First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge and thank Craig Orme DSC AM CSC as he comes to the end of his five-year term as Deputy President of the Repatriation Commission. Throughout his 37 years in the military and during his time at DVA, Craig’s contribution and commitment to supporting the veteran community and building a better DVA has been unwavering. It has been an honour to work alongside Craig. His intelligence and generosity will be dearly missed by all of us at the department.
Charles McHardie will act in the position of Deputy President, pending permanent filling.
Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of veterans continues to be one of the highest priorities of the Government and DVA. The Minister convened a Mental Health Summit earlier this year to confirm his commitment to reshape the 10-year Veteran Mental Health Strategy; and to focus on a National Action Plan to improve veterans’ mental health and wellbeing.
Since this Summit, the department has continued its commitment to improving mental health outcomes for veterans and their families by hosting a number of forums and workshops and running a veteran mental health survey online. The valuable insights and experiences of the veteran community are driving this important work. We are also working closely with Government to build a network of Veterans’ Wellbeing Centres in partnership with ex-service organisations and state and territory governments to give veterans and their families another way of connecting with their community and gaining easy access to a range of services and support.
Reflecting on the year, I am proud of the work of the department. I have received many letters and emails from veterans acknowledging individuals and teams who have helped them when they needed it most.
I am proud of the many initiatives that are making a difference for our veterans and their families. One of these initiatives, the Government’s Australian Veterans’ Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Act 2019 passed federal Parliament in October and introduced a new benefits program for Veteran Card holders. A very important component of this Act is the acknowledgement that we must adopt a beneficial approach when interpreting this legislation. This is to ensure that at the heart of everything we do is providing the best support and outcome we can for veterans and their families.
Over the past few months, the department has supported commemorative events around the world for Remembrance Day and implemented a number of key initiatives to better support veterans and their families.
At this time of year, many of us spend time with family and friends celebrating the holidays. However, there are some of us that find this time of year particularly challenging. I want you to know there is help available whenever you need it. I encourage anyone who may be finding this time difficult – or knows someone who might need help – to reach out. There is always someone to talk to and you are not alone. Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling is available for current and ex serving ADF personnel and their families 24/7 and can be contacted on 1800 011 046.
From myself and the team at DVA, I wish you all a safe and merry Christmas and I look forward to continuing our work together to build a better DVA in 2020