The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Today I am joined by Dr Miranda Van Hooff, Director of Research at the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies at the University of Adelaide, Professor David Forbes, Director Phoenix Australia, Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, Ms Liz Cosson, Chief Operating Officer Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and Air Vice Marshal Tracy Smart, Commander Joint Health Command, Department of Defence.
Today, the Government is releasing the first two of eight reports under the Transition and Wellbeing Research Programme – the Mental Health Prevalence and Pathways to Care reports.
The Programme, jointly funded by the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs, is the most comprehensive study ever undertaken in Australia of the impact of military service on the mental, physical and social health of current and former serving members, and their families.
Transitioning from the ADF into civilian life can be a daunting and challenging experience, which is why it is so important to understand what the issues are so we can ensure our current personnel and those transitioning out of the ADF are fully supported.
Many of the findings confirm what Defence and DVA already know through their daily operations – that is, that more needs to be done to address veteran mental health concerns, particularly during transition and in the early months post-transition; and we need to find effective ways to tailor support to vulnerable individuals.
In 2009, the independent Review of Mental Health Care in the Australian Defence Force and Transition through Discharge by Professor David Dunt compared mental health care support in the ADF with world’s best practice and assessed the extent to which the mental health needs of serving and transitioning ADF members were being met.
Since then, Government agencies including DVA and Defence have invested in a range of programs targeting transition, suicide prevention and support for families.
We are putting veterans and their families first.
In a nutshell, the research is confirming that we are heading in the right direction but more needs to be done to assist veterans and their families during the critical transition period to civilian life.
Defence has invested more than $252 million in the provision of mental health care and support to ADF members.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs spends around $200 million annually on supporting the mental health needs of veterans.
Last year, the Government announced it will provide an additional $31 million to support veterans’ mental health.
The Government invested $5.48 million over five years to conduct research through the Transition and Wellbeing Research Programme to continue to develop our understanding of individual veterans’ needs, particularly around mental health.
The Government is committed to investing in mental health support to our ADF personnel and removing the barriers to successful transition from military service to civilian life.
Over the last two successive Budgets, the Government has invested in a range of initiatives in both these areas.
In response to our 2016 Coalition election commitment, my predecessor established a joint Defence and DVA Transition Taskforce to examine the barriers to effective transition and to identify opportunities for improvement.
The Taskforce has identified a range of barriers to effective transition, from a member’s level of control over the decision to leave military service to their awareness of, and access to, transition-related information and services.
The Taskforce is due to provide to me their final report and action plan, which focuses on Service provision, Preparation, Information, Employment, Families and caregivers.
I have already asked both the Department of Defence and DVA to take immediate action in these five key areas and progress this important work.
I look forward to sharing the final report from the Transition Taskforce, along with the measures the Government will take to continue to better support current and future veterans and their families.
Whil Prendergast: 0427 672 815
Office of the Hon. Darren Chester MP, Canberra
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