Invitation – Inquiry into ADF use of Mefloquine and Tafenoquine

On 19 June 2018 the Senate referred to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee a range of matters relating to the ADF use of Mefloquine and Tafenoquine for inquiry and report by 17 September 2018. 

The full terms of reference are to inquire with particular reference to:

(a) the current and past policies and practices for:
(i) prescribing Quinoline anti-malarial drugs to ADF personnel, and
(ii) identifying and reporting adverse drug reactions from Quinoline anti-malarial drugs among ADF personnel;

(b) the nature and extent of any adverse health effects of those who have taken Mefloquine/Tafenoquine on serving and former ADF personnel;

(c) the support available for partners, carers and families of personnel who experience any adverse health effects of Quinoline anti-malarial drugs;

(d) a comparison of international evidence/literature available on the impact of Quinoline anti-malarials;

(e) how other governments have responded to claims regarding Quinoline anti-malarials; and

(f) any other related matters.

The purpose of this letter of invitation is to draw your attention to the inquiry and to invite you or your organisation to make a written submission to the committee by 31 July 2018.

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DVA Secretly Changed Rules to Deny Veteran’s Claim

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs secretly deleted an incapacity policy to prevent an injured veteran claiming compensation. The Department denies any impropriety by its staff.

Read the full statement from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

ABC  TV  7.30 Report 18th June 2018

www.abc.net.au/7.30/dva-secretly-changed-rules-to-deny-veterans-claim/9883774

Expanding Essential Services for Veterans and their Families

VETERANS and their families will have greater access to essential services with Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester introducing the Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Veteran-Centric Reforms No. 2) Bill 2018 (VCR Bill) today.

“The measures introduced today will continue to ensure veterans and their families get the services and support they need,” Mr Chester said.
“As a government we are determined to put veterans and their families first.
“Mental health continues to be a big issue in communities throughout the country and we provide free mental health care to anyone who has served for one day in the Australian Defence Force. 

We will be establishing a new Veteran Suicide Prevention Pilot to deliver intensive and assertive management services to veterans following an attempted suicide or to those at significant risk of suicide.
“This pilot is about linking non-government and government support services to support vulnerable veterans’ and their families and will be offered at nine public and private hospitals in Brisbane.

“We want to encourage and support those studying with a view to getting them back into the workforce. This is why we will remove the reduction in the amount of incapacity payment which normally occurs after 45 weeks for those undertaking approved full-time study as part of their rehabilitation plan. This will mean veterans can focus on their study without having to worry about changes to their financial situation.”

The Bill will also enable the grandchildren of Vietnam veterans to be eligible to receive financial support to further their education through the Long Tan Bursary Scheme.
“We will continue to honour the service and sacrifice of the men and women who served our county in Vietnam by extending this support to their grandchildren,” Mr Chester said.
“Families who have suffered the tragic loss of a partner and who are wholly dependent partners of veterans will have two years to decide how to receive the compensation in periodic payments or as a lump sum, which is an increase from the current six months.
“The loss of a loved one is life changing and an incredible challenging time for any family, this change will remove the pressure to make an immediate decision so that they can make the best choice for their needs.
“This legislation re-affirms the Turnbull Government’s commitment to put veterans and their families at the centre of everything that we do.”

Other measures in the Bill will include allowing claims for compensation under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) to be made orally as well as in writing. This Bill will allow for some of the measures announced in the 2018-19 Budget to be implemented.

Drone Ambulance

Technology application to save lives

DVA Minister – Putting Veterans and their Families First – New Study to Improve Advocacy Services

A MAJOR study to improve advocacy services for veterans and their families has commenced under the leadership of the former Chair of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, Mr Robert Cornall AO.

download 16Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the study was part of the Turnbull Government’s ongoing commitment to put veterans and their families first and delivers on a significant part of the Government’s response to the concerns raised in the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Reference’s committee report: The Constant Battle: Suicide by Veterans.

“Veterans and their families deserve to have easy access to the best services available to them and this study has been established to ensure that happens,” Mr Chester said.

“This study will go a long way to helping our younger veterans and their families navigate the compensation claims and appeals processes and it will address a number of improvements to the current advocacy model which were recommended in the report.

