Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Science and Personnel Warren Snowdon today outlined how the 2013 Defence White Paper continues the Government’s commitment to ensuring that ADF personnel and their families receive the highest quality health care and support.
The care of wounded, injured and ill veterans is a high priority for the Government and the Australian community.
One lesson our nation learnt from Vietnam is the need for care and respect for our veterans. In the months and years ahead, veterans’ care will come to be an increasingly important focus of our time in Afghanistan and the next decade will see more young Australian veterans live in our community than since the 1970s.
Since it was elected in 2007, the Government has prioritised the mental wellbeing of our military personnel. Following the 2009 independent Dunt Reviews into mental health issues in the ADF and ex-service community, the Government invested $93 million in the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs.
In 2011, the Government and Defence released the 2010 ADF Mental Health Prevalence and Wellbeing Study and the ADF Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy. This was the first comprehensive assessment of the overall mental health of serving personnel, and was a world first for this type of study in a defence population.
In February 2013, the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs introduced measures to better coordinate the delivery of care and support services between Defence and Veterans’ Affairs. Put simply, we need to stop our wounded, injured and ill veterans from falling between the cracks in the system and the Departments will work together to integrate the provision of health services for current and former serving personnel.
In April last year, the Government announced it 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 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 and was established to provide assistance to Australian Defence Force personnel not covered by the terms of existing arrangements such as the Special Air Services (SAS) Resources Trust and the Commando Welfare Trust to which Government also made a capital contribution.
Mental Health and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
As the ADF transitions from a decade of continuous high intensity operations, the Government will ensure our returning service men and women have the physical and mental health care and support they need, including through continued enhancements to Defence’s screening, assessment and treatment of mental health conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety.
The Government is committed to ensuring that comprehensive education and support is 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 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 Government has also decided to provide an additional $25.3 million for enhanced mental health programs, involving:
• Extending the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service coverage to a number of current and former personnel not currently eligible ie: border protection personnel, disaster zone personnel, personnel involved in training accidents, ADF members medically discharged and submariners; partners and dependant children up to the age of 26 of these high risk peacetime groups; and families of veterans killed in operational service.
• Extending mental health non-liability health cover to include access for former ADF members with three years continuous peacetime service after 1994 and expansion of current conditions of PTSD, depression and other anxiety disorders to also include alcohol and substance misuse disorders for veterans.
• Implementing a post discharge GP health assessment, using a specially developed a screening tool, for former ADF members, including regular and reserve forces.
• Additional funding for the Defence resilience platform, LifeSMART (Stress Management and Resilience Training) for veterans and families. Additional modules may include anger management, substance misuse, depression, anxiety, grief and loss.
• Developing and maintaining a Peer-to-Peer Support program to support recovery of veterans with a mental health condition by providing a non-clinical support network.
• Additional funding for improving processing time for compensation claims by veterans and current serving personnel.
• Additional assistance for veterans and current serving personnel making claims for injury.
The White Paper confirms the Government’s intention to make available to all dependants of permanent ADF members and dependants of Reserve members on Continuous Full-Time Service health care arrangements for the provision of basic medical and dental care from 1 January 2014.
The current trial of these arrangements for Defence families living in remote and regional locations will continue until 31 December 2013 until the full program commences.
The Defence White Paper reflects the Government’s appreciation of the considerable, longstanding contributions of ex-service organisations and newer non-government organisations that together provide an important additional layer of effective and reliable support and care to our ADF members and their families.
3 May 2013
PRESS OFFICE (02) 6277 7744
MINISTER SMITH’S OFFICE (02) 6277 7800