Press conference, Rockingham

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The Hon Matt Keogh MP

Minister for Defence Personnel

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

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media@defence.gov.au

Stephanie Mathews on 0407 034 485

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15 December 2023

PRESS CONFERENCE
ROCKINGHAM, WA
E&OE TRANSCRIPT
FRIDAY, 15 DECEMBER 2023

SUBJECTS: Veterans’ and Families’ Hub funding announcement, export permits

MEMBER FOR BRAND, MADELEINE KING: Good morning, everyone, and thanks so much for coming down here to my wonderful home town of Rockingham. I’m here today with the Member for Rockingham, Magenta Marshall, Matt Keogh the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, and Duncan Anderson the State President of the RSL, here to announce some news about the Federal Government’s Veterans’ and Families’ Wellbeing Hubs.

But I firstly just want to acknowledge the magnificent work of the Defence Forces that serve here in Rockingham. The work they do not just for our country but, really importantly, for the community of Rockingham and the suburbs in which they live. This is the highest proportion of veterans in the country; stay and remain in Rockingham once they finish their service with the Royal Australian Navy or the other services. And that’s why having this Hub and associated spokes – nearby to the naval base and where people live is so vitally important for the wellbeing of veterans and their families here in Rockingham and the surrounding suburbs.

So, with that, I’ll hand over to my friend and colleague Matt Keogh, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.

MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS AND DEFENCE PERSONNEL, MINISTER KEOGH: Thank you, Madeleine. And it’s great to be here today. As Madeleine said, there are thousands of current serving personnel, veterans and families located in the Rockingham area and surrounding suburbs, and the Albanese Labor Government is committed to providing a better future for our veterans and families, making sure that they are supported through coordinated services.

And so, today I’m very proud to be announcing that we’re providing $5.44 million to a consortium led by RSL WA to establish a Veterans’ and Families’ Hub here to be co-located with RediMed in Rockingham as a Hub that will also support a number of spokes working with the local RSL sub-branches in the suburbs here around Rockingham, also with the Marilla Family Centre, will form one of the spokes as well, working with the Jarrahdale Veteran Transition Centre as well as the Australian Special Air Services Association of WA Mental Health Centre and also a facility at Point Peron, bringing together a great coordination of medical services, advocacy and welfare, accommodation, family engagement and community programs supporting veterans and military personnel that are transitioning from military life into civilian life

This will provide a full scope of services to support serving personnel, veterans, and importantly, families as well. Because we know families sacrifice so much not only while their family member is in service but also support them through that vital transition into civilian life and making sure that families are supported is a critical part of what this Hub and spokes that form part of it will be doing.

And the way in which this has been created by RSL leading a consortia of not just RediMed as a service provider but a number of ex-service organisations is incredibly important here in Western Australia, having ex-service organisations come together to provide good, coordinated service for our veteran and family community here. But it’s on the back of extensive consultation that Madeleine and I led part of with forums with our ex-service organisations and our RSL sub-branches, meeting with veterans and families as well as the work that RSLWA and its consortium members have done in consulting with the community to make sure that they’re identifying and understanding the unique needs of veterans and families here in the Rockingham area and the southwestern suburbs of Perth, which I’m sure everyone will appreciate are going to be different than the needs in other parts of Australia where we have different cohorts of veterans. And that’s an important part about our Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs program nationally – that we are locating these in the areas of strongest need, where we've got the strongest concentration of veterans, making sure we’re meeting the unique needs of those veterans’ communities in each of the locations around Australia.

I think today is a terrific day announcing $5.44 million to a consortium led by RSL WA for the establishment of a Veterans’ and Families’ Hub here in Rockingham, and with that I’m going to hand over to Duncan, President of the RSL WA, to say a bit more about how this Hub is going to operate and the program from here.

PRESIDENT OF RSL WA, DUNCAN ANDERSON: On behalf of RSL WA and the consortium, veterans, families and everyone else, I would like to thank the Minister for the support of the Federal Government in funding what we feel is an innovative approach to supporting veterans in Western Australia. We firmly believe at the RSL that we are truly better together, and although I am here, I am just but one person of a broader team that exists right here in Western Australia supporting veterans from all areas of Western Australia, all walks of life. And if we can bring those – all those facets together, we can work together, then we will truly see veterans and families thrive here in Western Australia.

