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Previous Ministers' releases and speeches - Senator The Hon. Michael Ronaldson

Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Special Minister of State

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Wednesday, 11 June 2014
MINVA039

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH ABC RADIO AM PROGRAM

Topics: Launch of the Transition and Wellbeing Research Programme, Adelaide

PRESENTER: A generation ago, returning Vietnam veterans were pilloried by parts of their community and largely forgotten by their government. So as Australia withdraws from the war in Afghanistan, there is a determination not to repeat the mistakes of the past. The Abbott Government will spend $5 million on research aimed at helping the thousands who are returning from combat as well as examining the effect on their families. Political correspondent Louise Yaxley reports.

LOUISE YAXLEY: The President of the Vietnam Veterans’ Association, Ken Foster, says that war left soldiers with huge challenges.

KEN FOSTER: The isolation at the end of your military service for a lot of people, particularly the national servicemen, and having the government and the compensation system accept the fact that exposure to chemicals was having such an effect on their families’ and their own lives.

LOUISE YAXLEY: The Veterans’ Affairs Minister, Michael Ronaldson, says he’s heard the message.

MINISTER RONALDSON: I’m absolutely determined that we won’t do to our contemporary veterans what was done to Vietnam veterans on their return.

LOUISE YAXLEY: This morning, Senator Ronaldson’s announcing $5 million for three research projects.

MINISTER: The first will be a mental health and wellbeing transition study that will target both serving and ex-serving personnel to determine their mental, physical and social health status. The second study, which will be done by the University of Adelaide, as the first will, the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies, will be an impact of a combat zone study and this will follow up those who were recently deployed in the Middle East and the third study which will be conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies is a family wellbeing study which will investigate the impact of military service on the health and wellbeing of the families of serving and ex-serving personnel.

LOUISE YAXLEY: Can you guarantee though that you can follow up on it when the findings come through?

MINISTER: I don’t think it would be appropriate for anyone to make guarantees. What I’m guaranteeing those serving personnel and their families is that we are going to have the very best research in the country, probably international leading research, and that will best enable us to make those decisions to look after these young men and women. I hasten to add that we’ve found that the families are a very, very important part of these studies.

LOUISE YAXLEY: Isn’t it an issue though that veterans can carry these health issues for decades but governments last only three years, it can be giving them false hope?

MINISTER: The Government takes these issues very, very seriously and what we’re doing with these studies and work that’s gone on before is to make sure we’re best prepared to meet the needs of these men and women, whether it’s three months after they return or in some cases it may be up to 10 or 15 years. So we just need to have in place the services, the approach and the understanding to ensure we don’t repeat those mistakes.

PRESENTER: Veterans’ Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson ending that report from Louise Yaxley.

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046

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