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The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel

Media release

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Veteran Family Advocate appointed

IN a significant step towards promoting better outcomes for veterans’ families, Ms Gwen Cherne has been appointed as the first ever Veteran Family Advocate, representing their perspectives in ongoing policy and decision making across Government.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester congratulated Ms Cherne on her appointment and said that her passion and experience in supporting the ex-service community would ensure the Government continues to put veterans and their families first.

“Ms Cherne has an impressive resume in roles relating to defence personnel and veterans’ families at both a national and international level, but she also brings with her a range of lived experience — as a defence spouse, a war widow, and the mother of a current serving Australian Defence Force member,” Mr Chester said.

“By directly engaging with the families of veterans of all generations, Ms Cherne will draw on their advice to help shape the design of programs, policy and services, with a focus on building on our understanding of the factors that can enhance or detract from the mental health of veterans and their families, particularly during transition from service.”

The establishment of the Veteran Family Advocate will be undertaken through the existing Repatriation Commission structure enshrined in the Veterans’ Affairs legislation, so it can be established immediately.

Ms Cherne said as a single mother with two young children at home, and having lost her husband to suicide, she was acutely aware of some of the challenges that Defence families face.

“I am proud to be appointed the Veteran Family Advocate and am looking forward to building on the important work that has been done to better support veterans’ families in the last few years,” Ms Cherne said.

“The department has made some significant and positive changes for veterans and their families, and I am very cognisant of the responsibility I have to ensure that work continues and that the voices of veterans’ families are heard.”

Ms Cherne’s background includes service to the veteran community as a board member on the NSW War Widow’s Guild, as an Ambassador for the Commando Welfare Trust and working with DVA on issues facing widows and families through her appointment to the Council for Women and Families United by Defence Service.  In recent years, she has also served on the Council of the Australian War Memorial and as an ambassador for the 2018 Invictus Games.

A merit selection process to appoint the Veteran Family Advocate was undertaken in accordance with the APS Merit and Transparency Policy. Ms Cherne will start in the role on Monday, 24 August 2020.

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