War veterans find new meaning in civilian life by responding to disasters

When soldier Geoff Evans was serving in Afghanistan in 2010, a roadside bomb exploded underneath him. His spine was crushed and he had a brain injury so severe, he couldn’t write his own name.

While in recovery, the former Australian Army Lieutenant met a homeless veteran. The encounter led to his decision to start a charity to support veterans who were living rough.

But he didn’t stop there.










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.


ALP – Labor announces Senate Inquiry Inquiry into the use of Anti – Malarials in the ADF

Today, Labor has announced that we will move to establish a Senate Inquiry into the use of the Quinoline anti-malarial drugs Mefloquine and Tafenoquine in the Australian Defence Force.



It is almost two years since the Turnbull Government first acknowledged concerns around the use of the anti-malarial drug, Mefloquine.

However, members of the serving and ex-service community have continued to raise their concerns around the side effects from some anti-malarial drugs which were taken during their service.

It is time for a proper and public examination of the issue and to establish the facts.

In that spirit, Labor has discussed the draft Terms of Reference with the Government to ensure the Senate Inquiry has the opportunity to work through this issue in an open and transparent manner and provide a thorough and comprehensive report about the use of Quinoline anti-malarial drugs in the ADF.

The draft terms of reference for the inquiry are:

The use of the Quinoline anti-malarial drugs Mefloquine and Tafenoquine in the Australian Defence Force with particular reference to:

A. Current and past policies and practices for prescribing quinolone anti-malarial drugs to ADF personnel

B. Current and past policies and practices for identifying and reporting adverse drug reactions from quinoline anti-malarial drugs among ADF personnel

C. The nature and extent of any adverse health effects of those who have taken Mefloquine/Tafenoquine on serving and former ADF personnel

D. Support available for partners, carers and families of personnel who experience any adverse health effects of quinoline anti-malarial drugs

E. A comparison of international evidence/literature available on the impact of quinoline anti-malarials

F. How other governments have responded to claims regarding quinoline anti-malarials

G. Any other related matters.

Labor understands this is a complex issue and looks forward to the Inquiry providing further transparency on this issue.

It is anticipated the inquiry would hold public hearings to allow all voices to have an opportunity to be heard.

Labor will consult with senators over the coming weeks to establish the inquiry during the next sittings of the Senate in June.

Amanda Rishworth MP & Senator Alex Gallacher
Tuesday 5 June 2018

DVA – Assistance Dog Trial to Help Tackle Veteran Mental Health

The Federal Government is putting veterans first with an innovative trial of assistance dogs for veterans.

La Trobe University in Victoria will partner with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) in conducting a $2 million trial of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) assistance dogs for veterans, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester announced today.

download 16

“I am pleased to announce that DVA has engaged La Trobe University, in partnership with the Centre for Service and Therapy Dogs Australia, to undertake the trial of assistance dogs for veterans with PTSD as a supplement to clinical treatment,”Mr Chester said.

La Trobe is a leader in research involving our best friend and is the home to Australia’s first dedicated human-dog interaction laboratory. Dogs are great company, good fun, loyal friends and anyone who has had a dog knows they can be incredibly beneficial for your wellbeing.

“The trial will be a considered process that takes into account the specific needs of the participating veteran – such as determining the most appropriate breed and temperament of dog, and the bonding process between the dog and participant.”

Mr Chester said work would commence on the detailed design phase of the trial, including the process for veteran recruitment. Selection of participants will commence early in 2019, with dog or puppy selection taking place after that.

“Following the matching and suitability process, there will be a period of approximately 18 months for the initial dog training and the bonding process, prior to the placement of the dog with the participant on a permanent basis. It is expected that up to 20 participants will take part in the trial,” Mr Chester said.

“Unlike pet or companion dogs, assistance dogs are specially trained to perform ‘tasks’ that contribute to the clinical recovery goals of the individual. The assistance dog will be integrated as part of a clinical care plan involving the veteran and their mental health clinician.

“Of course, throughout this trial, the welfare and safety of the veterans and of the dogs will be paramount.”

La Trobe Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Keith Nugent said that the University, in consultation with DVA, veteran mental health and industry experts, will establish and apply best practice protocols to guide the training, selection and monitoring of participants and assistance dogs.

“This world-first approach to assisting people with PTSD will see our researchers working alongside industry experts in assistance-dog training. Our students and staff will also play an integral role in this process. We expect this project to make a meaningful difference to the lives of our veterans,” Professor Nugent said.

Mr Chester said the assistance dog trial was just one of the new initiatives to strengthen the Turnbull Government’s commitment to veterans’ mental health and wellbeing.

“This trial involving DVA and La Trobe University will include consultation and the active participation of veterans through the design and delivery of this program.

30 May 2018

ADSO Comment

download 47This is a welcome initiative, long sought for by John Jarrett and Peter Wallace of Young Diggers with their Dog Squad initiative.

download 46See also Assistance Dogs International, Inc. (ADI) Setting standards for the assistance dog industry since 1987  It is a worldwide coalition of non-profit programs that train and place Assistance Dogs. Founded in 1986 from a group of seven small programs, ADI has become the leading authority in the Assistance Dog industry.

Chester Media Release – Expanding services for veterans and their families in partnership with Australia Post

A program to improve easy access to general information about mental health services, counselling, rehabilitation, and transition and support services for veterans and their families has been launched in Mount Gambier, South Australia and North Lakes in the Moreton Bay area of Queensland as part pilot the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is conducting with Australia Post.

download 16Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the trial is part of the Turnbull Government’s ongoing commitment to put veterans and their families first.

“This pilot, in partnership with Australia Post, is exploring the opportunity for DVA to further expand its reach to veterans and their families by tapping into the extensive network of Australia Post outlets,” Mr Chester said.

“The pilot provides easy access to general information about mental health services, counselling, rehabilitation, and transition and support services to veterans and their families who may not have had prior contact with DVA.

“This expansion to a further two sites will provide more information about the way this service is accessed by veterans and their families in metropolitan and regional areas and will help us assess the benefits of the service further.”

The pilot supplements DVA’s existing face-to-face service delivery network by leveraging the large Australia-wide footprint of Australia Post, it does not replace any existing DVA program or service.

Information is available via the in-store Australia Post kiosk facilities, as well as the Australia Post concierge service, in-store posters, brochures and videos.

A feedback form is available via the in-store iMac in which DVA is seeking ongoing user feedback to continue improving the service. The pilot will be evaluated before its conclusion at the end of June 2018.

18th 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.


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


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
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.

Opinion – Mental health lift a good start

Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester announced a new $31 million program, the Coordinated Veterans’ Care mental health pilot, which starts on May 1. He said the program aimed to support veterans in rural and regional communities with chronic mental health and comorbidity issues.
This should be welcome news for veterans and families for whom mental health has become a sometimes almost unbearable burden.
As always, there is a catch.

Read More

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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Since being appointed as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs The Hon. Darren Chester MP has been interviewed by David Speers Sky News 5th  March 2018 and  by Tim Shaw radio station Canberra 2 CC on 6th March  2018

Read the David Speers interview transcript here

Listen to the Tim Lane interview here

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
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.