Page 4121 - Week 11 - Thursday, 21 September 2017

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Many vets are not coping by themselves. They need our help as a community and they need the support of government at all levels. This crusade that I have been on—and I am glad to see that Minister Ramsay is seemingly joining that crusade, and I congratulate him again on that and urge him to continue to do so—to improve the lives of veterans and service members and their families is personal for me. I will continue to fight for veterans and their families as long as I am in this place.

MS CODY (Murrumbidgee) (3.55): I truly thank Mr Hanson for bringing on this important issue. I also thank Mr Hanson for his service, as we should thank all service personnel for theirs. As I have briefly spoken about here, my husband is a veteran. He does not like to talk about his story, and we should always be careful to respect the rights of all veterans to not speak, just as we should respect their right to be heard when they do speak. My husband and Mr Hanson are just two examples of Canberra’s veterans, examples of what they have in common and examples of what they do not. Earlier today I was speaking to one of our constituents, a Vietnam veteran. Let us just call him Danny. He spoke to me about the federal Liberal government’s decision to close the veterans affairs network office in Woden.

I know we have been told that this office is not really closing. It has been amalgamated into the Centrelink offices in Woden, with Department of Veterans’ Affairs staff continuing to manage inquiries. It is not a cost saving; it is just an administrative rearrangement. This has its own challenges for our local veterans trying to access services. Veterans of all ages face some very personal and confidential stories which need confidential and private spaces to be shared. The additional stress being placed on our veterans, as well as on DVA staff to offer the same level of secure arrangements that were offered at the veterans affairs network, is something these important members of our community do not need. Being a veteran is unique, and the different needs, different strengths and different ways of relating with government should be recognised and acknowledged.

I have been told that serving in the armed forces has unique challenges and benefits. Although my husband and his mates do not talk a lot about what they have seen, the camaraderie they share is obvious and important. In many cases people join the armed forces young. They are put into a structured environment. It is a wonderful experience for many but it must be recognised as a strength and a weakness. When the time comes for a change, which usually means leaving the service, there can be mixed emotions. Sometimes our servicemen and women choose to leave. At other times they are forced out by ill health or injury.

As many people know, it is hard to move on from a job you have done for a long time, but military service is so much more than a job. It is a lifestyle, it is a vocation and it is totally immersive. Moving on from a role like that has got to be a whole lot harder. Part of the reason why I am so pleased that Mr Hanson has brought this subject on today is that it gives us an opportunity to recognise the excellent work of Minister Ramsay and the ACT government in assisting the transition of veterans into civilian work. Undertaking a survey across the ACT public service to work out how many veterans are currently employed and the experience they have of entering the ACT public service can inform how we can help others. This is a great initiative. We should be listening to the full diversity of voices and listening to them in every way we can. I encourage Mr Hanson and every other ACT public servant to have their say.

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