From the Assistant Minister

The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP
Assistant Minister for Defence
Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Middle-aged man posing for photo with Australian flag in background

A central focus of my work over the last few months has been examining veteran homelessness and what can be done to address it. A recent survey found that only 39 per cent of veterans who reported experiencing homelessness accessed assistance from mainstream support services.

In February, I launched a new guide for housing providers across the nation called Working with Veterans: A toolkit for Community Housing Organisations, which DVA developed jointly with the Community Housing Industry Association. This detailed toolkit will better equip community housing providers to take into consideration the unique life experiences and challenges that veterans face.

I encourage you to read more about this on page 7. Veterans who are struggling with their living situation or are at risk of homelessness are encouraged to contact DVA on 1800 VETERAN (1800 838 372) or Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling on 1800 011 046, who will work with them to provide the most appropriate care.

I recently had the honour of joining Defence personnel in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade – an unforgettable experience. I am pleased that LGBTI people can now openly serve in the Australian Defence Force. This is a right all should be afforded, to serve in the defence of their nation. It was an honour to walk with them. On that note, I encourage you to visit the Defending with Pride exhibition at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. I had the honour of attending the launch in December. The exhibition is open until July.

In February, I gave an address at the Bombing of Darwin Commemoration at the Adelaide River War Cemetery, about 100 kilometres south of Darwin. During the Second World War, Adelaide River was the headquarters of a large base, and the war cemetery was created especially for the burial of servicemen who died in this part of Australia. It contains 435 Commonwealth Second World War burials, many of the personnel killed during the Bombing of Darwin. It was a solemn ceremony as everyone present remembered the hundreds of Australian and Allied service personnel and civilians who were killed on that day 81 years ago, and in the 96 other Japanese raids on Australia soil.

This Anzac Day, I will take the opportunity to reflect on all those service men and women who have laid down their lives for Australia throughout our history. Wherever you are on the day, I wish you all the very best and I thank you for your service and sacrifice. I also acknowledge the support of your families. Anzac Day can be difficult day for some people, so if you need support please get in touch with Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling on 1800 011 046. Open Arms’ counselling phone line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.