By VINCE CONNELLY MP
I predict that many Veterans will be questioning why the Federal Government has this week launched the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant. There will be some who feel uncomfortable about wearing the associated lapel pin or using the Veterans’ card. Australians – especially Veterans – tend to downplay, rather than signal their significant achievements. But let me share some personal insights about this initiative.
Having been an Army officer for nearly a decade, then an Army Reservist for another 10 years, I understand both the challenges and the opportunities facing Veterans.
My wife, Peta, also served as an Intelligence Officer and since leaving Defence, our journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing. We’ve faced difficulties – as have so many others – accessing medical treatment via the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and finding new employment.
But a new wave of Veterans in Parliament is helping to shift the narrative.
Members like Braddon MP Gavin Pearce and Herbert MP Phil Thompson have joined the ranks of Defence Minister Senator Linda Reynolds, Canning MP Andrew Hastie and others in the Coalition, as well as Veterans from other political parties.
With unwavering commitment from the Prime Minister and Veterans and Defence Personnel Minister Darren Chester, this critical mass of Veterans is helping to deliver historic reform.
Some will say that a lapel pin is symbolic; that a covenant is symbolic. And they’re right. But symbols matter. When a Veteran chooses to wear the lapel pin or present their Veterans’ card, it’s not about symbolising just their own service, but about helping our community recognise and acknowledge the service and sacrifice of all Veterans and their families – past, present and future.
Practical action is also being taken, with record funding in mental health and major investments in suicide prevention.
We’ve introduced free, lifetime mental health care for anyone with a single day of service, which is accessed through the new Veteran Card.
Even if you don’t need help now, it’s comforting to know it is there if needed.
The Morrison Government is also highlighting the benefits of Defence service – for Veterans and for our community. We’re helping employers realise that hiring Veterans is good for the bottom line. Leadership, discipline and teamwork are skills perennially on the wish list of employers everywhere.
Veterans themselves are standing up and innovating too, especially here in WA.
Working Spirit, run by veteran Karyn Hinder, is making massive headway in getting veterans into jobs by matching them with businesses at meet and greets and sundowners.
The Veterans’ Transition Centre in Jarrahdale has also stepped up. They’ve bought a camp site and renovated log cabins, from which services for veterans and their families are now being delivered – helping proactively smooth the path to transition.
Works on RSLWA’s ANZAC House Veteran Central, a one-stop shop in the city for Veteran wellness, are also well underway.
With Australia’s significant and ongoing global military commitments, Veterans and their families across Australia can rest assured that a new era of support is here.
Vince Connelly MP is the Federal Member for Stirling. Veterans can visit DVA’s MyService website to apply for the Covenant.