Ross Eastgate – Actions ‘in due course’ add to pain of veterans

         IT was never the intention of those who envisaged a dedicated system to care for Australia’s war veterans that those veterans would have to fight tooth and nail for benefits.

It quickly became very obvious during World War I that our young and emerging nation would need to care for thousands of young men, volunteers all, who had been grievously wounded in body and mind by their war experiences.

Visionaries like General Sir John Monash realised there was much more to that process than just ongoing medical care for those whose injuries were obvious.

The first pressing need was to bring the troops home at the end of the European war.

Monash was given that responsibility and quickly reasoned that they should also be given opportunities to ensure they returned to Australia better prepared for post-war life than when they left Australia.

Australia did not provide troops to the occupation army, so as they waited in British camps for a return passage Monash arranged for them to be taught useful skills, in some cases just to read and write.

This repatriation process as it became known was continued in Australia with returned veterans being given access to dedicated hospitals to address their medical needs and vocational training to allow them to re-enter Australian society.

Small pensions were made available to those who were physically or mentally unable to do so and provision was made to care for widows and orphans.

There was even a scheme to settle soldiers on the land on small holdings.

As with all good intentions, once governments and more worryingly bureaucracies became involved, the burden of proving they had a need shifted on to affected veterans.

For many that was a burden too great to bear and they chose to end their lives as the frustration of dealing with hard hearted bureaucrats and even harder hearted governments became too much.

Some things never change.

In August last year it was announced Townsville would host a veterans’ suicide prevention trial.
Several months later that trial has not yet started, nor have there been any obvious moves to identify people to conduct it.

“The Government will look closely at the recommendations in this review and respond in due course,” Veterans Affairs Minister Dan Tehan said.
“We will also release the full review to the public on Thursday (today).”

Those immediately impacted by veteran suicide including too many here in Townsville can tell the minister what they do not need is another report, they need action.

They also know they don’t need it in due course, they need it now.
They needed it last August, in fact they needed it well before then.
Every day lost considering reports is potentially another life lost.
That is too great a burden to bear.