The Hon Andrew Gee MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel
“Every single one of us that went, knows the difference we made on the ground when we were over there.”
These are the words of one contemporary veteran who I met with following the unfolding events in Afghanistan.
It’s been a difficult time for many in our veteran community however it is important to hear the voices of those who were there, on the ground, sharing their stories of the positive change they brought to Afghanistan.
Last week I held a roundtable with our younger veterans, including many who served in Afghanistan, to hear and receive updates on the impact the events there are having on the mental health of our veteran community.
The consensus was clear – that our ADF members made a real difference in Afghanistan and they know that their time there was successful.
All participants in the meeting agreed that our Defence personnel who served in Afghanistan, their families and children need to hear the message that their service was critical to the people of Afghanistan.
Children of our veterans should be very proud of their mothers or fathers and know that their service made a real difference.
It is crucial the Australian community acknowledges the many achievements of our veterans and also that their service provided hope and security for Afghanistan for two decades.
The men and women of the ADF helped build schools, medical centres and ran clinics.
They played a key role in ensuring the people of Afghanistan were able to access electricity, young girls were given an education, women a chance to work and also that there was a reduction in maternal mortality rates.
They defended freedom and made Afghanistan a better country. In so doing they performed in the finest traditions of the Australian armed services.
I was honoured to meet with members of the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans’ Association, Australian Veterans Alliance, Defence Families of Australia, RSL DefenceCare, Soldier On, Naval Association of Australia, Royal Australian Regiment Association, Mates4Mates, 42 for 42, Military Wife Life, Defence Kidz Project, Swiss8, Ironside Recruitment, RAR Association, Disaster Relief Australia, Veteran Support Force and Bravery Trust, to hear their views and ideas on supporting the veteran community at this difficult time.
We can all be proud, as they are, of the positive contribution our ADF men and women made over the past two decades of service in Afghanistan.
Our Afghanistan veterans are united in their pride of service, and as a nation we must unite behind them and let them know how highly valued their efforts are and how grateful our country is to them.
Our nation will never forget the 39,000 Australians who served in Afghanistan including the 41 who made the ultimate sacrifice.
At my direction, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has been contacting the families of ADF members who lost their lives in Afghanistan, as well as any veterans the Department is aware of who could suffer adversely as a result of what is currently happening there.
So far the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has contacted over 300,000 veterans and their families to let them know that support is there if they need it.
This is a distressing and difficult time for many and I encourage anyone who served in Afghanistan to reach out to support services available to them, and their families if they need it.
For those who are not currently registered with DVA, please know that help and support is there for you.
Support services available 24/7:
- Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling service on 1800 011 046
- Safe Zone Support on 1800 142 072 is a free and anonymous counselling line for current serving ADF personnel, veterans and their families
- Defence Family Helpline available for ADF members and their families on1800 624 608
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 www.OpenArms.gov.au