“Mr Cornall has an excellent track record in working with the Defence and legal communities, and I’m confident he’ll bring all his experience to bear on finding new ways to ensure those who’ve served our nation get the best possible advocacy.”

Mr Cornall will talk to younger veterans, female veterans, veterans’ families, ex-service organisations, and the broader Defence community in coming months.

The latest research will be reviewed, veterans’ advocacy services in other countries will be examined, and advocacy models in other areas, such as the legal services, community, and disability sectors will be looked at.

“I hope many individuals and organisations will contribute their experiences and ideas to the study,” Mr Chester said.

Separate to this study, Mr Chester said the recent passage of new veterans’ legislation will also have a big impact on improving the health and wellbeing of those who have served their country.

For more information about the advocacy study, visit  here  or send an email to [email protected].

16 April 2018

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.

National Snapshot of Homelessness in Australian Cities

Interviews with more than 8000 people have been used to inform a new national snapshot of homelessness in Australian cities.

images

The World Today speaks to the study lead from the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia.

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Three minutes and ten seconds into the interview on homelessness in Australian capital cities the following is discussed:

PAUL FLATAU: So around about six per cent of the respondents actually said: “Yes, I have served in the Australian Defence Force.”
We actually don’t know what the number of veterans – this is post-World War Two and post-Korean war veterans, because very, very few of those that we interviewed were of an age – in fact, none were of an age of World War Two.
But we actually don’t know the total count of veterans in Australia in the worlds of interest to us. But six per cent seems very high.
But there’s another factor that was very important: and that was that the prevalence of serious brain injury was incredibly high amongst the veterans, much higher than the rest of the homeless group.
So around about half said “yes” to the question around serious brain injury, and that is a very alarming statistic. And we need to address that question of brain injury amongst veterans and obviously we need to address veterans’ homelessness.
It’s a question that was addressed in the US really strongly over a 10 year period. One of the major policies around homelessness in the US was about veterans’ homelessness.
And it’s been a very, very quiet issue in Australia.

THOMAS ORITI: Professor Paul Flatau, the director of the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia.
******************************

Comment from Dr Rod Bain OAM
MBBS FRCA FANZCA
Member RACGP
ESO Medical Advisor

So, at long last, we have a solid statistic on which to base the financial assistance we need to plan for these individuals’ futures as they can can no longer be allowed to manage on their own devices in our Australian society..A ball park figure  of the 8000 interviews is that there are 240 or so Aust. Defence Community members in the streets as a result of moderate head injuries most of which would have received these injuries during their ADF time.

I intend to pursue this long and hard within our ESO community as well, but here we can be united, I believe, to have these individuals moved to better places as quickly as we can.

DVA Minister Media Release – Delivering Better Services for Veterans & their Families

VETERANS and their families will receive increased support services and income support payments after the Senate passed new legislation today.
The legislation follows a $31 million boost to mental health services which was announced late last year.

download 16Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the legislation was part of the Turnbull Government’s ongoing commitment to improve services for veterans and their families and delivers a significant part of the Government’s response to the concerns raised in the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Reference’s committee report.
“We are constantly striving to deliver the support and services needed for those who have served our nation,” Mr Chester said.
“This is a great outcome for veterans and their families who play such an essential role in a veteran’s health and wellbeing with additional services to be provided under these new measures which include increased access to childcare assistance, home care and counselling.
“We have also established a new income support payment for veterans with mental health problems who are unable to work so they have a source of income. This will reduce the stress this places on both the veteran and their family in what can be a difficult time.
“Partners of veterans may also be eligible for the Veteran Payment and veterans with dependent children may be entitled to the maximum rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A without being subject to the Family Tax Benefit means test while they receive the Veteran Payment.”

Mr Chester said from 1 May 2018 a new pilot program, the Coordinated Veteran Care mental health pilot will commence which aims to support to veterans in rural and regional areas with chronic mental health at the mild to chronic status combined with co-morbid health conditions.

“Veterans are at the heart of many communities around Australia and it is essential they have access to these services no matter where they live and this a great initiative to ensure vital mental health services are delivered,” Mr Chester said.
“Veterans who have suffered a catastrophic injury will also be supported with access to household and attendant care services based on their individual needs.”

Mr Chester said the qualifying service determination has also been simplified by automating the process which will remove the requirement for veterans to make an application for the determination.

