Senate’s Support of a Australian Military Covenant Welcomed

The Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA), together with not only its partners in the Alliance of Defence Service Organisations (ADSO) but also with the support of the Returned and Services League of Australia, have long advocated the need to formally recognise the unique nature of military service through a legislated Australian Military Covenant.

A motion for adopting such a Covenant was moved in the Senate and passed on Wednesday 12 September 2018. In commenting on the welcome development, the Association’s National President, Kel Ryan, wished to congratulate Katter’s Australia Party Senator Fraser Anning for his initiative in proposing the motion, stating that: “bi partisan effort should now be applied to make sure that legislative processes for the proposed Australian Military Covenant could finalized in time for the 100th anniversary of the Armistice marking cessation of hostilities in the Great War”.

Kel wished to also acknowledge both the Government’s and the Labor Opposition’s support for a Military Covenant, each progressing towards enshrining the mutual obligations between the Nation and its servicemen and servicewomen and placing on public record the Nation’s enduring obligations to those who currently serve and those who once served in the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

He proffered that: “the Covenant would promote greater awareness and understanding of the demands placed on ADF members and dovetail in perfectly with the Prime Minister’s employment initiative because ADF members are a national resource that can bring enormous value to the Australian workforce and, if properly harnessed, will significantly enhance the skill sets in Australian commercial enterprises for the benefit of the nation and its economic competitiveness”.


Anning Continues to Fight for Veterans Covenant

During Question Time today, outspoken KAP Senator for Queensland Fraser Sen AnningAnning kept the pressure on the Government ensuring they legislated an Australian Military Covenant. Speaking afterwards, Senator Anning expressed his frustration at the apparently vague and evasive responses by the Minister.
“After my motion yesterday which called for the legislation of an Australian Military Covenant was passed by the Senate, I continued my push today by questioning Minister Payne on the Governments apparent lethargy.”
“I asked what the Government’s position was on the establishment of the Covenant; however despite the Minister making all the right noises, there was no specific commitment and only a vague reference to the end of 2018.”
“To say the least I am sceptical of her actual commitment, as the Government has had since 2015 to implement anything meaningful and so far they haven’t.”
“If we look at the situation honestly there has been ample time to consult with veterans groups and develop a Covenant which honours our social contract and moral obligation to look after our veterans.”
“It is only now after my strong and continued push along with Labors election promise that the Government is willing to do something.”
“Let’s be clear, there is no further requirement for more “consultation” or the establishment of yet another “working group.” The wording of a draft Australian Military Covenant has been provided already by the veteran’s community.”
“My supplementary question put to the Minister also asked if she was prepared to recognise a reversal of the onus of proof in veteran’s disability claims.”
“The response was not very hopeful.”
“It is very clear that the onus should be reversed and at the very least be the same level of willingness to compensate veterans as Centrelink provides to those seeking welfare,” Senator Anning said.
“As I have said before, our great nation has been built on the backs and sacrifice of our military. Now is the time to stop equivocating, dithering and playing political games. It is now the time for the government to act.”
”What the veteran community deserves is a specific commitment stating when the Government will enshrine the Australian Military Covenant in legislation. Until then, they are just honeyed words and insincere placation,” Senator Anning concluded.
14 September 2018

Katters Australian Party

RARA Comment 

We acknowledge and appreciate Senator Anning’s and  the KAP’s advocacy on veterans’ issues in the Senate.


Honouring Women’s Contribution to our Defence

COMMUNITY, business, political and Defence leaders have come together to honour women whose lives and families have been affected by their service with the Australian Defence Force at a Wreath Laying Ceremony and National Dinner Event in Canberra.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester paid tribute to current and ex-serving women, as well as the mothers, wives, sisters, children and widows of serving personnel.
“Women have played and continue to play an invaluable role in Australia’s rich military history, serving in various roles for more than a century,” Mr Chester said.
“The work you do paves the way for more to follow in your path and is inspiring a new generation of women to continue your strong legacy.
zoom 1“It’s especially important to commemorate those women who gave their lives in service of our country. Today we pay tribute to Norma Violet Mowbray, who served with the Australian Army Nursing Service and died of pneumonia in Egypt in 1916, aged 32.

“I also acknowledge the sacrifices that families make behind the scenes and recognise that the home front is just as important as the front line. I am in awe of the generous support the War Widows’ Guild and its many volunteers provide families throughout Australia.”

