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

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.