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Defence and Veteran Legal Services Newsletter—Issue 2 March 2022

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A message from our Director

We have already had an eventful start to 2022 with COVID-19 continuing to be a significant part of how we navigate our lives, flood and severe weather damage in the North and East Coast affecting thousands of Australians, and the military attack on the Ukraine displacing millions of people.

These are challenging times and the need to look after yourself is paramount. We know from speaking with our clients, colleagues and the Defence community that this has been a difficult start to the year for many. Getting support sooner rather than later can stop things snowballing. Help is available:

We are here to help you share your experience

It is important for the Royal Commission to hear from Defence members, veterans and their supporters who have been impacted by poor health outcomes and suicidal thoughts and behaviour. The Royal Commission needs to understand the problems to be able to make recommendations to reduce the number of these tragic deaths. Your story can help others.

We are here to help. Our role is to make it as easy as possible for you to share your experiences. Our clients told us that they want more flexible ways of getting involved – this includes making an audio submission. We have worked with the Royal Commission to make this happen. You can now lodge a voice recording as your submission and we can help you do that.

If you would like to discuss the options available to you to share your experience, simply give us a call on 1800 33 1800. We are free, confidential, and available to anyone who wants to engage with this Royal Commission. We are independent of the Royal Commission and any advice we give you is confidential. 

Jasmine Stanton

New fact sheets

Visit our website for our available fact sheets.

Our fact sheets outline what is involved in engaging with the Royal Commission, including two new resources that explain how the Terms of Reference guide the Royal Commission’s inquiry and what happens to your information after the Royal Commission finishes.

There is also a downloadable guide to making a submission, with easy to follow steps and hints for effective communication of the main points of your experience.

Our services to February

Since November 2021, we have provided information, advice, assistance and referrals to just over 300 callers.

You are in control of how you engage with us. Our first phone calls are often to find out what assistance callers are looking for, how they would like to communicate with us – by phone, email, video calls or face-to-face – and to book a meeting with one of our lawyers, for personalised advice.

 Two charts with one showing that to the end of February, 60 percent of callers were from the Army, 21 percent were from the Air Force and 19 percent were from the Navy, and one showing that 67 percent of callers were male and 33 percent were female.

We are finding that many callers continue to have issues with getting their full veterans' entitlements. We are facilitating referrals to community advocates who specialise in helping veterans in their dealings with the Department of Veterans' Affairs and can provide good referral options anywhere in Australia.

DAVLS in your community

Our solicitors are partnering with local ex-service and veteran support organisations across the country, to give information about sharing your experience with the Royal Commission, through community presentations and attending community events.

We can deliver presentations via video link or in person. We have been increasingly busy with these presentations, as news of our free services becomes more widely known. The great advantage of our presence in these sessions has been the opportunity for members of the serving and ex-serving communities to ask questions about the value of engaging with the Royal Commission and to learn about the supports that are available.

To request a presentation, contact our Engagement Officer Nicholas Warren by phone on (02) 9219 5622 or by email at DAVLS@legalaid.nsw.gov.au.

In Western Australia, DAVLS lawyer Mitch Caubo has been liaising with ex-service organisations around the state over the past few weeks. Activity to date includes developing referral pathways with the Returned & Services League of Australia WA services, presentations at two RSL sub-branches, and promotion via regional ABC radio. More presentations are scheduled in early April when we will be presenting to the Advocates Meeting of the Combined Defence Force Support Association of WA on 4 April and to the President’s Meeting of the Military Brotherhood Military Motorcycle Club at their next meeting.

Our senior solicitor Rachael Vincent and Queensland lawyer Fiona Davis recently spent a couple of days in the Northern Territory introducing the Defence and Veterans Legal Service to the network of ex-service organisations. A highlight of the visit was the welcome we got from the Mad Snake café, a well known meeting place for the veteran community.

We attended a veteran coffee morning and were able to share our information and had really interesting conversations with several members of the ex-service community. We were not able to get down to Katherine on this visit but will be making this a priority for our next visit – coming soon.

Fiona has also been active in Queensland, reaching out to the network of advocates, RSLs and personnel on military bases. We are currently recruiting for another solicitor who will be
focussing on the community around Townsville.

In the ACT, our team has presented to the Veterans Support Centre and promoted our services in local newspapers, ex-service organisation newsletters, ADF national publications and were interviewed on 2XX FM community radio.

Our lawyer Madeleine Antrum travelled to Wagga Wagga with our NSW team to celebrate the opening of the new Veterans Wellbeing Centre. We have taken the opportunity to meet with representatives of the two bases in Wagga – Forest Hill RAAF base and the Kapooka Army training base.

The NSW team has partnered with NSWRSL and its sub-branches, Legacy and ex-service organisations, with presentations to veterans’ advocates attending the Legal Aid NSW Veterans' Advocacy Service seminar, the Pro Patria centre in Wagga, the Veterans Centre Australia (Dee Why) Expo and Nowra Veteran Well-being Centre Community Engagement Workshop.

We have plans to visit the Coffs Harbour region soon, to meet with local advocates, Legacy staff and the Veteran Wellbeing Network Mid North Coast.

In Victoria, we presented to the Wodonga-based Wellbeing Network and to the Victorian RSL network of advocates at one of their training days. We will continue to work in partnership with these organisations and plan for more community education sessions to reach community members.

Our teams in South Australia and Tasmania have had a supportive response from the state RSLs and are working with them to map the network of organisations serving their Defence and veteran communities and organising presentations to those services and their communities.

It has been really inspiring to work with the numerous serving and ex-serving Defence organisations who have long worked to reduce the incidence of harm to our veterans. They are really committed to supporting their communities and making this Royal Commission a success. We all know that it is the voices of the serving and ex-serving Defence community that can really identify what needs to change and how.

Royal Commission hearings

The Royal Commission has now held three hearing blocks – one in Brisbane and two in Sydney. Witnesses with lived experience featured in all hearings. This really underscores just how important the voices of the serving and ex-serving Defence community are to the work of the Commission and how highly the commissioners value the insights that community witnesses bring to their inquiry.

So far, the hearings have focussed on a theme in each hearing block. In Brisbane, it was the views of experts in delivering health and well-being services to the veteran community. In Sydney, we heard from members of the three services within the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and from the Department of Veterans' Affairs about what they have been doing to improve the experience of ADF members, both within the service and after transition to civilian life.

The next block of hearings is in Canberra at the Canberra Rex Hotel, Northbourne Avenue, from Monday 4 April 2022. This will be an opportunity to hear from the Commonwealth and to investigate the entitlements and advocacy regime.

Other announced hearings will be held in Townsville from 20 June 2022 and hearing block 6 is in Hobart from 1 August 2022.

These dates can be subject to change. You can find more information on the Royal Commission’s website or email an inquiry to: DVSRC.enquiries@royalcommission.gov.au

Free resources

We have developed a number of resources to help get the word out about our services and can provide these free to anyone interested.

For copies of our poster, brochures, wallet cards, and factsheets, please contact our Officer Manager by email at DAVLS@legalaidnsw.gov.au or by phone on (02) 4428 6518.

Crisis support

For immediate help in a crisis, please contact one of the following services:

 

 

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