“There are also a range of other initiatives underway which will further deliver on our commitment to support our veterans who have given so much to our country and this Government is ensuring they receive and have access to support services they need now and into the future.”

Other measures in the legislation include an entitlement to a Gold Card for Australian Defence Force members who served in Japan after the cessation of hostilities at the end of World War II and before the British Commonwealth Occupation Force commenced.

Separate to this legislation, Mr Chester said anyone who has served one day in the Australian Defence Force can have mental health treatment free for any mental health condition.

22 March 2018

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.

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Veterans Care Association – New Awakenings for Veterans and their families.

For the past few years the Veterans Care Association (VCA), based in Brisbane ,have been working on front line veteran rehabilitation, supporting many hundreds of clients and their families.

VCA’s tactical objective is to improve the health and wellbeing of the veterans they engage with daily, but their strategic objective has been to model and improve the systemic way Veterans Health is managed, moving it from the current  “treating sickness” model to a “promoting wellness” model.

All of the core VCA team are seasoned veterans and committed Christians who have experienced the good and bad of what is currently on offer and they have cobbled  together a best practice veteran friendly service.

Chaplain Gary Stone, a veteran of some 47 years service, ( 8/9 RAR , 6RAR , 1RAR )  and his son Michael, a veteran of 20 years service  ( 2 RAR  , 8/9 RAR) , lead a group of veteran clinicians and peer support carers engaging ill and injured veterans in peer support, encouragement,  holistic health education, and life coaching.

Gary says , “Frankly, veterans are not responding well to the so called “Gold standard” of medication and cognitive/exposure therapy.  At a recent Post Traumatic Stress conference in Brisbane it was reported that 1/3 of veterans are actually getting worse from the clinical treatments they are getting.  All the clients VCA are seeing are making significant improvements, as they open up and respond to fellow veterans, who encourage them”.    

VCA currently provides a comprehensive peer support, health and wellbeing education programme, engaging disengaged veterans and educating them about health and wellbeing possibilities and/ or getting them into clinical therapy before they become acute cases requiring hospitalisation.

They utilise a front line team of chaplains and peer supporters-all very experienced former military officers , and a second row of Doctors, Nurses, Psychologists, and Social workers who advise both staff and clients.

The central message VCA  offers to veterans is that they can live much healthier lives if they deliberately give attention to nurturing their body, mind and soul , as well as living with a positive life purpose.

Soul nurture, including healing for moral injury is the missing ingredient in all other rehab programmes on offer in Australia.

To drive home the potential and importance of faith, the VCA team takes participants to Timor, where they hear the amazing stories of the Timorese who were victorious against all odds, with faith in God as their underpinning hope.

Designed and developed by Michael Stone, VCA’s Flagship activity is a 9 month “Timor Awakening” (TA) rehabilitation program, involving 3 months preparation, a 12 day immersion in Timor along with Timorese veterans and a 6 month follow up period. VCA have conducted five of these programmes with 125 participants and support of 20 veteran volunteer staff members, and are preparing for two more programmes in 2018. In Timor they get a “mountaintop experience’ – a circuit breaker awakening that their lives can improve , and they find new purpose and identity .

The detailed evaluation data VCA have collected and had externally analyzed by clinical psychologists and medical officers, presents solid evidence that the program is significantly reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression in all participants, and conversely improving quality of life.  These results are being sustained over the long term, through regular follow up, and the participation by many participants in “Life Coaching” offered by veteran Michael Albrecht.

TA alumni are engaging and assisting with ESO (especially RSL) and are making positive contributions to the veteran community and society. Noteworthy is the case of TA 2 participant, 15 year navy veteran Kerri Howie who has recently given public testimony in the Catholic Leader newspaper (circulation 33,000 nationwide) of her coming to VCA in a state of deep depression and drug addiction, and subsequent to TA has been rehabilitated and has returned to Timor walking 160 km from Dili to Betano conducting a health clinic in every village en route. I’m now inspired. I have purpose. I feel alive and I look forward to many opportunities ahead”– Kerri.   

