Open Arms community and peer program expands nationally

SUPPORT for veterans and their families who may be struggling with mental health conditions or at risk of suicide, will be enhanced through the Community and Peer Program which is currently being rolled out across Australia.

VA121 open arms peer advisor group

The program, run by Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling (Open Arms), connects veterans and family members who may be struggling with their mental health, with peers who bring a lived experience of mental health issues and, importantly, of recovery.

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester joined existing and newly recruited members of the Open Arms Community and Peer Program in Canberra as part of their week-long induction training.

“The pilot program held in Townsville, had positive results with Open Arms peers breaking down barriers to care, improving relationships with key community groups, and reducing the stigma for veterans around mental health and seeking help,” Mr Chester said.

“Since the First World War, veterans and their families have understood the importance and value of mateship that is instilled during service, placing them in a unique position to support one another. This program harnesses that mateship and ensures veterans can talk to other veterans, and families to other military families, to assist each other with the support of mental health clinicians.

“This is another important part of the support system—improving the holistic mental health and wellbeing outcomes for veterans and their families. The national roll-out is a significant step forward in improving the lives of veterans and their families.”

Twenty-nine peers, in addition to the six peers from the Townsville pilot, are being trained as Mental Health Peer Workers and will be employed at 14 Open Arms locations nationally. Also in attendance for the induction training were representatives from key veteran-run organisations with a passion for supporting veterans’ mental health, including Swiss8, Red Six and Survive to Thrive Nation.

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“You train them to go to war, we train them to come home” – Founder/CEO Dane Christison

Adrian Sutter from Swiss8 said, “The biggest take-out for me from the workshop is they get it. Open Arms seem to understand the current veteran space. They get what is needed to break the barriers with veterans at the moment, and get people coming forward firstly and then getting them the help that they need, if they need it, or just provide someone to talk to. That they understand the space is the biggest thing I’m taking away.”

The Community and Peer Program will provide Open Arms with a skilled workforce of veterans from across all three Australian Defence Force services and family representatives, to augment clinical capability across Australia by mid-2020.

Open Arms (formerly VVCS) is Australia’s leading provider of high quality mental health, counselling and support services for Australian veterans and their families, as well as some reservists and peacekeepers. To find out more about the services offered, call 1800 011 046 or visit Open Arms.

1 December 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

Open Tender for Psychiatric Assistance Dogs for Veterans

Chester

MORE veterans seeking to manage their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will benefit with the expansion of the Government’s psychiatric assistance dog program.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said following the successful launch of the program in September there had been increased interest from the ex-service community and organisations passionate about supporting veterans’ mental health.
“Veterans have told me about the benefits of an assistance dog in managing their mental health in a positive way — this is real action that responds to the needs of veterans,” Mr Chester said.
These dogs are matched with veterans and are trained to notice signs of distress and perform specific actions to ease the symptoms of PTSD. For example, waking their handler experiencing a night terror or nuzzling their handler to distract them.
“By expanding the panel of providers, more veterans will be able to access a psychiatric assistance dog to assist them in managing their PTSD, reduce isolation and give the veteran a chance to improve their mental health and wellbeing.
“I encourage those organisations who train assistance dogs and who are passionate about supporting veterans’ mental health to review the open tender and submit an application.”

Founder and Director of Training of Smart Pups Patricia McAlister said she has been working with and training dogs since she was 10 years old and after seeing the difference an assistance dog makes, she has made it her mission to train more of them.
“Since being announced as one of the first two providers of psychiatric assistance dogs I have interviewed a number of veterans who are delighted and excited about Smart Pups working with them to provide a dog that will suit their unique needs,” Ms McAlister said.

“Veterans and their families give so much for our country and I am proud that Smart Pups is able to support them, and their families, by providing them with a dog that will have a profound effect on their everyday lives.”

Interested providers should have access to qualified and registered mental health professionals with experience in working with individuals with PTSD and who can advise on all aspects of partnering veterans with psychiatric assistance dogs. For more information on the requirements and guidelines of the open tender or to apply, providers are encouraged to visit the AusTender website.

Open Arms – Veterans & 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

Veterans currently seeking treatment for PTSD are encouraged to speak to their mental health professional in regards to gaining access to a psychiatric assistance dog, or for more information visit the DVA website.

