Veteran advocacy tough but rewarding

Roger Greene OAM says acting as a veterans’ advocate — helping veterans and their families access services and assistance — can be difficult but very rewarding.

28 October 2020

Vietnam veteran, Mr Greene, of Greensborough, Victoria, has been a veterans’ advocate for more than 30 years, and helps train new advocates. Veterans’ advocates support veterans struggling with life and help them access DVA services.

‘We’re always looking for people who’ve got an interest in looking after veterans and becoming qualified,’ Mr Greene said. ‘Unfortunately, more and more veterans are having trouble with the physical and mental impacts of service.’

Mr Greene chairs the Capability Framework Management Group which sets training standards for advocates.

As a trainer he has noticed a ‘pleasing’ reduction in the age demographic of people training to be veterans’ advocates under the DVA-sponsored Advocacy Training and Development Program (ATDP).

He said this showed veterans and their spouses from more recent conflicts were stepping up.

The ATDP is accredited by the Australian Skills Quality Authority, the Vocational Educational and Training (VET) sector regulator, and reflects current VET practices. Participants are sponsored by an ex-service organisation (ESO) and work with a mentor following adult training principles — 70 per cent on-the-job, 20 per cent through mentoring and 10 per cent face-to-face. The partnering Registered Training Organisation, Major Training Services, manages the assessment and issue of certificates for the six competency-based units that comprise the Course in Military Advocacy — 10620NAT.

One training stream enables advocates to help serving and ex-serving military members to access health and welfare support. Another stream gives advocates skills to prepare rehabilitation and compensation claims for DVA’s assessment and review processes and beyond to the Veterans’ Review Board and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

‘Since the pandemic isolation measures came into effect, face-to-face training has been suspended so I’ve stepped back from training delivery and I’m working as an advocate,’ Mr Greene said.

‘It is particularly timely for people from the later conflicts to step up because I think they do have an obligation to help their mates who are not doing as well as they are.’

Repatriation Commissioner Don Spinks said the COVID-19 pandemic had raised some unique challenges but he was delighted that advocacy services were continuing as a vital element enabling DVA service delivery.

‘I know there has been some frustration among ATDP volunteers and the advocacy community in regards to the suspension of “face to face” training,’ Mr Spinks said.

‘I commend ADTP trainers and assessors who, in response to this change, developed online facilitated programs using Webex to deliver wellpatronised and -received Wellbeing and Compensation programs.

‘Without doubt the single most important factor in the extraordinary successes of the ATDP program and more broadly veterans advocacy, has been (and remains) the support and expertise provided by volunteers.

‘Further good news is that much of the Course In Military Advocacy is based upon either workplace learning or online training and trainee advocates have been very active taking non-classroom activities during lockdown ready to move to the next level of training.’

Mr Spinks said accredited advocates had also been active undertaking online continuing professional development as part of their ongoing learning.

‘Veterans helping other veterans is a great way to look at the ATDP and the need has never been greater for veterans who have left the ADF recently to get involved,’ Mr Spinks said.

Anyone interested in helping their comrades should discuss the opportunity with their ESO.