Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
launch of the
Australian Defence Force Assistance Trust
19 April 2013
*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***
Thank you Bob Cronin, Group Editor in Chief, West Australian Newspapers, for your warm welcome.
I acknowledge and thank Dr Ken Michael Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Australian Defence Force Assistance Trust and Board Members of the Trust for the invitation to speak to you today.
I acknowledge Corporal Daniel Keighran VC, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I thank the sponsors for their support of this event.
The Australian Defence Force Assistance Trust
In April last year, I announced that the Government would provide $14 million to the newly-formed Australian Defence Force Assistance Trust, to assist the families, in particular the widows and the children of Australian Defence Force personnel, killed, incapacitated or adversely affected as a result of their service to our country.
The Australian Defence Force Assistance Trust was established to provide assistance to Australian Defence Force personnel not covered by the terms of the existing Special Air Services (SAS) Resources Trust, the Commando Welfare Trust or the Navy Clearance Diver Trust.
The Special Air Service Resources Trust
The Special Air Service Resources Trust was established in 1996 to provide relief to the dependants of current and former members of the SAS Regiment who have died or become disabled as a result of operational service or training.
In 2009, the Government provided a grant of $10 million to the Special Air Service Resources Trust to enable it to continue its work in assisting the families of deceased or disabled members of the SAS Regiment, with a particular focus on supporting the educational needs of their children.
The Commando Welfare Trust
The Commando Welfare Trust was established in 2011. In November 2011, the Government provided a grant of $8 million to the Commando Welfare Trust to support initial emergency funding and long term financial assistance to families of Commandos and supporting Special Operations Command members in times of hardship.
The Australian Defence Force Assistance Trust
The establishment of the Australian Defence Force Assistance Trust means that enhanced support will now be available for the families of all ADF members who are killed or incapacitated as a result of their service.
The Trust in the first instance has a particular focus on the families of soldiers killed or incapacitated in action in Afghanistan.
The Trust allows considerable flexibility in providing assistance. Support to families could for example include the education of children or support to a widow or widower to enable them to rejoin the workforce.
I was particularly pleased that Dr Ken Michael accepted the position of Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Trust. I have known Dr Michael for a long time. I have a great regard for him as both a distinguished Western Australian public servant and as a Governor of Western Australia.
I am also pleased that Her Excellency, the Governor General, Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO, has agreed to become Patron-in-Chief of the Trust.
Support to our Veterans
One lesson our nation learnt from Vietnam is the need for care and respect for our returning veterans.
The care of wounded, injured and ill veterans is a high priority for the Government and the Australian community.
In the months and years ahead, veteran care will come to be an increasingly important focus of our time in Afghanistan.
As the Prime Minister said in her Statement to the House on Afghanistan in October last year: “The next decade will see more young Australian combat veterans live in our community than since the 1970s”.
In February, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon and I attended the signing by the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs of a Memorandum of Understanding for the Cooperative Delivery of Care and Support to Eligible Persons.
The MOU is aimed at better coordinating the delivery of care and support services between Defence and Veterans’ Affairs.
Put simply, it is to stop our wounded, injured and ill veterans from falling between the cracks in the system.
Mental Health and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Defence continues to enhance its comprehensive approach to screening, assessment and treatment of mental health concerns, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
ADF members dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have access to the full range of mental health services and rehabilitation services.
Significant improvements have been made and will continue to be made.
Earlier this year I asked my colleague, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and the Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, in conjunction with the Chief of Defence Force and the Secretary of the Department of Defence, to look closely to see what further comprehensive education and support might be offered across all levels of the Australian Defence Force and at all stages of an Australian Defence Force career – from pre-recruitment and recruitment to completion of service.
This initiative will help ensure all members of the Australian Defence Force are aware of the risks associated with mental health issues including PTSD and know how to address this risk.
The Supporting Role of Other Organisations
Other organisations have an important role to play as well.
Everyone will be familiar with the work of the RSL and Legacy, which have been supporting veterans for almost a century.
New organisations such as 'Soldier On' and ‘Mates 4 Mates’ are also playing a role, particularly in de-stigmatising mental health issues, including post traumatic stress disorder.
In October last year I was honoured to announce Corporal Mark Donaldson VC as the Patron-in-Chief of Soldier On.
The Australian Government and the Australian Parliament is committed to the health and welfare of all ADF members and their families, and particularly those who have been, killed, incapacitated or adversely affected as a result of their service for our country.
The ongoing work in Defence and DVA to improve health services, along with the financial support provided to the SASR Trust, the Commando Welfare Trust and the Australian Defence Force Assistance Trust demonstrates this commitment.
I commend to you the Australian Defence Force Assistance Trust and encourage your ongoing commitment and financial support for this worthy cause.
I am both honoured and very pleased today to announce the appointment of Corporal Daniel Keighran VC to the position of Ambassador for the Australian Defence Force Assistance Trust.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage, Corporal Daniel Keighran VC.