Another significant outcome has been the mutual support  given to the Timorese veterans and Government of Timor in progressing veteran support initiatives. The recently elected Prime Minister Mari Alkitiri hosted the  TA5 group in his office, and heard first hand from VCA staff on what his Government could be doing to enhance veteran support. This occurred simultaneously with the Governments release of a 40 min documentary on the TA experience that has been shown nationally in Timor. VCA have produced the following short videos on Youtube and currently working on a professional documentary with interviews of participants.

Timor Awakening Commandos Return October 2017 Introduction Video (2 Minutes)

Timor Awakening 5 General Video (5 Mins)

VCA wishes to continue to offer TA experiences. They have more applicants than they can support, but their capacity for veteran support is significantly diminished by the time an effort they must put into fund raising. The programmes delivered to date have been made possible largely through the Sponsorship of RSL Qld and RSL Care – now known as Bolton Clarke. Further sponsorships and donations are most welcome.      .

Timor Awakening 5 formally welcomed to country by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri

 Michael Stone says, “Defence has given many of us extensive training in leadership, training and development, to be able to design and deliver these programmes,  and healing our struggling veterans is an honourable task for us  veterans to be engaged in. Experienced veterans can care for younger veterans in ways that civilian clinicians can’t. Younger veterans trust us and can be led into new lives because they know we understand them and we care. The deepest issues for veterans are not psychiatric- they relate to identity, purpose and connection with God and others . We can offer the empowerment for these to be rediscovered and realized. “

 Comprehensive information on this work is available at www.veteranscare.com.au

 

Gary Stone
President
Veterans Care Association

 

 Gary served 25 years as an infantry officer in the Army, before ordination as a married Deacon in 1994. Since then he has served as an army and police chaplain, has led extensive humanitarian ministries in Timor Leste, and is now chaplain to the ex service community in SEQLD. Gary has been married to Lynne for over 43 years and they have four adult children and three grandchildren.

Heroes of the Homefront – Honouring Modern-Day War Widows

GWEN Cherne has never worn an army uniform or been involved in active service. But she has devoted decades of her life to the Australian Defence Forces because she loved a man who did.
Her husband, Peter Cafe, served in Cambodia, Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq. The suffering he saw left him so traumatised that he took his own life a year ago, leaving Ms Cherne a modern-day war widow.

Over more than a century, countless women like her have soothed their defence force husbands when they were distressed, fought for help when they struggled, and carried their families through grief and loss.

Chene Family
War widow Gwen Cherne with her children Lachlan and Emily Café

They have cared for children alone; picked up their lives to move from base to base; forced a smile when their partners left and wept on their return. But their sacrifice has never been officially recognised. Until now.

On International Women’s Day this Thursday, a coalition of groups led by the War Widows Guild will launch Women United By Defence Service, a campaign to raise awareness of women’s contribution in all its different forms.

Sergeant Peter Cafe took his own life a year ago after serving our country

They will highlight the sacrifice of the 218 women who died in war, the thousands that have served, the mothers, partners and daughters that have lost loved ones, and the women quietly soldiering on the home front.
The campaign will culminate in a dinner and ceremony in Canberra in September. Participating groups include the RSL, Legacy, and the Women Veterans’ Network.
Ms Cherne says she spent years in counselling to cope with the impacts of her husband’s PTSD — the depression, the anger, the paranoia. “It impacts on our children’s mental health and ours,” she says.
She knows many women in a similar position. “For some it’s financial or physical abuse, for some it’s having to walk around the house on eggshells, which is scary and hard and frustrating,” she said.

“PTSD leaves women widows years before their husbands die.”

Brendan Nelson, director of the Australian War Memorial, said women carried the burden of their partner’s long absences, psychological suffering and sometimes death, with little acknowledgment. “The courage comes in different forms,” he said. “I’ve witnessed that courage, and it has my utmost admiration.”

JORDAN BAKER, The Sunday Telegraph
March 3, 2018

INCIDENCE OF SUICIDE IN SERVING AND EX-SERVING AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE FORCE PERSONNEL: DETAILED ANALYSIS 2001–2015

This report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare quantifies the level of suicide among serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel and identifies factors that may be associated with suicide risk.
Between 2001 and 2015, there were 325 certified suicide deaths among people with at least 1 day of ADF service since 2001. Of these, 51% (166) were ex-serving at the time of their death, 28% (90) were serving full time and 21% (69) were in the reserves.

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