Burnie Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs Announcement

Monday, 16 January 2023

The Hon Matt Keogh MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel

E&OE transcript
Press conference
Burnie Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs Announcement

SENATOR URQUHART: Good morning, I’m Senator Anne Urquhart, Senator for Tasmania, Duty Senator for Braddon. Very exciting to be here today in the Veterans’ Hub once again. And I think I’ll hand straight over to Matt Keogh, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, because I know he’s got a really important announcement, and I know people want to hear it so that it comes out of his lips. And I know he’s very excited about it as well because him and I have been talking about it for quite some time now. So over to you Matt. 

MINISTER KEOGH: Thank you very much, Anne, and it’s wonderful to be back here in Burnie. I’d never have predicted I’d be such a frequent traveler to Burnie. I really enjoy all of my visits, which is wonderful. And, of course, the last time I was here I was able to meet with yourselves here in the Hub to discuss the plans that you’ve had. And, of course, over the last few months the department have been working with the North West Tasmania Veteran Welfare Board around developing a business plan to deliver on a Veterans’ and Families’ Hub here in Burnie, which is not just about being here in Burnie but also having those outreach services that will service the West Coast and other towns and villages around the Burnie area and through North West Tasmania. 

So very proud to be announcing that the Australian government will be funding the $2.2 million dollars to the Veteran Welfare Board here to develop that hub, to provide those physical and mental health services, advocacy, wellbeing, housing assistance and employment for the whole North West Tasmanian region. It will be a critical part of the broader hub-and-spoke model that we’re developing for the veterans and families hubs here in Tasmania, working – of course we’ve got the hub that’s working in Launceston which will join the broader Tasmanian model. The research was done on how do we service such a diverse group of veterans spread out across the State, not just in town centers and CBDs. And so having that work done and being able to have this hub established here, especially with its outreach model, is a critical part of that. So very happy to be supporting that by providing that funding based on the business case that we’ve been developing with the Veteran Welfare Board over the last few months. 

And, of course, this Veterans’ and Families’ Hub will become part of the broader national network of Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs that we’re rolling out across the country. We’re in the process now of rolling out our next round of those Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs, doing the consultation, working with community. And that’s a really important aspect of this. It’s not about a cookie-cutter approach of rolling out exactly the same thing in every community around Australia; this is a perfect example here in Burnie about how our Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs are designed to meet the needs of the veteran community in each location. They are different, and it’s important that we match the service provision to what is required in each location. 

So having that outreach capability, being able to connect in to services, I know the Veteran Welfare Board here has been forming those and building those relationships with other ex-service organisations as well so there’s great connections, which is terribly important. And as a government that is committed to delivering on a better future for our veterans and families it’s a really important aspect of what we’re delivering and it forms part of our broader package – employing the 500 additional staff at DVA so we can work through the backlog of claims that we’re all very well aware of that are affecting so many veterans – too many veterans; the work around improving claims processing; supporting the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide; making sure that we’ve got the arrangements so that our veterans and our Defence personnel are able to provide evidence to the Royal Commission even around classified operations so that the stories are told, the information is understood and those impacts, which we’ve now delivered on; getting the arrangements in place so that loved ones are able to access information about their family member that may have taken their life and their records through Defence and DVA. 

They’re all things that have been recommended already by the Royal Commission, and we’re getting on with the job already of implementing those recommendations because we understand just how important that it is. Improving the lives of veterans and families is vitally important, and it’s what these Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs are about. That’s why we’ve given them that title – because when someone serves in our Defence Force they don’t just do it on their own; they are supported by their family. Their family ends up serving with them. We know for veterans it's often the family members that are the first responders to our veterans in times of crisis, the first to pick up on the need for a veteran to get further assistance, and families need help, too, in dealing with those challenges that veterans confront. 

So, we’re really happy to be announcing the commitment of the $2.2 million dollars to the North West Tasmanian Veteran Welfare Board for the family and veterans hub here in Burnie and supporting all of North West Tasmania. 

And I’ll hand over to Andrew now to say a few words. Congratulations, and thank you very much. 

DR ANDREW CLARK: Thank you very much. I’m not going to say I’m lost for words, but that was the first thing that came to my mind. Minister, I’d like to take a moment and just acknowledge our Traditional Owners of the lands on which we meet today, expressing our respect for the current members, elders past and present and those emerging. And I’d also like to take this moment to thank all those who have served and are serving in our ADF today and I pay my respects to those people as well and my brothers and sisters in arms here today with me. 

Thank you. It’s been a long journey. It’s been a good three and a half years, and we’re just grateful that it’s finally come to fruition with the support of the Government. So, I thank you on behalf of the Welfare Board to the Government. 

Senator, thank you so much for your support in recent times, especially at taking up the fight. We have been through changes of Government and the like. I have a long list of thankyous, and it doesn’t end there. I’d like to publicly acknowledge the work of the member for Braddon, Gavin Pearce, and his staff, who started this journey with us some three and a half years ago and without which we wouldn’t be here today. 

To the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, thank you Craig for all of your support and hard work at getting what is policy through to actual physical outcomes, which is going to be great. The board, thank you all for your support. It’s been a journey and I look very much forward to the next period of hard work in turning this money into outcome-driven focus for our veteran community. 

It's great to see I suppose such bipartisan support between the parties on veterans’ issues, and we look very much forward to being part of the journey with you as you go forward and improving the lives and aspects for veterans. 

So, Minister, thank you again. I know I’ve forgotten somebody, but thank you all very much. 

MINISTER KEOGH: Wonderful. 

SENATOR URQUHART: Fantastic. Well, that’s great. And can I acknowledge everyone here and the board particularly. And I know Ian and Andrew, I’ve had a lot more to do with throughout this process. And, yeah, I’m just really chuffed that we’ve got this now and it’s locked in and it’s onwards and upwards. And hopefully we’ll see some great outcomes for veterans in this region right across – right down to Smithton and Marrawah down the West Coast, because I think that’s the importance of, you know, being able to have that travelling component of what your vision is. So well done. 

END

Media contacts

Stephanie Mathews (Minister Keogh’s Office): 0407 034 485
DVA Media: media.team@dva.gov.au

Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling provides 24/7 free confidential crisis support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families on 1800 011 046 or the Open Arms website. Safe Zone Support provides anonymous counselling on 1800 142 072. Defence All-Hours Support Line provides support for ADF personnel on 1800 628 036 or the Defence Health Portal. Defence Member and Family Helpline provides support for Defence families on 1800 624 608