DVA Media Release Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant

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The Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant serves to recognise and acknowledge the unique nature of military service and the contribution of veterans and their families. The Covenant is supported by the Veteran Card, Lapel Pin and Oath. These provide the opportunity for Australians to identify veterans when they are not in uniform or wearing their medals, and offer respect to them and their family.

Employers, businesses, local community groups and the broader Australian public are able to commit their support for the Covenant. The Covenant provides the framework that enables veterans and their families to better connect with their community.

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Veteran Card
Use your Veteran Card to gain access to treatment for service-related conditions or injuries that DVA has approved, and access to DVA-funded mental health treatment, if required.

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Lapel Pin
The Lapel Pin allows the wider community to acknowledge your service regardless of whether you served in the Navy, Army or Air Force.

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Oath
The Oath is a declaration on behalf of the Australian people recognising the valuable contribution that current and former members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and their families make and have made for our country.

How veterans can apply
Veterans and Reservists can apply for the Covenant, including the Veteran Card, Lapel Pin and Oath, online using MyService. Depending on your type of service, you may be eligible for all, or some, of the Covenant items.

How to support veterans
Employers, businesses, local community groups and the broader Australian public are able to commit their support for the Covenant to recognise and acknowledge the contribution of veterans and their families. 

The Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program was initiated in 2016 to raise awareness of the value and unique experience of veterans. Find out more about how the program assists veterans and employers on the Veterans’ Employment web site

Community Groups
Find out more about community groups and Ex-Service Organisations and their work to support veterans and their families.

READ MORE

Covenant and lapel-pin legislation passed by parliament

Legislation to enact the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant was passed by parliament on 22 October 2019 and has been forwarded through appropriate channels for Royal Assent.

Australian Veterans’ Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Bill 2019 will establish the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant, which provides a formal way for all Australians to show their appreciation to our current and former Australian Defence Force personnel, and to the families who have supported them.

Upon Royal Assent in coming weeks, the Bill will become a separate Act to provide symbolic recognition for all veterans.

It does not change current entitlements.

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said the covenant, veteran card and veteran lapel pin would allow the community — including employers, businesses, community groups, veteran or sporting organisations and the general public — the opportunity to recognise the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served our nation.

“The legislation also includes a statement requiring the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to adopt a beneficial approach when interpreting legislation and apply a fair, just and consistent approach to veterans’ claims,” Mr Chester said.

“Arrangements are also being finalised for businesses across Australia to recognise the unique nature of military service by providing benefits through the veteran card, and I encourage any business that would like to learn more about how it can participate to contact the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

“We are committed to putting veterans and their families first and this legislation is part of our ongoing efforts to transform the culture of DVA.”

The Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant is part of a wider recognition package, and enables the oath and lapel pin to be provided to veterans and eligible reservists.

The package also includes the veteran card — a redesign of the existing DVA health cards, which is open to new applicants and will be provided to existing card holders over the coming months.

Mr Chester said those who had already applied for the lapel pin and oath would begin receiving their covenant packs soon and he urged those who have not applied for the covenant to do so online using MyService.

More information on the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant, including how individuals can apply and how businesses and community organisations can register their support, can be found on the DVA website.

Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant – Now Legislated

Advice from Liz Cosson.

“Good Afternoon,

I would like to thank you for your ongoing commitment and support to ensuring veterans and their families receive the recognition and respect they deserve for their service and sacrifice to our country.

I am pleased to let you know that the Government’s Australian Veterans’ Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Bill 2019 has passed Federal Parliament today.

This legislation formally establishes the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant which includes an oath, lapel pin and Veteran Card which are available for veterans and eligible reservists.

With the passing of this legislation we will now start to send out the lapel pins and oath to those who have already registered via mail in the coming weeks.

The new Veteran Card, which is a redesign of the existing DVA health cards, continues to provide access to treatments and benefits and will soon provide access to thousands of offers from businesses across Australia as a part of a new benefits program.

We are expecting to launch the benefits program very soon and will be sending information packs in the mail to Ex-Service Organisations and RSL Sub-branches which includes promotional material and a set of frequently asked questions to help you support veterans to ensure they get the most out of the program.

Veterans and reservists can continue to register for the Covenant online through MyService, by calling DVA on 1800 555 254, or by visiting your local Veterans Access Network office.

For more information about the Covenant, please visit here
Regards Liz,”

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Liz Cosson AM CSC
Secretary
Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Appointment to Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission

Current Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Comcare, Sue Weston PSM, has today been appointed as a part-time member of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC) for a five-year term.

