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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 12 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 November 2021) . . Page.. 3521 ..

We all know that service can present challenges and leaves a long-lasting impact on our fellow Australians who have served. The mental health impact of serving is clearly one of those issues and this has only been exacerbated during the pandemic, with many veterans and support organisations demonstrating their adaptability and resilience to find new ways to support each other while physically isolated. It is also worth noting that events in Afghanistan have been particularly traumatic for our veterans community and their families.

The ACT government provides and funds a range of clinical and non-clinical mental health, suicide prevention and postvention support services that are available to veterans as members of the ACT community. Targeted mental health support for veterans in the ACT includes the Canberra Hospital Veteran Liaison Officer, free inpatient psychiatric care through the Calvary Bruce private hospital, and an identified lounge at the Canberra Hospital specifically for veterans and their families. The ACT government recognises, however, that some veterans prefer to access services that are specific to their needs.

In 2019 the federal government announced a $30 million investment for the development of a national network of six veterans wellbeing centres. So far, the ACT has not been identified as a location that will receive funding to open a wellbeing centre, despite its significant veterans population, as recognised earlier in this debate. Veterans wellbeing centres provide a one-stop shop for veterans and their families to connect with like-minded people, access services and receive advice. I will continue to advocate on behalf of our community for funding to be allocated to the ACT for a wellbeing centre, and I would value Mr Hanson’s support in so doing.

Again, I raised this issue with Minister Gee last week and I look forward to continuing our constructive conversations focused on the wellbeing and support of veterans. When the federal government spends $122.2 million per day on defence, I am confident that there must be room in the federal budget to better resource wellbeing and support services for our veterans.

I cannot speak about this topic without also mentioning the members of the Ministerial Advisory Council for Veterans and their Families. The council has been an invaluable source of advice for me in the last year, across a range of topics, and I would like to place on record my sincere thanks. I particularly thank them for their flexibility in extending their term for a few months as a result of the recent disruptions caused by COVID.

The diversity of skills and experience in our advisory council members, as veterans and as family members, is reflected in the diversity of views contained in their advice on a wide range of issues. Diverse thinking is a valued asset in any group within our community but particularly when we are working together to find better ways to serve the wellbeing and support needs of such a large number of veterans and their family members in our Canberra community.

In conclusion, I am enormously grateful to the ACT veterans community for their service and acknowledge the variety of needs within that community. I reaffirm my commitment to promote their interests at every available opportunity.

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