Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 21 September 2017) . . Page.. 4125 ..
many Defence Force personnel live after their service. We are turning our minds to how those people can be better integrated into post-ADF life here in Canberra. Their gifts and their talents are many. Finally, to all veterans, to all those who serve in the ADF and to their families, I thank you.
MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (4.10): While one of the underlying values of the Greens is peace and non-violence, which essentially means that we do not support or promote war, we do of course acknowledge that veterans have honourably and proudly served our country, both in war and at peace. I cannot imagine how harrowing it must be to be in battle. To be exposed to such violence and terror must have a long-term, profound effect on people.
One group of veterans that I am particularly aware of is Vietnam veterans, because they are my male contemporaries. In those days, they were all male. Well, that is not 100 per cent true—I think there were a few female nurses—but overwhelmingly they were all the boys who might have otherwise been my boyfriends except that they got conscripted. I do remember this very well. I spent a lot of time marching in anti-Vietnam moratorium marches. In the long run, that did make a difference.
But I recall the struggles—I do not just recall; some of it is contemporary—of my friends whose partners served in Vietnam and whose partners returned home traumatised, damaged and broken. Their lives were changed forever, but their family members were also changed forever as a result of the psychological damage they experienced in going to war.
There has been a growing, and unfortunately belated, awareness in Australia of the mental health needs of our Defence Force personnel. We have always had some emphasis on the physical needs, but we are only just coming to grips with the mental needs. This includes post-traumatic stress disorder, but it is much broader than that. We have come a long way from the talk that we had after World War I and World War II of shell shock, with a better understanding of the long-term impacts on the brain of witnessing the horror of war and also of concussion and brain injury.
More recently, there have been welcome moves by the federal government to better understand that, for a range of very complex reasons, Defence Force members have a higher rate of suicide, poor mental health and other burdens than others, regardless of whether they have seen active deployment or not. It seems that these men and women are at risk of these issues once they leave the force and are attempting to reintegrate into civilian society. I am very pleased to see the ACT minister for veterans affairs and the ACT government engage in this national conversation and work to support former Defence Force employees in the ACT public service.
It is important that not only is the service of returned veterans honoured but they are provided with the support they need to be able to participate and be productive in their postwar lives. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs ensures that a suite of supports are available, such as rehabilitation services, support services, health services and payments and benefits regimes. I do note that, despite Mr Parton’s claim yesterday that white, heterosexual, employed males over 30 are not included, some of that cohort are veterans. My husband, who works in a defence area, works with quite a few of these people, and many veterans were previously in that cohort.