We feel a great sense of pride and duty to do the right thing by our veterans here in Western Australia. And it's a great privilege to be afforded this responsibility and it’s something we don’t take lightly. And we look forward to the next couple of years bringing this Hub to life and seeing families and veterans supported out of this facility here in Rockingham. Thank you very much. I’ll hand back to the Minister.

JOURNALIST: How will the Hub operate? Is it a matter of veterans coming in and dropping in after they leave service, or how does it work?

MINISTER KEOGH: So, I’ll let Duncan and others get into the detail, but the really critical part about this is it becomes a Hub that the veteran community, the veteran family community, serving personnel are aware of. They’re looking at establishing a café here so they can have that informal engagement. That’s a really important part of our hubs – they need to be welcoming places, places where veterans and families can access service. And not all the services are here. Obviously, this is co-located with a medical facility to make sure that those services are easily available, as well as being able to provide advocacy services for people needing to make claims with DVA, for example, welfare, but also to connect to the other spokes.

So it’s also a referral service to make sure that where veterans don’t know where to access service this becomes the Hub where there’s no wrong door, you come to the Hub and you’ll be connected with the type of service that you need to support the unique circumstances of each veteran and family, whether that’s on an individual basis, whether that’s part of, you know, group therapies or just programs. And that also allows the creation of community here as well, bringing people together, that informal engagement that supports our veteran community, especially when they’re in that period of transition leaving military life, entering into civilian life, being able to access services like Working Spirit through the RSL, which is an employment service provider for the veteran community, medical services, rehabilitation services, all of those different supports that the RSL and the consortia that it’s put together are able to provide. And no wrong door – come to the Hub and then being connected to the services that a veteran requires. And that’s what’s really important about these Hubs here and around the country.

DUNCAN ANDERSON: I think – I don’t want to steal the boss’s thunder – but the other key point of referral and why it’s just so important here in Rockingham is you can see behind me senior ADF representatives, particularly the naval presence here in Rockingham. And we’ve been welcomed with open arms by those that are still serving. And if we can help those communities that are still serving, we can get word out to those that are still serving, and we can use our resources within the RSL and the broader veteran network to promote the Hub to all those people. What we’re trying to do is to soften the landing between that transition. It’s something that I and many others have been through, and it’s – you never know how difficult it is until you do it. And so, what we’re trying to do – collaborate with those who are still serving and those who are in the community to soften that landing. And this Hub provides that, a key plank of that.

JOURNALIST: Does the fact that you’re using services that are basically existing services but coordinating them, does that mean that you can actually get running much quicker than if you were trying to start everything from scratch?

DUNCAN ANDERSON: Well, one of the – yes. We’re incredibly proud to work and continue working alongside RediMed. RediMed are one of our foundation partners with ANZAC House Veteran Central in Perth. To be able to use a space that I understand was a furniture shop prior to being the facility that we’ve all had a tour through this morning, it means that we can use the incredibly generous support of the Government to build – to deliver services, not to build more buildings. And that allows us to do more and, yes, to be able to get up and hopefully get running.

Really, today’s announcement allows us to start taking the next step. So, we’ve taken all the initial discussions up to as far as we can potentially go without a commitment. So, we obviously can’t sign contracts and do all those things, but the team is ready to go and really to start bringing to life all of the work that’s been done up until this point.

JOURNALIST: And we’ve heard about the sizable veteran community that’s here already.

DUNCAN ANDERSON: Yeah.

JOURNALIST: How much are you expecting that to grow when we see the AUKUS submarines come in?

DUNCAN ANDERSON: I mean, publicly the reported number is a thousand families. I’m pretty sure the Local Member for Rockingham and Federal Member for Rockingham are probably a bit concerned about where they’re going to go. So, let’s put that to one side. But you would hope that those thousand families could be serviced from a facility such as this. It means that the RSL, Federal Government, all of our consortium partners are increasing capacity here in the local community, and you would see a natural fit. So, if that’s going to come, then we should be able to help.

JOURNALIST: Has a Hub like this existed yet in WA?

