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Community Consultation now open for Toowoomba and Wodonga VAN Shopfronts

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is asking ex-service organisations, DVA service providers and members of the veteran and ex-service communities to have their say about how best to deliver in-person services at Toowoomba in Queensland and Wodonga in Victoria. The consultation was originally due to conclude on 20 January 2016. However, because the consultations are being held during a traditional holiday period, DVA has extended the consultation period to 5 February 2016.

Property leases on DVA’s current Veterans’ Access Network (VAN) shopfronts are due to expire in March 2016 (Toowoomba) and June 2016 (Wodonga).

The VAN is DVA’s first point of contact in providing information and advice to the veteran and general community. It helps people understand and access the services and support available to them. However, demand for in-person services at VAN shopfronts has declined in recent years, as members of the veteran community are contacting DVA more frequently by telephone and email. 

DVA is seeking feedback from ex-service organisations, DVA service providers and members of the veteran and ex-service communities, along with interested members of the public, to help inform its decisions about the delivery of its in-person services into the future.

Comments and suggestions in relation to the Toowoomba and Wodonga VAN shopfronts may be submitted in writing until 5 February 2016 by email or post:

  • DVA.In.Person.Services@dva.gov.au; or
  • Attn Deputy Commissioner, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, GPO Box 9998, IN YOUR CAPITAL CITY 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is happening?

A. DVA is consulting with the community regarding the delivery of in-person services at the VAN shopfronts at Toowoomba in Queensland and Wodonga in Victoria.

Q. Why is it necessary to consult about the VAN shopfronts?

A. Members of the veteran community are contacting DVA more frequently by telephone and email.  Visits to VAN shopfronts have declined nationally by 35 per cent since the 2009-10 financial year. The consultation initiates discussion about how DVA may deliver responsive and efficient services to veterans in a sustainable manner.

Q. Why are you consulting about the Toowoomba and Wodonga offices in particular, and why now?

A. The property lease for the Toowoomba VAN shopfront expires in March 2016, and the property lease for the Wodonga VAN shopfront expires in June 2016.  This is an opportune time for DVA to consider a range of alternative service delivery options before making a decision about the leases.  

Q. Who are you consulting with?

A. DVA would like to hear from anyone who is interested in the delivery of VAN services in the Toowoomba and Albury-Wodonga regions.  

Q. How can I take part in consultation?

A. You can take part in the consultation by submitting comments in writing either by email or post.

Comments in relation to the Toowoomba and Wodonga VAN shopfronts may be lodged by:

  • Email: DVA.In.Person.Services@dva.gov.au; or
  • Post: Attn Deputy Commissioner, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, GPO Box 9998, IN YOUR CAPITAL CITY 

Q. When can I take part in consultation?

A. The consultation period is open from 16 December 2015 to 5 February 2016.  Submissions received during this period will contribute to decisions about the most effective and sustainable way of providing in-person services in these regions.

Q. Can I provide feedback after the end of the consultation period? 

A. Comments in relation to DVA service delivery may still be submitted outside of the consultation dates but will not be considered as part of this process.  Feedback received outside of the formal consultation period will be managed as part of the normal feedback process, and will contribute to improving DVA services.

Q. Will the VAN shopfronts close?

A. No decision has been made about the future of the VAN shopfronts in Toowoomba or Wodonga.  DVA will consider all options and viewpoints. This may include continuing existing lease and property arrangements, office relocation, co-locating services, or closing the offices.  Consultation outcomes will inform any decisions about changes to service delivery arrangements.  

Q. How can I receive VAN services other than in-person at DVA shopfronts?

A. DVA offers services through a number of alternative service channels, including:

  • Telephone (133 254 metro, 1800 555 254 regional)
  • Online (via the MyAccount portal) 
  • Email (GeneralEnquiries@dva.gov.au)
  • Outreach visits - DVA staff conduct outreach visits to regional areas on a scheduled and publicised date and time in order to provide support and assistance to people closer to the location in which they reside.  
  •  Agency arrangements - In-person services are provided by staff located in another agency who receive DVA-specific training.  The Department of Human Services currently delivers Veterans’ Information Services in person to DVA clients in 21 locations throughout Australia. This service provides clients with local access to an office that is open to them five days a week during business hours.

Q. Has DVA already decided the future of VAN shopfronts?

A. This is a genuine consultation process and the outcomes of the consultation will inform any changes to future arrangements.  No decision has yet been made about the future of the VAN shopfronts in Toowoomba or Wodonga.   

Q. Hasn’t DVA already consulted with the community about the future of VAN shopfronts?

A. In March 2014, DVA held a consultation process about the future of some VAN shopfronts and contracted agencies that delivered VAN-like services in regional locations of Victoria (Bairnsdale, Ballarat, Bendigo, Frankston, Mildura, Morwell and Warrnambool) and NSW (Gosford and Wollongong).  

From August to September 2014, DVA held a second consultation in relation to the VAN shopfront in Parramatta NSW.

From January to February 2015, DVA held a third consultation in relation to the VAN shopfronts in Tweed Heads along the Gold Coast and Geelong in Victoria.

As property leases for VAN shopfronts approach their expiry dates, the Department is committed to examining our service delivery arrangements to ensure DVA continues to be a responsive and flexible organisation which efficiently delivers high quality, connected services to clients.  

DVA now wishes to consult with community members in the Toowoomba and Albury-Wodonga regions.

Q. Doesn’t DVA already know what should happen from previous consultations?

A. Each VAN is being considered individually. The feedback received by DVA during previous consultations highlighted differing priorities and preferences between the communities in each region.  As a consequence, the service delivery arrangements now in place in each of these regions reflect the individual consultation outcomes.

Q. Will all VAN shopfronts be closed?  Will DVA consult about the future of all shopfronts?

A. DVA does not plan to close all VAN shopfronts.  In some locations there is a high demand for in-person visits among members of the veteran community. The veteran and ex-service community will be part of the conversation on any changes to future in-person service delivery arrangements.

Q. Is this a cost cutting exercise?

A. Like other Australian Government departments, DVA is responsible for operating in an efficient and effective manner.  

The consultation outcomes will help inform decisions about how DVA may best deliver services in regions where veterans want those services. Any savings that may be achieved through the closure or co-location of shopfronts will be used to make improvements to other aspects of DVA service delivery.

Currently, Toowoomba and Wodonga are among DVA’s least busy VAN shopfronts.

Toowoomba VAN received an average of only ten counter visits per day over the past financial year. Based on that number of client interactions, it currently costs around $148 per client interaction to run the Toowoomba shopfront.  

Wodonga VAN received an average of only six counter visits per day over the past financial year. Based on that number of client interactions, it currently costs around $179 per client interaction to run the Wodonga shopfront.  

We want to investigate if there is a better way to provide services for our clients that makes in-person services more accessible in the Toowoomba and Albury-Wodonga regions other than through a standalone VAN office.

Q. Will DVA services continue into the future?

A. The Government is committed to maintaining a standalone Department of Veterans’ Affairs that continues to support the veteran and ex-service community and their families.

Q. When will I know the outcome?

A. Following the consultation period, DVA will make recommendations to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.  DVA will make a public announcement regarding the outcomes once they are known. 

Q. Will there be any changes to VVCS services delivered from Wodonga?

A.  Given that VAN and VVCS services in Wodonga currently operate from the same building under a common lease, how VVCS services are to be delivered in the region are also subject to review. Members of the veteran community and other stakeholders are therefore invited to submit their views on the future delivery of VVCS services as part of this consultation process.  Further information about the VVCS consultation is available on the VVCS website.

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