Gippsland › Latest news › Darren Chester MP

Veterans' recognition bill with assistance dogs and and wellbeing centres to better support and honour our veterans implemented

Member defends veterans, criticises opposition claims, highlights bipartisan support, cites initiatives and programs implemented by previous government, emphasises commitment to supporting veterans' transition to civilian life.

By news@gippsland - 19th June 2023 - Back to News

I take great pleasure in joining the debate on the motion moved by the Member for Fisher. I take this opportunity to acknowledge all current serving members in Australia, and veterans as well, and people in this place who have served our nation in uniform. I thank you for that service. There would be very few members in this place today, other than those who actually served in uniform, who would have spent as much time with our veterans communities as I have over the past five years.

Implemented veterans' recognition bill, assistance dogs, and wellbeing centres to better support and honour our veterans, says Darren Chester

Implemented veterans' recognition bill, assistance dogs, and wellbeing centres to better support and honour our veterans, says Darren Chester

Veterans deserve better treatment

I'd say one thing to those opposite as they quote their Labor talking points: the one thing about our veterans is that they can smell bulldust when they see it and hear it, and what they've heard this morning is complete and utter bulldust. They understand this program has been cut. You can dress it up however you like-you can call it a pilot program or whatever you want to call it-but it is a cut.

The minister himself is at the table, and he knows that he's had to cut the program, that he's decided to cut the program. Go out and defend it and say why you've cut the program. We haven't seen any information before us as to why those opposed think a program designed to help members transition to civilian life should be cut in this manner.

I sincerely want to pass this on to the member for Hasluck: if there's one portfolio in this place that has always enjoyed bipartisanship and a level of dignity above all others, it is the portfolio of Veterans' Affairs. What she had to say here this morning was appalling and not worthy of the bipartisanship this portfolio has always enjoyed.

Supporting veterans' success

I pass that on to the member for Hasluck and encourage her to have a better look at the record of the coalition when we were in government and the various portfolio programs we initiated almost always with bipartisan support-initiated by members on this side with lived experience in our defence forces to make a difference in the lives of the men and women who serve in uniform and their families.

I thank the member for Fisher for bringing this motion to the House because it is entirely consistent with his approach in this place and his dedication to ensuring that our men and women who serve are given every opportunity to succeed when they transition to civilian life.

The member for Fisher knows as well as I do the vast majority, the overwhelming majority of men and women who serve in uniform in this place train well, serve well, transition well and go on to become highly valued citizens in public life. I don't have to look very far around our community to see examples of men and women who've had military service delivering extraordinary programs through their public life or their private life.

Empowering veteran employment

When I was the Veterans' Affairs Minister I was always keen to champion the opportunity for our private sector to hire veterans because, despite the diet of hopelessness and helplessness spread through the media, the vast majority of those who transitioned out of the military went on to have successful civilian lives. And hiring a veteran was good for business.

Hiring a veteran was something that the business community began to understand was a good tactical move on their behalf because these men and women had been trained, had loyalty, had leadership skills, had management skills and were highly capable at transitioning into civilian life and making a real difference in the broader community.

I just need to dispel some of the myths being perpetuated by those opposite here this morning, that somehow members on this side of the House didn't care about our veteran community during our time in office. It is an outrageous slur to suggest that there are members of this place who do not care about our veteran community, who do not want to make every effort to ensure they are well supported as they move into their civilian life.

Veterans' recognition bill success

In our time in government, we introduced things like the veterans' payment for the time. The veterans payment was introduced whereby a veteran who was coming forward with mental health claims would receive a payment before that claim was even assessed. And we introduced free mental health care for all veterans and their families regardless of the conditions in which they sustained their injury.

We introduced the veterans' recognition bill, which was a deliberate strategy to encourage more veterans to come forward so that the Department of Veterans' Affairs would actually know who the veterans were. Until we were in government, the Department of Veterans' Affairs had no way of tracking whether a person was actually a veteran in the first place.

So, for the very first time, the previous government introduced a question in the census asking people if they had served in the Australian Defence Force. We found out that we had more veterans than we expected because more veterans came forward and acknowledged their service in that way, and we were able to help them.

Veteran mental health support

We introduced, for the first time, psychiatric trained assistance dogs for veterans experiencing mental health concerns. We introduced that because we recognised it was one way we could support veterans who were suffering from PTSD. We were the first government to introduce wellbeing centres. The first six wellbeing centres were introduced by the previous coalition government, a policy the current government is continuing to develop.

All I would say in relation to this motion is those opposite need to be honest with the Australian veteran community. They need to acknowledge that all members in this place work tirelessly to make sure our veterans and their families are well supported in their civilian life.

Pictures from Darren Chester Facebook page.


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