Veterans’ Affairs: Regional Australia—Driving Our Economy 2017–18

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ purpose is to support those who serve or have served in the defence of our nation and to commemorate their service and sacrifice by:

  • maintaining and enhancing the quality of life of clients by improving their financial wellbeing and self-sufficiency;
  • maintaining and enhancing the quality of life of clients by improving their physical and mental wellbeing; and
  • acknowledging and commemorating veterans’ service and sacrifice, and promoting an increased understanding of Australia’s wartime history.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs provides support and services to current and former members of the Australian Defence Force, and their families, including those living in regional and remote communities.

In the 2017–18 Budget, $11.3 billion was provided to support around 294,000 clients, including veterans and dependants. The funding comprised: $6.2 billion for income support and compensation; $5.0 billion for health services for veterans and their families; and $105.5 million for commemorative activities.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has offices and shopfronts in each State and Territory of Australia, including in regional areas such as Townsville, Lismore, Wodonga, Maroochydore and Newcastle, where a large number of veterans and their families reside. The shopfronts also offer outreach services for clients who require additional assistance. Outreach also includes community-based activities such as grants, day club visits, men’s health peer education, and presentations on services and entitlements. Where face-to-face interactions are not possible, or where clients prefer, they can access information and support through telephone and online services.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs also supports the acknowledgement and commemoration of those who served Australia and its allies in wars, conflicts and peace operations through promoting recognition of service and sacrifice, preservation of Australia’s wartime heritage, and official commemorations.

In 2017–18, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will continue to implement the Anzac Centenary national program. Throughout the centenary period from 2014 to 2018, the nation will remember not only the Anzacs who served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, but all Australians who have served in uniform across a century of service. The Anzac Centenary program is a national commemoration that comprises domestic and international activities and events. Anzac Centenary activities are also being planned and delivered by State, Territory and local governments, and business and community organisations, including in regional areas.

New Initiatives

Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program

The Prime Minister launched the Veterans’ Employment Program, one of the Government’s 2016 election commitments, on 17 November 2016. Its aim is to raise awareness of the unique skills and experience that veterans can bring to businesses and promote greater employment opportunities in the business community.

The Government is providing $2.7 million over four years to implement a number of initiatives under the program involving the public and private sectors and ex-service organisations. These include the establishment of an Industry Advisory Committee and an Ex–service Organisation Industry Partnership Register. Annual awards to recognise the achievements of companies in creating employment opportunities for former members of the Australian Defence Force will also be established.

At its inaugural meeting held on 31 March 2017, the Industry Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment agreed to focus initially on compiling data on the employment profile of veterans, translation of skills gained in the military to civilian roles and the development of principles to support veteran-friendly human resource policies for businesses.

The Australian Government’s jobactive website now includes information for veterans and an optional ‘Defence Force experience desirable flag’ that allows job seekers to search for vacancies suited to former members of the Defence Force.

Expanded Eligibility for Non-Liability Health Care—Mental Health Treatment for Current and Former Members of the Australian Defence Force—Improved Access

Non-liability health care provides access to treatment for certain conditions under Department of Veterans’ Affairs arrangements without the need to link the condition to the person’s military service, and without the need for a compensation claim. The 2017–18 Budget provides a further $33.5 million to extend the range of mental health conditions treated under the non–liability health care arrangements.

This measure means that all those who have any period of full-time service in the Australian Defence Force are now eligible for health care for mental health conditions without needing to prove that the condition has arisen from, or is linked to, their service.

Veteran and Veterans Families Counselling Service—Client Eligibility Expansion—Partners, Families and Former Partners

The Veteran and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) provides free and confidential, nation-wide counselling and support for war and service-related mental health conditions, such as posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

VVCS also provides relationship and family counselling to address issues that can arise due to the unique nature of military service. VVCS counsellors have an understanding of military culture and can work with clients to find effective solutions for improved mental health and wellbeing.

A family inclusive service, VVCS client eligibility has expanded over time. Today, VVCS supports not only current and former Australian Defence Force (ADF) members but also their immediate family. Supporting families is fundamental to the VVCS service delivery paradigm, which recognises that military trauma rarely impacts on the individual alone. The 2017–18 Budget has made VVCS even more accessible to families, extending access to the partners and children of current and former ADF members who hold a Repatriation Health Card—Gold or White for an accepted mental health disability. The former partners of eligible ADF personnel will also be able to access VVCS support for five years following separation or while co-parenting a child under the age of 18.

Regardless of where you reside in Australia—in a city, in rural or in regional Australia—VVCS counsellors are available to support ADF veterans and their families.

Current Initiatives

Community Care Services

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs provides a range of community care services to eligible veterans and war widowers, the most significant being Veterans’ Home Care and community nursing.

Veterans’ Home Care provides low level home care support whilst clinical nursing and personal care services can be accessed through the community nursing program. Both programs focus on maintaining veteran’s health and independence at home and avoiding early admittance to hospital or residential care.

These programs are available in varied locations across Australia including to those who reside in regional and remote areas, where in 2015–16 a third of the veteran community using both services reside.

Saluting Their Service

Saluting Their Service is the Australian Government’s commemorations grants program.

Under Saluting Their Service funding is available for projects, including events and activities that are directly commemorative of Australia’s involvement in war, conflict and peace operations.

The program provides grants of up to $4,000 under the community Commemorative Grants category for projects that assist people at a community level and enable small communities to build memorials and preserve wartime memorabilia that are locally significant.

Funding is also available under the Major Commemorative Grants category of the program for significant projects at a national or State/Territory level.

Grants are approved each year in most electorates across Australia, many in regional areas. In 2015–16, 332 grants were provided to 117 of the 150 electorates across Australia.

As at 31 March 2017, 139 grants provided to 71 electorates across Australia have been approved for 2016–17, with an estimate of a total of 195 grants to be provided to 95 electorates for 2016–17.

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