research shows there have been 16 suicides this year alone, with 48 last year, 86 in 2017 and 80 in 2016.

But Brian Briggs, a military compensation lawyer with Slater and Gordon, argues against a royal commission.

He believes the money could be better spent fixing problems which are well known.

“I think the money would be more wisely spent elsewhere in providing services to the veterans and to the veteran community, not on having numerous lawyers appearing before the royal commission and spending $80 to $100 million, which is only going to lead to further delays,” he said.

“We already know what the issues are, what they need to do is get things happening and happening fast and happening now.

“All this money that’s being put in, what are the results? That’s where we need to sit back and see what is producing results and what isn’t working — and what isn’t working should be shut down.”

RELATED STORY: Man warned Veterans’ Affairs he could become suicide statistic days before death

RELATED STORY: DVA head offers apology after policy changed to thwart compo claim

RELATED STORY: ‘Bureaucratic bastardry’: DVA secretly changed rules to deny veteran’s claim

If you or anyone you know needs help:

ABC News – 27th June 2019

ABC TV 7.30 Report – Duty of Care

Calls for royal commission over the rate of veteran suicides

There are growing calls for a royal commission into the rate of suicide among military veterans. An official estimate is there have been more than 370 suicides involving current or former defence personnel since 2001. Despite ongoing reforms, the Department of Veterans Affairs is under fire over how it treats compensation claims and the toll it takes on those who have served our country.

Watch the video report here

Wed 26 Jun 2019, 8:45pm

Minister for Veterans Affairs talks about today’s summit on mental health

Minister for Veterans Affairs, Darren Chester, held a summit to discuss the problem of mental health issues among veterans.

Watch the video report here

Wed 26 Jun 2019 8.45 pm

VETERANS’ MENTAL HEALTH SUMMIT TO INFORM GOVERNMENT’S STRATEGY

Tomorrow’s Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit will bring together key stakeholders at Parliament House to improve services and support to those who have served in the Australian Defence Force.

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The Summit, to be chaired by Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel, Darren Chester, will focus on extra steps that can be taken to improve veterans’ mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention.

“As a Federal Government, we are determined to put veterans and their families first, which is why I’m convening the Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit this Wednesday,” Mr Chester said.

“It’s an opportunity to take stock of current programs and assess what else can be done to improve mental wellbeing of veterans.

“While we have already expanded access to free counselling, and introduced new payments to ensure veterans submitting mental health claims have financial support while their claims are being considered, it’s important to constantly assess the Government’s strategy.”

Experts will be brought together to consider the current range of services, programs and pilots offered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), and to give advice about the strengths of current settings, where gaps could be addressed, and to inform the Government’s forward plan and strategy.

The Summit will be the first stage of a structured engagement with ex-service organisations, veterans, families and service providers, over the coming months and will be a great opportunity for stakeholders to continue working with the Federal Government on veteran matters of great importance.

“I will also be working through the Government’s approach to veteran’s mental health and well-being with my Federal Ministerial colleagues,” Mr Chester said.

“State and Territory Governments also have a vital role to play and mental health will be a focus at the Veterans Ministers Council meeting in August.

“The Prime Minister has made it clear that mental health will be a core focus of this government and he has already announced several initiatives aimed at suicide prevention and mental wellbeing in the wider community.

“It is a sad and complex issue which costs Australia more than 3000 people each year and when it comes to veteran suicide, the only acceptable number for me is zero – the only acceptable number for the Australian people is zero.

“We need to keep working together to improve mental wellbeing and prevent suicide throughout Australia.”

Free and confidential help is available through Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Help is available 24/7 by calling 1800 011 046.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

RCB UPDATE 3/2019 – AND THE BEAT GOES ON

This is an Update on activities reported in Update 2/2019

Legal Conference

Arising from the telephone conference meeting with our barrister it was decided that as there will likely be a new Minister after the election we need to put our case to that person afresh before taking the legal path. This is because the courts would not take kindly to suing somebody who has previously had nothing to do with the decisions against us. To that end our legal team is preparing a brief for the incoming Minister.

National Media Exposure

In the meantime we are continuing our preparations with a national media organisation to expose our claim to the Australian people. No action will commence until we have a decision on the legal advice

Defence Force Retirement & Death Benefit – Commutation issue – A Summary

We continue to monitor it because it is a good example of the power of national media to influence the Government and we can learn valuable lessons from this inquiry.  The timing for the independent inquiry is to be decided after the commencement of the 46th Parliament. The so called independent body is to be the Commonwealth Ombudsman: this decision has been criticised as not being independent of Government.

That Moment of Truth – The Meetings – Update 1/2019

In that Update we reported:

“A week after our return to Brisbane we sent an RCB Brief of the matter to the Minister and Ted Chitham wrote him a personal letter appealing to his decency in decision making and the need to act. We are still waiting for a response for continuation of the unfinished meeting or a decision.”

Today (15th May 2019) the RCBRG received a letter from the Vice Chief of the Defence Force Vice Admiral David Johnston AO, RAN in which he thanked us for our correspondence: Letter of 5th December 2018 to Minister Chester, Letter of 21st February 2019 to Minister Chester, Emails of 26th February 2019 to Minister Payne and Sen Fawcett, and Letter of 22nd March 2019 to Minister Chester; and counters our claims with reasons that are challengeable. Again he repeats this sentence: “In the absence of compelling new evidence the Department of Defence does not intend to examine this matter further.”

Faced with this continuing avoidance to meet with us (refer to the 26thNovember 2018 meeting fiasco) no wonder that we persist with our claim to obtain justice through other channels

Thanks all for your support, suggestions, comments and donations: they are greatly appreciated. I can assure you all of the outstanding dedication of the RCBRG that remains resolute in its determination to pursue our claim.

Prior Planning, Persistence, Patience and Perseverance Prevents Poor Performance

Robert Cross
RCB Service 1973, 1974/75, 1982
RCB Group Leader
Date: 17/05/2019

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ELECTION 2019 – RSL NSW Veterans’ Policy Debate – 13 May 2019

This Federal Election Veterans’ Policy Debate between the Minister for Veterans Affairs, Darren Chester MP, and the shadow Minister for Veterans Affairs, Amanda Rishworth MP, was chaired by RSL NSW President, James Brown at the ANZAC Memorial, Hyde Park, Sydney.