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said Ms Weston had an impressive record of public sector experience and strong leadership.

“I congratulate Ms Weston on her appointment. I am confident she will make a significant contribution to the work of the Commission,” Mr Chester said.

“Ms Weston was appointed as the CEO of Comcare in April this year. The roles and responsibilities of the CEO of Comcare complement those of the Commission, which administers benefits under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) and Part XI of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA).”

Ms Weston’s previous roles include Deputy Secretary and Head of Industry and Small Business Policy at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and Head of the Office of Small Business at the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources. She also holds professional qualifications in Science, Accounting, and Arbitration and Mediation.

Mr Chester said Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, nominated Ms Weston for the Commission.

“I look forward to working with Ms Weston and the other members of the Commission to provide rehabilitation, compensation and other benefits to current and former members of the Australian Defence Force and their dependants.”

More information about the MRCC and its functions can be found online.

DVA Client Satisfaction Survey 2019 Results

The Client Satisfaction Survey is a key tool for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to learn more about our clients’ experiences so we can improve the way we serve veterans and their families.

As part of DVA’s ongoing commitment to its transformation program, the Survey has moved to an annual activity, the most recent being in June and July 2019.

Results of the 2019 DVA Client Satisfaction Survey are presented in two key products:

Key Insights. The survey results show 84% of veterans are satisfied with DVA overall, a slight increase on 81% in 2018. While older veterans remain more positive about DVA’s service delivery compared to younger veterans, the satisfaction levels for veterans aged under 45 years has shown continuous improvement since 2016.

2019 Client Satisfaction Survey questions are also available:
2019 Survey Questions (PDF 400 KB)

2018 Client Satisfaction Survey Results

The Australian Editorial – When scrutiny becomes enemy of the state

Media’s Right to Know Campaign. When the Government hides the truth from you what are they covering up?

The front pages of every major newspaper were censored this morning as part of Australia’s Right to Know campaign which is calling for greater protections for journalists and access to information.

The coalition of more than a dozen of the nation’s media companies and organisations is campaigning for change to six critical areas of law that has allowed a ‘veil of secrecy’. 

The media coalition has asked the government for the right to contest warrants, exemptions from poorly crafted laws that make journalistic practice an offense, protection for public sector whistle-blowers, fewer secret documents and reform in the Freedom of Information regime. The two fundamental rights are the : RIGHT to KNOW and RIGHT to CONTEST

Here are extracts from the Australian Newspaper Editorial of 22nd October 2019

If you think journalists are the people who control information, you’re in for a big surprise. Never before has the state collected more data on citizens, employed more message merchants to shape the news agenda or constructed a mighty firewall to stop information about its activities reaching the public.

In a democracy, our job is not to be a mere vehicle for the executive or bureaucracy, to use our platforms to carry official statements to a micromanaged populace. That’s what life is like in China and, as controversial as it may sound to some, that’s not the liberal, open, free country Australians want to live in.

We are in the disclosure business. Not because we are gossips, dobbers or scolds but because the task of scrutiny is necessary to make sure the state itself is not above the law.

That line — the law — is changing, often due to difficult and dangerous circumstances. But also because in a territorial game the scrutinised, as a class, always want to do their work on their own terms. Their lives are much easier if they never have to explain why taxpayer money gets wasted, they want to spy on citizens or people are locked up without cause. Ignorance has never been a solid basis for citizenship or a method to get the best out of elected governments. And their bureaucracies  Politicians and officials, whether by accident or design, have constructed a “trust us” apparatus.

But the enemy is not journalism per se. The enemy they’ve constructed is any scrutiny at all — not only do they want to keep our eyes off their actions and inactions, they ultimately don’t want you to know what they are doing.

As a news organisation we do not think we can do as we please: there are constraints of defamation, sub judice and privacy. Yet secrecy is increasingly being declared in matters that do not pose security risks but, rather, the acute embarrassment of the stuff-up or bad idea.

We want to change laws that give the custodians of state power — ministers, the heads of defence forces, security agencies and departments — the ability to do as they please and evade scrutiny. The public wants to know what’s being done in its name and expects us to step up.

Trust in institutions, including media, is falling; part of that is due to poor performance, press infighting and competition, and “gaslighting” by those who want us to stop asking questions. Our work is out in the open, around-the-clock, subject to 360-degree review by critics and competitors. Readers expect us to get to the truth

But what about the state? You can’t sack it. But you can make power better and accountable. That is the essence of our democracy. The news media plays its role when it single-mindedly pursues the truth. We want laws that promote transparency and limit the state’s tools of secrecy and control.

