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SENIOR AUSTRALIAN SOLDIER NEXT REPATRIATION COMMISSIONER

MEDIA RELEASE


March 19 2019

FOR the first time, a former Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army has been appointed as the new Repatriation Commissioner with outgoing Commissioner Major General Mark Kelly AO, DSC completing his appointment on 30 June this year.


Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester today announced Mr Don Spinks AM, who recently retired from the Australian Defence Force with almost 40 years’ experience, had been appointed as the new Repatriation Commissioner and as a Member of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission for a period of five years from 1 July 2019.


“Mr Spinks is highly qualified and well-respected, has an impressive military career serving on multiple overseas deployments and has capably represented the concerns and views of soldiers to the Chief of Army and senior leadership over a lengthy period,” Mr Chester said.


“As Commissioner, Mr Spinks will be able to use his recent service experience to assist in addressing contemporary issues faced by veterans and their families, I congratulate Mr Spinks on his appointment.”


Prior to taking up his full duties on 1 July, Mr Spinks has been appointed a Commissioner on the Repatriation Commission and will receive a comprehensive handover from Major General Kelly who has served on the Commission since 2010.


Mr Chester thanked Major General Kelly for his contribution and invaluable service to the Repatriation Commission and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission since 1 July 2010.


“The work of the Commissions is pivotal in the development of effective policy and programs, and the efficient delivery of services for veterans and their families,” Mr Chester said.


“In his almost 10 years, Major General Kelly has achieved a great deal in support of veterans and their families, most recently in advancing Open Arms — Veterans and Families Counselling, a service that is vitally important to the ex-service community by providing early intervention and longer term mental health treatment services.


“On behalf of the ex-service community, I thank Major General Kelly and wish him all the best for the future.”


Mr Spinks served in a number of senior roles during his Army career, including 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Multi National Force and Observers – Sinai Egypt, 1st Brigade, Joint Task Force 633 on Operation Slipper and the Command Sergeant Major Forces Command – Army.


The Repatriation Commission grants pensions and benefits, and provides treatment and other services under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 to veterans and members of the Australian Defence Force, their partners, widows, widowers and children. The Commission also provides advice to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs on related issues.


Further information about the Commissions and Mr Spinks can be found on the DVA Website.

ENDS

MEDIA CONTACTS: 
Rachel Tharratt: 02 6277 7820
DVA Media: 02 6289 6466

Office of the Hon. Darren Chester, Canberra ACT.

Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au

Advocacy News – Issue 10, December 2018

Please click here for the Advocacy News, Issue 10, December 2018. 

Should you have any enquires about ATDP or would like to provide feedback/comments on the newsletter, please send an email to [email protected].

Kind regards,

Mark McCarthy

ATDP Projects and Communications Officer

Employment and Rehabilitation Policy

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

T 02 6289 6026 | ext 616026

Email: [email protected]

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CONTACT Newsletter 82

View the latest “Contact” newsletter by clicking here.  Please forward it by email to anyone you think might be interested.

 

Productivity Commission – Draft Report Into Compensation and Rehabilitation for Veterans

MINISTER for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Darren Chester today welcomed the Productivity Commission draft report of its inquiry into compensation and rehabilitation for veterans.

“The report reinforces a commitment to putting the well-being of veterans and their families first, it outlines the importance of a whole-of-life focus and it acknowledges the key role of families,” Mr Chester said.

“These are all central components of the Government’s efforts to provide the high-quality support and assistance our veterans and their families want and deserve.

“I welcome the draft report and as a Government we will carefully consider the recommendations put forward and respond once the final report has been completed.”

“A number of significant recommendations have been proposed­ — none of these have been accepted or rejected at this stage.

“This report will also help to start a conversation amongst the veteran community on the future of the military compensation and rehabilitation system in Australia, and I look forward to hearing those views. I will be conducting a series of roundtables to receive direct feedback early in 2019.

“The Department of Veterans’ Affairs is already changing for the better – under our Government.” 

The Productivity Commission operates independently, and its findings and recommendations are based on its own analyses and judgments.

The coming months will give the Government and the Commission the opportunity to hear the views from the veteran community and other stakeholders before the Commission finalises its report in June 2019.

“Our Government is committed to putting veterans and their families first and we will continue to work with the Productivity Commission and the wider veteran community over the coming months to address key issues,” Mr Chester said.

“I acknowledge the support that the Productivity Commission demonstrated in the draft report for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ transformation, under the Veteran Centric Reform program.

“This transformation has seen a number of new programs and initiatives established,including the very successful My Service platform, the digitisation of records project and general improvements with our processing systems. I am confident that we are on the right path with our transformation journey.”

Individuals wishing to view the report, or put forward their views, can do so at www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/current/veterans#draft

Increased risk of attempted suicide in Australian veterans

Increased risk of attempted suicide in Australian veterans is associated with total and permanent incapacitation, unemployment and posttraumatic stress disorder severity.

You can read the full paper on suicide amongst veterans conducted by Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation in conjunction with Toowong Private Hospital, and published this week in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry by clicking here.

Abstract

Background: Military veterans have higher rates of suicidality and completed suicides compared to the general population.  Previous research has demonstrated suicidal behaviour is higher in US combat veterans who are younger, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety and score lower on measures of health. However, research on predictors of suicide for Australian veterans is limited. The aim of this study was to identify significant demographic and psychological differences between veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder who had attempted suicide and those with posttraumatic stress disorder who had not, as well as determine predictors of suicide attempts within an Australian cohort.

