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The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC


31 May 2018

Press Conference on Assistance Dog Trial


MINISTER CHESTER: It’s great to be here, thanks for joining us. And it is a pleasure to be announcing the Federal Government's $2 million trial into assistance dogs to assist our veterans with post traumatic stress disorder. I am joined today by representatives from La Trobe University who will be undertaking the research in partnership with our veteran community. Also joined by veteran Kellie Dadds who will talk briefly about her experiences in the Army and her experience with post-traumatic stress disorder. It is important to see this world class research appearing here in Australia. We are a government which is committed with the needs of our veterans first—with the needs of our veterans and their families first—and working to assist them with mental health concerns. It’s a trial that's going to take in the order of four years to complete and I'm looking forward to the results from the experts at La Trobe University, and I invite La Trobe University Professor Keith Nugent to say a few words.

PROFESSOR KEITH NUGENT: Thank you, Minister. Look, it's a great pleasure to be here on behalf of La Trobe University. La Trobe as a university is really committed to doing research that has an impact on the community, on society. And this is a very important aspect of what we are doing. We are particularly excited by the fact that this research is being undertaken across La Trobe University Campus network, headquartered in Bendigo, allowing really, truly world-class high impact research to be undertaken within regional Victoria. So we are very excited to be part of the research project that will make a real difference to our veterans and a real difference to the community. So I'm very much looking forward to the outcomes of the research into this. It should be very, very exciting.

MINISTER CHESTER: Thanks Keith, and I'll get Dr Pauleen Bennett, who is one of the researchers, to comment on the role of assistance animals and companion animals in assisting people with mental health concerns.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR DR PAULEEN BENNETT: Thank you. Our research and research from around the world is showing that dogs can have just a profound impact on people's lives in terms of improving them and in terms of making them comfortable going in to the community. But the research is kind of patchy. And we think that it's all about matching up the right dogs with the right people, and so our research is very much focused on that: about getting the very best dogs that we can get and the people that need them the most and trying to match them up and try to follow them over a period of a few years to make sure that everything works out positively in the end. We think we are going to see a profound impact on people’s lives which is great. Thank you.

MINISTER CHESTER: And finally we are joined by Kellie Dadds, who is a 20-year Army veteran and involved in the By The Left campaign and been someone who is very active in veterans affairs and determined to make sure that we continue to look after the needs of our veterans and their families.

MRS KELLIE DADDS: Yes, I am an Army veteran and I suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, like a number of veterans. And I’d just like to say that I think that this is a great initiative and that they’re doing this trial with assistance dogs and I certainly have many friends who survive with their assistance dogs. They provide excellent support and it is great for me as a veteran, although I don’t have an assistance dog at the moment, to know that I have that opportunity of holistic healthcare and an assistance dog will form very much part of that treatment process for me and for other veterans. So it's a great initiative and one that will be welcomed by the veteran community.


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 8 8241 4546) or visit