From the Minister

The Hon Matt Keogh MP

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel

Minister Matt Keogh

Securing a better future for veterans and their families is my key priority.

We’re making progress – this years’ Federal Budget increased funding to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs so it’s now better resourced than it has been in three decades.

We’ve provided funding to maintain hundreds of additional staff, modernise and sustain ageing ICT systems, and ensure more timely payments and access to services for veterans and families – significant investments that will further reduce the veteran compensation claims backlog.

DVA is now making strong progress in reducing this backlog, it’s down more than 30 per cent from the peak in 2022.

The Budget also allocated just over $33 million to triple the Veterans’ Access Payment. This increase will make it easier for veterans to see a GP. The increased payment, which comes into effect from 1 November, will help to ensure GPs continue to service veterans with no out of pocket costs.

The Budget also expanded eligibility for the Acute Support Package, which provides support for veterans and their families who are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing crisis. This support now includes grand-carers – grandparents who are full-time carers of the children of veterans. The changes came into effect on 1 July.

These initiatives will all enable the department to provide veterans and families the services and supports you need and deserve – quickly.

In the current tight labour market, skilled workers are in hot demand, however many businesses aren’t always aware of the great contribution that veterans can bring to the civilian workforce.

The new $24 million Veteran Employment Program will support employers to build their understanding of the unique contribution that veterans can make to their businesses. This program will also ensure that veterans’ formal and informal skills are properly recognised and understood in civilian workplaces and by educational institutions, so they can get a civilian qualification sooner. I will be monitoring the success of this program with great interest.

Our roll out of Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs across the country is progressing well. In May, I was delighted to officially open the Mates4Mates Veteran and Family Wellbeing Centre in Darwin. It will provide greater access to essential support and services for Defence personnel, veterans and families in the Top End. In June, RSL Tasmania was awarded $5 million to establish a Veterans’ and Families’ Hub network across the state.

More recently local organisations around the country have begun to be awarded grant funding

to develop business cases as they seek to establish a Hub in their regions. The Hubs are about bringing together and coordinating services in a place that is welcoming to the veteran community in a way that’s tailored to the specific needs of each veteran community they’re located in.

Throughout 2023, I’ve also participated in a number of significant commemorations, close to the hearts of all Australians.

On Anzac Day, I was privileged to represent the Australian Government at Gallipoli as we marked the 108th anniversary of the Allied landings on the peninsula. On behalf of all Australians, I paid tribute to not only those who served in the First World War, but to all of our personnel who have engaged in conflict, peacekeeping or humanitarian operations.

In July, I had the honour of representing Australia in the Republic of Korea to commemorate 70 years since the Korean War armistice. More than 350 Australians lost their lives during the war and in the post-armistice period. I visited our Aussie personnel, stationed in the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), met with veterans and their families and paid my respects at the United Nations Military Cemetery and the UN Forces Monument.

This year is an important year for our Vietnam veterans, as we mark the 50th anniversary of the end of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. On 18 August – Vietnam Veterans’ Day – thousands gathered at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial in Canberra for a national service to commemorate this anniversary. To each and every one of our Vietnam veterans: We honour you and we thank you.

It is timely to remind all our Vietnam veterans and their families that a Commemorative Medallion and Certificate of Commemoration is available from DVA. More information is available on the DVA website or by phoning 1800 VETERAN (1800 838 372). If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to apply.

Finally, we wrapped up formal consultation on the Government’s Veterans’ Legislation Reform Pathway in May and are in the process of evaluating the feedback and developing draft legislation for further feedback soon.

We are making progress on improving the services and support available to veterans and their families, and I take this opportunity to reassure you that my resolve on this is unwavering.

Minister Matt Keogh at the opening of the Tasmania RSL Hubs

 At Anglesea Barracks to announce RSL Tasmania receiving a $5 million grant to build a network of Veterans and Families Hubs.