23 August 2023
SUBJECTS: Invictus Australia, The Voice referendum
MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS MATT KEOGH: Okay so we're here to support Invictus Australia. And they're sending off a team just a few weeks’ time to the Invictus Games in Dusseldorf, but also to announce the appointment of the new Community Engagement Manager in Western Australia. Because part of the work that Invictus Australia is doing through the funding from the Federal Government, $9 million is to connect veterans to local community sport. Because we know when Defence personnel leave Defence and move into civilian life, getting reconnected to community is vitally important to a successful transition. And community sport provides a great way to do that, whether it's able bodied, or all abilities. And so having these community managers that are providing that connection pathway into sport is vital and it's a unique thing that Invictus Australia does that no other parts of the Invictus community does.
JOURNALIST: So there are community managers in every state or how does it work?
MINISTER KEOGH: So we now have community managers across most states and territories of Australia, Invictus Australia are employing, to do that connection, to get veterans involved in community sport so that they can build their own connections in community so that they have a point of reference, build up a network and are able to thrive as part of that transition back into civilian life.
JOURNALIST: It’s become a real success story, the Invictus Games and a real inspiration for a lot of veterans.
MINISTER KEOGH: I think the Invictus Games and what it embodies, and what it demonstrates is a huge success, especially with so much participation from Australia. But also, our participants become role models across Australia not only to the veteran community about how people can thrive after injury through their service, but also a demonstration to all people that may have a disability, that there are opportunities to participate in support at an elite level of sport, but also throughout the community in so many different ways as we're seeing through different all abilities sports, we've got the Kelmscott Bulldogs football team here today, and they have an all abilities team in AFL. So there's lots of different opportunities in different sports for people with disabilities and Invictus Australia demonstrates that to the community through our veteran sport participants.
JOURNALIST: I mean, we all know about you know the physical but also the mental toll that serving can have, is it overstating it to say that, you know, the inspiration of the Invictus Games and the community links that can produce can be life or death for some veterans?
MINISTER KEOGH: I think it's certainly the case that we can see a real negative focus for veterans that suffer either mental or physical injury through their service, it is important to be able to present the positive opportunities as well, that it doesn't all have to be a place of darkness that there are opportunities to thrive, that people who engage with sport or so many different other activities can go on to continue to have successful lives after Defence, no matter what they do, no matter the type of injury that they may have suffered. Of course, many don't suffer any injury during Defence, they have perfectly good careers and lives after their time in Defence, it's important to highlight those positive opportunities for people who may be confronted by the negative right in front of them. It is possible to push through, we have supports through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs with Open Arms and also through supporting organisations like Invictus Australia to do that connection into community sport.
JOURNALIST: The engagement officer that spoke before, for her role and how she manages to reach people who otherwise may have fallen through the cracks.
MINISTER KEOGH: So the new Community Engagement Manager here in Western Australia, herself is the daughter of veterans, her partner is a veteran as well. And her role is to connect veterans through into community sport. And so that'll be working with ex-service organisations, ourselves, other organisations like Soldier On, who are working with more contemporary veterans, to connect them to sporting organisations that are able to assist whether that's at the elite level or whether that's just at the community level. As I said, there's so many clubs now that are not just bringing on women's sport, we're bringing on all ability sport as well, whether that's AFL, whether that’s bowls, basketball, whether it's rugby, rowing, so many different sports now can cater for all different sorts of ability. And so Hannah’s role as a community engagement manager connects those ex-service organisations and their veteran community into these sport opportunities.
JOURNALIST: And would you have anything to say to someone who might want to get involved?
MINISTER KEOGH: If any veteran out there is interested in getting involved in local sport, I'd say get in touch with Hannah, get in touch with Invictus Australia. They'll be able to connect you through to a sporting club that can service you whether it's all ability, whether it's somebody who's not got a disability at all we want to see people participating in sport getting the mental resilience that comes from that, and the connection and network of people.
JOURNALIST: I have to ask just because I can't help myself and it’s the Invictus Games, are you Team Harry and Meg or Team Wills and Kate?
MINISTER KEOGH: (laughs) I’m Team Australian Republic.
JOURNALIST: Thank you. I also have to ask because it would be remiss of me not to October 14 seems to be the date for The Voice referendum. Are you confident that momentum can shift the Yes campaigns way in WA?
MINISTER KEOGH: Well, the Prime Minister will announce the date for the referendum shortly. Certainly what I'm seeing in my local community is volunteers coming together engaging with people on the doors, phone calls and shopping centres. And what's really interesting is people, lots of people are very supportive of the Voice, but lots of people are also interested to find out the information. The booklets are going out, as we speak and landing on people's letter boxes and doorsteps. People have an inquiring mind about these things in a positive sense. And I think that's really good, that people are open to learning about the opportunity of giving First Nations people an official way to have consultation from their federal Government.
JOURNALIST: Are you really sensing a positive, open mind out there? Because there seems to be a lot of negative rhetoric going around at the moment, and there was a lot, especially in the wake of the Heritage laws debacle in WA?
MINISTER KEOGH: Oh, look, it's certainly fair to say that there's a lot of misinformation that's been stirred up by the politician led no campaign, and they're getting a lot of media coverage of late. But when we're talking to people one on one, what their interest is, and what they want to know about, they actually are positively disposed to what we're proposing for this referendum for the creation of a Voice. The opportunity to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first people of our nation, and then give them a mechanism to be consulted by Government.
JOURNALIST: So from what you're hearing door to door. Do you think the polls have got it wrong?
MINISTER KEOGH: Well, I think I'm not going to comment on polls, they change every week and day to day. But we're in a process now where we're getting closer to an eventual referendum later this year. And that engagements going to ramp up from both sides I have no doubt, and people are interested to learn about the opportunity that this referendum is.
JOURNALIST: Was it a mistake to leave the actual referendum day, you know, so long, has that void allowed the negative campaign to take hold?
MINISTER KEOGH: Well the Constitution actually sets out the timing of a referendum once you've passed the legislation necessary to hold it. So there's always going to be a delay and that allows for discussion to happen across the country. And that is a good thing. But also, we're a government that is working for Australians in so many different ways. We understand cost of living pressures, we're dealing with so many different things as well, but there will be a confined, if you like, campaign period, and that's important for people to really engage with an important referendum like this, but as a Government, we're also working for Australians on the issues that matter to them in other areas like cost of living pressures and other things.