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has been a key supporter of the events and was an enthusiastic member of the organising committee led by the War Widows’ Guild.
“We are committed to putting veterans and their families first and together we can reach a better understanding of the needs of women who have been affected by Defence service.”


Ex MinDef Industry Christopher Pyne took the top Defence job in PM Scott Morrison’s new govt, with new player Steve Ciobo taking his place.

Read more…

Opinion – Rewriting Australian Army History – The Revisionists Strike Again

THE Australian Army commemorates March 1, 1901, as its official foundation date.
Since 1986 the Australian Army has published a glossy publication,
Brief History of the Australian Army, which is now in its fifth edition. The latest edition, which now devotes its first chapter to “European Settlement and the Aboriginal Resistance 1788-1920”.
Pardon, run that by again?
Engaging in so called frontier wars against Aboriginal resistance, as the current brief history edition claims, were never part of our army’s history.
Yet again the politically correct Canberra-based social warriors are rewriting history to suit their own agendas.
The Australian Army’s proud record since 1901 should be freed of such slurs.



An Honour to Serve, a Dishonour to Forget

MANY Australians still remember that absurdly youthful face of Alec Campbell peering out from the front page of newspapers after he died in May 2002.
The “Last Anzac’’, who joined up at the age of 16 in 1915, was the final living link Australia had to perhaps our most enduring and powerful foundation myth – Gallipoli.

In a few short years, we’ll see another front-page, black-and-white photo. It will be of another youthful face sporting a jaunty grin and wearing a slouch hat at a rakish angle, the background depicting the jungles of Papua New Guinea or perhaps the brown deserts of North Africa.
Inside the paper and on millions of morning television screens will appear, adjacent to the ancient photo, colour portraits of a dignified old man wearing a sports jacket festooned with medals.
And, as we read about the death of the last Australian World War II veteran, we’ll feel a stab of poignant sorrow deep within.
We’ll ponder the horrors of war, the nobility of sacrifice and the whole transient, evanescent and inconstant nature of human existence.

And then we’ll turn to the sports pages.

It’s not that we don’t honour our war veterans. We do.
On a per capita basis, the Anzac Day crowds of April 25 possibly outshine the participation rates of Americans, who put aside not one but two days a year to honour their military vets – Memorial day and Veterans Day.
We can even (especially if we are politicians anxious to wrap ourselves in a flag of patriotic virtue) bestow upon anyone who dons a military uniform a righteous stamp of morality they don’t always deserve.

Yet it’s clear we can also take military service for granted, mouthing platitudes about the honour of taking up arms then failing utterly to provide assistance to those who do.

Last week, we were told veterans of the Battle of Long Tan could not march through Central Brisbane on the battle’s anniversary because of logistic problems related to Anzac Square renovations.
No one was at fault. All those engaged in the process – from the Queensland Police to the Brisbane City Council to the vets themselves, acted in good faith to resolve the problem.
Yet, somehow, the 52nd anniversary commemorations of one of the most important Australian military engagements of the past half century was limited largely to a handful of events across provincial towns.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that the Brisbane Anzac Day Combined Parade Committee who were looking for a few extra dollars (they need an extra $35,000 a year), were told by the Queensland Government to consider putting the begging bowl out to the private sector to take up the shortfall.
And just three years ago, I was intrigued to learn, while interviewing a WWII veteran who fought in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, about his struggle to obtain a disability pension.
“Ken’’ had lost both legs as the result of a ship board accident (not involving enemy fire) while serving in combat zones during WWII. Yet, for years the Department of Veterans Affairs argued with him over whether he qualified for a pension.
He won his case only because his wife found letters Ken had sent her (his then girlfriend) during the war years detailing the accident and its impact on his health. It struck me as an unseemly bout of bureaucratic churlishness given Ken had faced down kamikaze planes as he helped the Americans fend off the Japanese advance near the Philippine island of Leyte in October 1944.

Australia is a long way from the Roman ideal of the warrior. It can’t be disputed that in the years following WWII, the status of the military plummeted. Once military men (and they were almost exclusively men) dominated leadership positions in their communities and carried their honorifics (colonel, major etc) into civilian life, especially in rural parts of Australia.
Now, they are often ignored.

We might need a rethink of our attitude to those of us who, whatever their own personal motives or goals, perform one of the most difficult jobs on earth.

