Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (11:29): I move:
That this house—
(a) signals its support for the South Australian veterans community; and
(b) recognises the deep and important roles ex-service organisations play in providing advice, support and community for veterans in South Australia.
I think this is very apt at the moment—not that it is not apt at any time considering we have just had ANZAC Day, but I note that the member for Wright is moving a motion in that regard after this one. I want to note the two million Australians who have served or are serving our country, whether it be here or overseas, and the supreme sacrifice that has been paid by over 102,000 of those serving forces in the defence of our nation.
In regard to support for ex-service organisations that operate in South Australia, there is a substantial number of these organisations that provide services to veterans and their families at all stages of life following service. Several community and some commercial organisations also have programs available to veterans and their families as part of a suite of offerings to the South Australian community. These include support for employment, psychosocial support, alcohol and drug rehabilitation services, homelessness support and social inclusion programs.
I want to talk about the Returned and Services League (RSL) South Australia, which has a number of trained and experienced staff and volunteers who provide assistance to RSL members currently serving and ex-service personnel with military entitlements, including wellbeing and lifestyle benefits, compensation, employment programs and advocacy matters.
In regard to advocacy, advocates advise personnel and their dependants on the lodgement of appeals to the Veterans' Review Board and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. They also present cases on behalf of personnel and their dependants. They assist personnel in applying for Department of Veterans Affairs pensions, military compensation, benefits and income supplementation.
I think this is absolutely vital for people who have served and feel that they do not have a strong enough voice or just feel that they have not been listened to. I really do want to acknowledge advocates and those who come to me, who are working with veterans of conflicts, to get the recognition that they deserve. We saw some troubling scenes in the past, especially when our Vietnam veterans came back from Vietnam and were treated rather shabbily by many people.
I must say that I am disturbed by a lot of the commentary after the Brereton report into especially our special forces soldiers like Ben Roberts-Smith, a Victoria Cross winner. I have not served, so I say this as someone who looks at what happens from the outside. I listen to my brother, who served for 23 years and served in two conflict zones, and what he brings to me. War is an unreal place. Sadly, as we have seen over hundreds of years of conflict, and thousands of years of conflict around the world, civilians can get caught up and civilians can be killed or injured in war.
I really do respect all that our service men and women do, especially our special forces soldiers, who go where everyone else would fear to tread. As has happened to some, when they push down that door, whether it be in Afghanistan or Iraq or anywhere else in the world, it might be the last move they make on this earth as a living soul.
I think some of the reporting, to be frank, around these people and the service they have done for this community is absolutely disgusting. Yes, no-one should shield war crimes, if there are any, but people need to understand the valiant service, especially in the Special Air Service (SAS) or commandos. The high rotation rate of these service men and women—in these two forces I think it is all men—obviously has them in high-stress zones for a long time.
I have spoken in this place before about a warrant officer whom I thought was a pretty calm and cool cat, as I have described him. He got rotated for the third time into Iraq, and that was one trip too many. He managed to get past the psych officers. He went downhill after that, and it was very disturbing. It goes to show that people can reach their limits. For people who have served, obviously we pay tribute to the ones who have paid the supreme sacrifice. There are those who have come home with physical scars, but also there are the many, many veterans and serving people who suffer mental scars, that torment of things they have witnessed and what they have had to do to keep our community safe. So I do salute advocacy.
In regard to wellbeing, wellbeing officers assist clients with information about health and community services that may be available to them. They also gather information on local community services and how to access them as well as communicate with service providers.
In regard to some of the work with rehabilitation, the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Scheme provides rehabilitation, treatment and compensation for Australian Defence Force members who suffer mental or physical injury or contract a disease as a result of service on or after 1 July 2004. Serving Australian Defence Force members who have been injured at work or have an illness or disease caused or aggravated by their military employment and who need assistance in submitting claims can contact the RSL.
Certainly, another fantastic support for returned men and women is the grocery vouchers. RSL sub-branches, with public support through donations and fundraising appeals, help the RSL to purchase supermarket vouchers for veterans finding it difficult to afford food and basic necessities. RSL Care South Australia, which is another branch of the RSL, provides residential aged care, retirement living and affordable housing to the South Australian community. I have met with the people from RSL Care, and I think they are doing a fantastic job.
They have been looking after a retirement village in Murray Bridge called Waterford Estate, which has many units and a nice setting very close to the river. They are doing a fantastic job. At the moment, they are looking at putting in aged care at the back of that property, and I wish them well in those endeavours. I think the appropriate information has been lodged with council, and hopefully RSL Care can get that project underway so it can provide veterans and others with the appropriate support they need towards the end of their lives.
Another fantastic group in this nation is Legacy. Legacy supports the partners and children of veterans, who have seen their loved ones leave our shores to serve in wars from World War I and World War II to Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Many never made the journey home and others, as I have explained, have returned bearing the physical and mental scars of war. Legacy supports the families of those who may have died many years after serving our nation. All are equally deserving of our support for the sacrifices those families have made for their country.
Legacy is there to help a family or individual through the tough times and restore their confidence in the future. Legacy's work with veterans' families can mean that a child gets an education and a fair go, that a widow is not disadvantaged and alone, that a family is not torn apart by the effects of post-traumatic stress or other physiological injuries. Legacy's main work focuses on relieving hardship through financial assistance and claims help, providing a supportive network through social connection services, building resilience and independence through education and personal development programs.
I salute all these agencies that work with and alongside the government in support of service men and women who currently serve as well as those who have served. As I indicated, whether they have served here or overseas, it is all vital work in the defence of our nation, along with programs that we, as a government, have in place supporting veterans. This particularly includes the work we are doing in revitalising the Repatriation Hospital at Daw Park, as well as the mental health support we put in for veterans and their families across the board.
We must keep striving to look after these people, as I explained, with the outcomes for people who have served right at the sharp end in the SAS and commando units. That is not to take anything away from any of those in the other arms of the Australian Defence Force, especially those on the sharp end who see things we do not want to witness and we do not want to see. They are put into positions where they have to make a decision in a split second—not a second but a split second—that can mean life or death.
It is not like the old days, when you had the military line-up and it was all quite plain who was who. We have seen it even as far back as the Boer War, when there were guerrilla detachments. Many Australians served in the Boer War in Africa, where guerrilla tactics were used, with the enemy using the cover of civilians, including women and children. It is not a simple process.
We must do all we can as a government and we must do all we can in supporting all of these support services for our veterans. I acknowledge the vital work that they do for all of our veteran community. It is absolutely vital that we support all of these people who, as I said, are either serving or have served, especially those who bear those scars, whether they be physical or mental. They totally deserve all that we can do for them because they have done one heck of a job for our state and our nation.