CANBERRA, 17 October 2016
Minister Dan Tehan, Assistant Minister Amanda Rishworth, the veterans and spouses who are soon to start this wonderful program, and to everyone else who has already been introduced.
Although many veterans have been impacted by their service over the last 20 years, and especially since our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, we cannot let this impact on their life, define them as an individual or as a group.
Veterans are highly trained men and women who have a broad range of skills, knowledge and attributes that make them leaders not just in uniform, but also out of it. Yes, many have been impacted by their service. But through the support of the community and organisations like ours, we can provide them with the support they need to have fulfilling and purposeful lives post service.
When we started Soldier On, one of our key aims was to ensure that the community understood the impact that our involvement in Afghanistan and the many other operations that we, as a country, had recently been involved in. In Iraq and Afghanistan, we were in a war, and almost daily our veterans were in contact with a resourceful and calculating enemy. However, due to the length of these conflicts, the impact of our most recent wars had been lost on our community. What was happening ‘over there’ seemed to have little impact on daily lives back in Australia. I think we forgot as a country, that at the end of every conflict or peacekeeping operation, veterans return home, and all those that return eventually leave the service and become civilians.
So, over the last four years, while helping veterans and families impacted by their service, we have been supporting the many voices who have been increasing the awareness of the cost of these conflicts. I believe now that we have a much better understanding of PTSD, operational stress injury, moral injury and the range of impacts that war, peacekeeping, disaster relief can have on veterans and their families.
However, I think through the process of building awareness, the Australian community has started to believe that veterans are also victims. Can I here today, categorically say that they are not. Yes, many have been impacted and need support, but the support they need is to help them with a hand-up and not a hand-out. To help them through the often tough transition phase out of the military and into employment, while ensuring that they have access to mental health support, and are given the chance to once again have strong social and family bonds.
These are exactly the programs that Soldier On is offering to those who have been impacted by their service. It is why we have decided to become a veteran service delivery organisation that can truly help re-integrate veterans and their families into the Australian community. Yes, a significant number of veterans will need support, and yes the road to recovery is never linear, and this support will be needed at different stages though a veteran and their families’ life…. but they deserve exactly that, support, not to be considered victims.
That is why we are so glad to be here today for the launch of the Service Now training opportunity for veterans and spouses to ensure that they are given that support to help them into empowering employment.
Through the support of our long time sponsors, the Citadel Group, and CSC and Accenture, these men and women will be given the keys to a range of opportunities in Australia’s fast growing IT sector.
This program and the many others that we will be launching over the next few months will complement our new employment program.
An Australian first, a not-for-profit veteran employment agency, internal to Soldier On, led by Mel Russell and her team of transition support officers. We are lucky to have Mel as part as part of Soldier On after she joined us from the Australian Army Transition 4 Employment pilot while apart of the Support to Wounded Injured and Ill team. This new capability will help ensure veterans are supported into gainful employment, and that industry can see veterans and their spouses for what they really are, a smart business decision, a resource to Australian industry and also our community.
The Prime Ministers Veteran Employment Initiative which will be launched next month, and will ensure that Australian industry is primed to take on these well supported veterans and their families and give them the job opportunities they deserve.
We are proud that this initiative, which originated during round table discussions between veterans supported by Soldier On, and the Prime Minister at RSL North Bondi late last year, will soon be launched. Through the support and championing of Minister Tehan, the Prime Minister announced the initiative in early June of this year and my team have been doing some fantastic work to bring industry on-board in a well-defined framework while ensuring collaboration is achieved with other ex-service organisations. Minister, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer, of the Department of Veterans Affairs we have and continue to be delighted to work with you, to ensure we can help make this wonderful initiative happen.
Let us recognise veterans and their spouses as a resource to our country. Being impacted by your service, does not define your ability to be a valuable member of our country. We have so many case-studies of veterans who have been impacted; now gainfully employed, volunteering with strong mental health and with a great network of friends.
These veterans may need our support again in their future, unfortunately recovery is never linear, but we will be there to support them. We will be there with others to provide the services they need, so that our veterans are always considered a resource to our country, and can continue to serve Australia, both in, and out of uniform.