It’s clear we can also take military service for granted

Veteran skills enlisted to help defend Australia’s welfare system

The Department of Human Services is partnering with key veterans’ employment agency WithYouWithMe to help give Australia’s former service men and women much needed opportunities to re-skill for civilian life.

Up to 36 veterans will be engaged by the Department of Human Services over the next three years to train and work within its cyber security branch, which defends the welfare system against the very real threat of online attacks.


The recruits have all been hand-picked by training provider WithYouWithMe as part of its ‘Talent Unleashed’ program, which assists former Navy, Army and Air Force personnel to transition into new careers.



Opinion – Sinking $50b into antiquity

Ross Eastgate – 2 August 2018

AUSTRALIA’S first submarines were British designed and built E Class 1911 and delivered in 2014. Australia’s future submarine fleet, decades away from introduction into service will rely on the same propulsion technology as the RAN’s original boats. Because, apparently, boffins somewhere deep in Canberra’s bowels are concerned the RAN won’t be capable of dealing with multiple new technologies simultaneously.
In 15 years when these boats eventually enter service, leadacid batteries are likely to be as technologically relevant as dial telephones…


‘It’s destroyed my life’: Hopes inquiry will back veterans’ claims anti-malaria drug caused illness

Veterans who believe their severe physical and mental health conditions were caused by anti-malaria medications given to them by the Army are hoping a senate inquiry will find enough evidence to back their claims.

Almost 20 years ago more than 3,000 troops were given the experimental drug tafenoquine, or the registered medication mefloquine, while on deployments in Timor-Leste and Bougainville.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) told 7.30 it has received anti-malarial-related claims from 42 veterans.

Mefloquine, which is also known by the brand name Lariam, has been shown to cause neuropsychiatric side effects and has been linked to two veteran suicides.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) and DVA recognises mefloquine can cause 14 conditions including depression, seizure, anxiety, schizophrenia and suicide.

Far fewer effects of tafenoquine are officially recognised.

In May, then-vice chief of the ADF, Ray Griggs, told a senate inquiry “its side-effects profile is much, much better than that of mefloquine”.

“There is no evidence that we know of that links it to neuropsychiatric conditions.”

‘It makes you feel real depressed’

10058256 3x2 340x227Speaking publicly for the first time, Army veteran Michael Bush told 7.30 about the severe impact he believes tafenoquine has had on his life after taking it in Timor-Leste.

The 40-year-old is unable to work after being diagnosed with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, a form of schizophrenia and chronic gastrointestinal issues.

“For what they’ve done to my health … you can never buy that back, it’s destroyed my life,” he said.


‘Help is available’

The Department of Defence declined 7.30’s interview request but said in a statement it was participating in the Senate inquiry and it would be inappropriate to comment while it was underway.

“It is important that public commentary on the issue is well-informed and reflects evidence-based research,” the statement said.

“This approach avoids misleading or adding to the anxiety of a broad group of people, including current and former serving ADF personnel and the general public who have used antimalarial treatments.

“These concerns have meant Defence has been careful and thorough in its response to claims made by individuals, so as to ensure outreach activities are underpinned by a sound public health approach.

“Most importantly, help is available to any current or former serving member or their family if they need support.”

DVA said it conducted a pilot outreach program for veterans in Townsville in 2016 and is considering further outreach activities.

RELATED STORYADF clears itself of wrongdoing over drug controversy

RELATED STORY: Defence force admits soldier shouldn’t have been included in anti-malaria drug trial

Opinion – Honouring our bravest heroes

There was once a provision for the award to be rescinded for infamous conduct.
Eight VCs were thus forfeited between 1861 and 1908.
In 1920 King George V insisted no recipient should forfeit his medal no matter how grievous his subsequent actions.
There are just four living Australian VC recipients, one from Vietnam and three from Afghanistan. Each understands the responsibility of being a recipient and the scrutiny which their post-award experience brings.
Of the four awards for Afghanistan two were made for aggressive leadership in extremely hostile circumstances, one for rescuing an Afghan soldier and one for drawing fire at extreme personal risk.
It has been revealed one recipient, Ben Roberts-Smith, who holds multiple gallantry decorations, has been mentioned in inquiries being conducted into allegations of irregular behaviour by Australian troops. That is ironic given troops are sent into combat to kill their enemy and capture ground usually at great personal risk.
Armchair warriors may pontificate on the morality of war but the reality is quite different.