News from the Department

Liz Cosson AM CSC Secretary — Department of Veterans’ Affairs

21 April 2020

Dealing with a challenging 2020

Headshot of Liz Cosson

There’s no doubt that 2020 is proving to be a challenging year so far. It began with bushfires and floods and continues with the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’m sure many of you are still reeling from the devastating bushfires that swept through so much of the country. More than 50,000 veterans, families and DVA staff live in areas that were affected by the fires. To those of you who were impacted by these disasters, I offer my heartfelt wishes as you continue your recovery efforts.

A large section of this Vetaffairs edition is focused on the bushfires. There you will read some impressive examples of how veterans have stepped up, often going to extraordinary lengths to help not only each other but strangers in communities a long way from their own. That commitment to service and the professionalism and competence with which they’ve gone about this work reinforces to me how proud I am of our veteran community.

In addition, COVID-19 is uniting all our efforts to find ways to stop the spread across our communities. The department remains committed to your health and wellbeing and in this edition we highlight the importance of gaining up-to-date information through reliable sources. Our priority remains the continuity of services to veterans and their families and we are particularly focused on providing support to our most vulnerable, including our older community and those with underlying health conditions. Our advice is you should consider accessing support remotely wherever possible to reduce the risk of exposure.

I remain committed to the staff in DVA who are working tirelessly to support veterans and their families. We are working across Government to provide our staff with the resources and technology they need to respond effectively. DVA has already enacted our business continuity plans to continue to provide you with essential services. Should they be necessary, these measures will include:

  • replacement of face-to-face services with telephone services
  • redirection of services to less affected areas
  • relocating staff to business critical operational areas where necessary, and
  • prioritising essential services over less critical functions.

DVA’s service providers are required to have business continuity plans and should there be any disruptions to essential service delivery, DVA is working with providers to minimise the impact on veterans and their families.

I encourage you to remain calm and to follow the advice provided by the Australian Government Department of Health and its relevant state or territory counterparts. Please also see the COVID-19 section of this edition of Vetaffairs but bear in mind, advice relating to the pandemic is ever-evolving, so please also keep an eye on our website and social media. If you are feeling anxious about this issue or any other, please contact Open Arms — Veterans & Families Counselling for free and confidential support. This support is available 24/7 on 1800 011 046.

In other news, many of you will be aware of the Prime Minister’s recent announcement of the creation of two new roles: the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention, and the Veteran Family Advocate. Please see the article in this edition of Vetaffairs for more information.

Due to the unprecedented circumstances we face this year, we have had to cancel our Australian-led overseas Anzac Day commemorative services for 2020 and the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards evening at Parliament House.

Anzac Day is such an important day in our national calendar and these Awards are so important to supporting jobs for veterans after they transition.

Although not open to the public, the Australian War Memorial will be televising a national service. DVA is working with the Memorial and the RSL to support you to commemorate this important day wherever you are.

We are updating our website with details for Anzac Day and also announcing the Award recipients via social and mainstream media.

I would like to congratulate the Hon Darren Chester MP for his promotion to Cabinet as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel. The elevation of the portfolio to Cabinet recognises the importance of our work to the Government and all Australians.

Finally, you may notice we’ve updated the look of Vetaffairs, and we are more frequently publishing e-news. This is in keeping with the recent redevelopment of the DVA website, which is now much clearer, simpler and easier to navigate.