Last year was a difficult year for the veteran community. It was estimated more than 70 veterans took their own life, with many more veterans’ lives impacted by mental health issues, family relationship breakdowns, violence, alcohol and substance abuse, incarceration and homelessness.
In 2016, these issues gained increased media coverage and Australia gained a better understanding of what our veterans have experienced and the challenges they face in the years after service.
As a country, we started to appreciate why after undertaking one of the most demanding, admirable and courageous jobs – defending our country – our veterans and their families need support readjusting to normal life. There is still much for us to understand, but these are important steps forward.
Just as important were the steps taken to better recognise our veterans’ remarkable skillsets, experiences and personal attributes.
It is our duty as a country – and it should be our honour – to provide our veterans and their families with the right support and opportunities once they leave the Defence Force. This ensures they can overcome any mental impacts from their service, readjust to a normal life and continue to be incredible leaders in our community.
Last year Soldier On developed and launched a world-class Veteran and Family Support Program, and with industry partnerships, we are changing the lives of veterans and families around Australia. But unfortunately, without government funding, there are only so many veterans and families we can support.
We constantly receive calls for support from regional Australia. Locals asking us why we aren’t in places like Darwin, northern Queensland, country New South Wales and many other locations.
They can see the difference our services are making and they desperately want their local veterans to benefit too.
Soldier On wants to let you know, we have heard your calls and we have taken action.
Last Thursday, Soldier On presented the Australian government with our 2017/18 Federal Budget Submission for consideration.
In our budget submission, we outlined the need for an effective response to the current issues veterans face by establishing community based regional services, expanding psychology services to meet the needs of families, and improved collaboration and coordination across the sector.
We proposed the government invest in:
- An expansion of Soldier On’s services to six regional locations and, in doing so, positively impact at least 48,200 veterans;
- Psychological services to partners and children and those delivered through virtual infrastructure; and
- An independent peak advocacy body for the veterans’ support services sector.
As Soldier On approaches our fifth anniversary, our mission remains to achieve the best reintegrated generation of veterans in Australia’s history. We are not there yet. But we are working hard to achieve it, and last week’s budget submission will hopefully take us one step closer.
Let 2017 be the year of action and change for our national heroes and their families.