Methods: A retrospective analysis was conducted on 229 ex-service personnel diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder who had attended a Military Service Trauma Recovery Day Program as outpatients at Toowong Private Hospital from 2007 to 2014. Patients completed a battery of mental health self-report questionnaires assessing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, alcohol use, anger, depression, anxiety and quality of life. Demographic information and self-reported history of suicide attempts were also recorded.

Results: Results indicated the average age was significantly lower, and the rates of posttraumatic stress disorder, anger, anxiety and depression symptoms were significantly higher in those veterans with history of a suicide attempt. Multivariate logistic regression analyses indicated posttraumatic stress disorder symptom severity, unemployment or total and permanent incapacity pension status significantly predicted suicide attempt history.

Conclusion: Among a cohort of Australian veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder, psychopathology severity, unemployment and total and permanent incapacity status are significantly associated with suicidality. This study highlights the importance of early identification of posttraumatic stress disorder and psychopathology, therapeutic and social engagement, and prioritisation of tangible employment options or meaningful and goal-directed activities for veterans
deemed unable to work.

 

NMHC Review into the Prevention of Self-Harm and Suicide.

Dear ESORT members,

I am writing to inform you of the recent release of the Government’s Response to the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) Review into the prevention of self-harm and suicide. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel released the Government’s response on 30 June 2017 in Melbourne.

The response is available online at www.dva.gov.au/nmhcreview.

At the same time, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) also released its update of data on the incidence of suicide among current and former ADF members. Its report is available online at http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=60129559898.

I encourage you to share these reports with your members.

 

Regards,

Neil Bayles

Assistant Secretary Portfolio, Program and Assurance Office

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Korean War Veterans Remembered

Today, the nation remembers those Australians who served in the Korean War, on the 64th anniversary of the 1953 Armistice agreement.

images 21

The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Dan Tehan, said that of the more than 17,000 whoserved, 340 Australians lost their lives and more than 1,200 were wounded.

21 Nations provided military personnel, medical support or other assets to the United Nations effort in Korea, despite most still recovering from the impact of the Second World War.

“Australian soldiers, sailors, airmen and nurses made an important contribution to this international endeavour, serving both during the conflict and in the post-armistice period which continued until 1957,” Mr Tehan said.
“In Korea Australian service personnel earned international respect for their courage and endurance in battle. Today we pause to remember the service and sacrifice of our veterans and the debt of gratitude owed to them by all Australians.”

News n Views August 2016

Read the latest copy of New n Views by clicking here.

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Emotions flow on trip to Timor

August 4, 2016

LAST week 27 Australian veterans returned from an emotional 10-day visit to the Republica Democratica de Timor L’Este.

blahOrganised by Gary Stone and sponsored by the Queensland RSL branch, it was the first time many had ret­urned since Australian-led INT­ERFET forces intervened as East Timor transitioned from Indonesian occupation in 1999.

What they discovered then was a nation in ruins, its precious but minimal infrastructure deliberately and wantonly destroyed as the bitter, vengeful Indonesians reluctantly withdrew.

What many had not seen nor properly understood was the equally bitter 25-year conflict between Timorese Falantil and Fretilin guer­illas against the occupying Indonesians, who had in Timorese eyes simply replaced Portugal as the occupying power.

In late 1975, when Australia was itself racked by political upheaval and in the post-Vietnam environment, no government was prepared to commit to another Asian war, Indonesia was able to seize both East Timor and the Oeccussi enc­lave in a swift, brutal invasion.

Even the murder of five Australian journalists at Balibo on October 16, 1975 did not convince timid Australian politicians to intervene.

For many serving in the ADF at the time it was seen as a betrayal of the Timorese who, at great cost, had loyally supported Australian commandos during 1942 as Japan swept relentlessly south.

Perhaps if those same Australian politicians could have known that thousands of Timorese would be murdered, “disappeared” or relocated by the Indonesians over the next quarter century they might have acted, but the reality is they did not.

Estimates vary but approximately 200,000 Timorese died during Indonesia’s brutal occ­upation and, according to Timorese tradition, the nation is attempting to locate and ­recover the remains of the missing so their spirits can be at peace.

During their visit, Australian veterans were joined by Timorese veterans of the guerilla war against Indonesia, men and women who showed them battle sites where they had ambushed Indonesian forces, and the caves where they had hidden, many of them for years separated from families and communities.

It was a story many Australian veterans had not known and they were deeply moved when shown memorial mausoleums containing thousands of Timorese flag-draped coffins of recovered remains.

Witnessing a repatriation ceremony at Natarbora for ano­ther 510 sets of remains, they could not hide their emotion as they compared that ­occasion with the recent repatriation of Australian war dead from Terendak cemetery in Malaysia.

Last week at Balibo they discovered a thriving, vibrant community in stark contrast to the silent, deserted, devastated ruins INTERFET forces witnessed on their arrival in 1999.

As the kindergarten choir from the Australian-sponsored Balibo Five primary school sang a welcoming song, some veterans were able to exorcise their personal demons that had haunted them since their own Timor service.

Timor and its people still have a long way to go but, des­pite their differences with Australia over the Timor Gap oil resources, they are grateful for what Australia has done for them since 1999. For the Diggers it finally made their sacrifices seem worthwhile.