DUNCAN ANDERSON: Yeah, so the first steps of these Hubs were taken at ANZAC House Veteran Central. I joke that we were doing Hubs before Hubs were cool. But, yeah, the first steps were taken in ANZAC House Veteran Central, and we learnt a lot of really good lessons from that. And – but one of the key lessons we learned and something we hold very dear is that the more you collaborate the more you can do. So don’t replicate, collaborate. And the more we can work alongside people the better it is. RSL can never be all things to all people, but we can certainly be the glue that binds everyone together, and that’s what we’re seeing with the Hub.

JOURNALIST: When are you expecting this to be up and running?

DUNCAN ANDERSON: I would have to throw that one to the CEO. But, yeah, I don’t know. If it were my choice, I’d say yesterday. But we’ve got to start those discussions. So as soon as possible. There’s fantastic facilities here already at RediMed. You would see referral pathways, as the Minister referred to. We can start formalising those agreements, noting it’s nine days before Christmas. Hopefully we can start to see some movement really early in the new year.

JOURNALIST: A question on a different topic; we’ve seen this morning Chris Ellison saying that his project, gas project in the Perth Basin to be viable it needs to have export permits. Now, I know that’s a State Government issue. But given your comments about the need to get more gas projects going to stop the shortfall, would you like to see if it requires an export permit to make that happen so that there can be domestic gas as well? Would you like to see that?

MADELEINE KING: Yeah, I did see the comments today, in today’s West. I think the Perth Basin is a really important resource for the people of Western Australia, and I respect the State Government’s decision to restrict the exports from that basin, the exports of gas that is. So that of course will be a matter for the state, and I think Chris Ellison putting that proposal forward, that of course is open for him to do that. And I’m sure that there’ll be discussions, and I respect that.

I think what Chris Ellison’s comments bring to the front of my mind and should to all Western Australians is how important a number of other projects are that are on the pathway here in Western Australia, in particular, the Scarborough project is very important to the ongoing energy security of Western Australia but also to our regional neighbours. The Browse project is one of the largest untapped reservoirs in the world will be really – so widely important to Western Australia. And as I have said often, we will need gas for the processing of critical minerals and rare earths. Both of those things in the minerals world are vital for green energy technology. So, making sure that these projects go ahead with the environmental approvals and the other approvals that are required is really very important. So – and that’s a work in progress obviously.

As for the Perth Basin, a very important resource and I’m sure there’ll be further discussions, but I do really respect the Government’s decision here to make sure there is energy security for Western Australians as well. The scale issue is very real. It is why in Queensland they need to be able to export a lot of the gas that comes out of Queensland to be able to provide the domestic market with gas right across Queensland but also New South Wales and into Victoria. So, I understand the scale issue and I see Chris Ellison’s point. And I’m sure that’s a point he will make with the State Government as appropriate.

JOURNALIST: Would it be disappointing if the project didn’t get off the ground [indistinct]?

MADELEINE KING: Well, these things, if they’re viable, they usually find a way, so long as, you know, those environmental approvals and all other negotiations are met, and approvals are found with the cultural heritage and Indigenous owners. I think that’s really important elements of too. So, I’m sure parties will work together to make sure if the gas is needed, the gas is used.

JOURNALIST: And just to pick up on your point there about the environmental approvals, you’ve obviously spoken strongly in favour of this Browse and other projects that your colleague Tanya Plibersek needs to give approval on. Is there any concern that your support could be seen as prejudicing the process?

MADELEINE KING: Not at all. I mean, my support is based on environmental approvals processes being followed properly at all times. I wouldn’t ever seek to change that. That’s an important part of, indeed, the social license of the industry. Whether that be the energy or gas industry but also mining more generally, those environmental approvals, and also the work that this industry must do with the owners of the land, traditional owners is vitally important too. So, no, there’s no shortcuts. Consultation is important and environmental concerns are very real and they need to be listened to. Equally, we do need these resources for the ongoing prosperity of the state of Western Australia, which is the economic backbone of the whole country.

END

MEDIA CONTACT:
Stephanie Mathews (Minister Keogh’s Office): 0407 034 485
DVA Media: media.team@dva.gov.au

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