We trust an informed people, not governments, as the ultimate guardians of our freedoms.

READ THE FULL EDITORIAL

Comment – Surviving Recent Friendly Fire

Friendly Fire
What has been very disappointing and demoralizing in recent times are the emails, social media posts and the broader media attacks upon DVA, the ESORT and the ADSO.

Especially are the attacks on individuals and ESO leaders for not being supportive of the broad veteran communities. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When these attacks get personal, lesser mortals might choose to walk away from it all but considering how far we have all come for the better we have no option “than to stay the course”.

Nothing is perfect in life and DVA is no different, but the improvements initiated over the last four years, through the Veteran Centric Reform program, are encouraging, but there is still a long way to go.

DVA, with the ESORT and others, are engaged and are working through the Productivity Commission Report and the Cornell Advocacy Report.

There is no doubt that the ESO community is being listened to in so many different areas, including families. There is a more holistic and workable approach in the case management of veterans and their families.

Unique Opportunity
The veteran community has a once in a lifetime opportunity to reset the agenda for veteran care into the future.

Presently there is increasing pressure on the DVA and the Government to consider and then implement much of what the Productivity Commission has recommended. This takes time. Yes, it is frustrating and slow grinding work. The pressure on the individuals who toil within DVA for the betterment of veteran care is relentless. This coupled with the constant pot shots from those outside the tent is having a demoralizing effect on all who work within the organisation. This is unfair! They should be allowed the opportunity to focus on the task of veteran care and not be forced to continually duck ill-considered friendly fire and, some, not so friendly.

Client Satisfaction
Interestingly, a client satisfaction survey conducted by an outside organisation has found that there is an 81% overall client satisfaction rating of DVA. When this is broken down demographically by age, the satisfaction rating of those 65 years and over is 89%; 45 years to 64 years, 72%; and under 45 years only 58%.

The last group is obviously the younger veteran. This poor 58% is precipitated by the complexities, duplicities and confusion across the three Acts.

DVA, with overt pressure from ESO leadership, is presently reviewing these three pieces of legislation to harmonise them as either one or two Acts. This will alleviate the issues, the time and the decision-making controversy that causes such angst for the younger veteran community.

ESORT and ADSO
The ESORT and the ADSO is supportive of DVA during this difficult period of implementing some of the recommendations of the PC and all we ask of the ex-service community is to give us all a fair go.

There are no cars, blazers or cigars for the work the members of the ESORT or ADSO do in these roles. It is all on a pro bono basis to try to make a difference in the best interests of veterans and their families.

Some criticisms of us may be justified at times due to poor communications, most are totally unfair and unacceptable. This when individuals are personal in their attacks and not backed by fact or constructive involvement in the area of veterans’ issues and veteran care.

10 September 2019

Kel Ryan 
National Spokesman 
Alliance of Defence Service Organisation 
Mobile: (0418) 759 120 

Michael von Berg
National President
RAR Corporation
Mobile: (0411) 870 055

FUNDING FOR ORGANISATIONS TO SUPPORT OUR VETERAN COMMUNITY

VETERANS and their families across Australia will be better supported thanks to more than $875,000 in community grants aimed at improving veteran health and wellbeing.

 Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said 68   projects will receive funding under the Veteran and Community   Grants (V&CG) and Men’s Health Peer Education (MHPE) programs.
 “These grants will support veterans and their families by providing funding for activities and services that promote healthy and good quality lifestyles,” Mr Chester said.
Due to the overwhelming number of applications under the V&CG program, we have provided additional funding through the MHPE program for this round, with successful projects supporting the veteran community by encouraging involvement in community activities and physical activity, which in turn enhances mental wellbeing.”

The V&CG program supports organisations by providing funding for projects that sustain or enhance the health and wellbeing of the veteran community. The MHPE program has a range of similar outcomes and therefore additional funds could be sourced.
“The Federal Government is committed to putting veterans and their families first and through this round of funding we are able to recognise a range of local activities and services that will support the veteran community in living a healthier lifestyle,” Mr Chester said.
“Congratulations to the community and ex-service organisations that will receive funding to deliver activities and services to support the veteran community.”
To find out more information visit the Veteran and Community Grants program page on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs website or visit the Community Grants Hub.

5 September 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