Standing up for Canberra

From little things, big things grow

Being a part of the Australian Defence Force, protecting our nation, protecting our national interests, is one of the great sacrifices made by so many Australians—150,000 Australians each year. I have said many, many times in this chamber that there is no higher calling than military service. To be a fine member of the Australian Defence Force member, you need to display a high level of fitness, commitment, discipline, trust, integrity, courage and loyalty.

Comments made in the Tanzer review of March 1999 still apply today in much the same way that they did at the turn of the millennium. As the Tanzer review said:

To achieve this, certain inherent requirements apply to those personnel serving in the ADF. These requirements will, to varying degrees, impact on the lifestyle of each ADF member. Such conditions are generally specific to military life and would not normally apply to the majority of those in civilian employment.

That's why when members transition out of uniform we need to provide them with the adequate resources and the adequate support to successfully help them make that transition into civilian life and we need to make sure that the processes are as seamless as possible.

The processes in terms of the transition from the military into DVA have been the subject of countless inquiries, and even now I still get complaints that they are not as seamless as they can be. We need to ensure that members going from the ADF do not go into a huge abyss when they enter civilian life and that their transition into civilian life is as smooth as possible not just in terms of the DVA processes but also in terms of educational processes and emotional support processes—and financial support goes without saying. When transitioning, one minute you are in the ADF and you've got a house provided for you on a base and the next minute you're off base and you're looking for a rental somewhere—and quite often it's the case that it has been a long time since you've actually been in the private rental market. We need to provide these support services and these systems to our ADF members who are making that transition to civilian life.

We also need to provide the appropriate support systems and services to those who've been damaged in serving our country—those who have experienced trauma in serving our nation, those who have come back with PTSD from Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere and those who've come back from peacekeeping missions who have undergone significant trauma. We need to provide the appropriate support services and systems to ensure that those people are supported. We need to ensure that those people who have made that significant contribution to our nation are supported in their hour of need. It's vitally important.

That is why it was terrific to attend, for the fourth time, the Soldier On fundraiser that was held just recently here in Canberra. It was the national fundraiser. As I said, I've been to all four of them over the years. I remember when Soldier On started. I think it was back in 2012. It started with just a glimmer of an idea from John Bale and some of his mates in respect for some of the mates that they'd lost in Afghanistan. They started with no money; just a big idea, big dreams, and the absolute determination to support veterans, or ADF members, coming back from serving their nation overseas, who had experienced significant trauma and were doing it tough as a result of PTSD and the trauma of what they'd witnessed overseas on deployments. They were determined to come up with a mechanism to support those people. This vision—this glimmer of an idea, this glimmer of a vision—began in a tent that was pitched at the site where the returned services club had once stood down in Griffith. It was there that this vision, this grand idea, of Soldier On was born. It was over a few glasses of cheap wine. Were you there, Deputy Speaker Irons? From memory, it was pretty cold.

Ms Rowland: He's a cheap wine kind of guy.

Ms BRODTMANN: We were in that tent, and we all contributed as far as possible to getting that dream up and running. The member for Lingiari was there and, from memory, the member from Eden-Monaro was there as well. We had no idea what sort of an event we were going to. We just got an invitation for an event run by Soldier On. No-one knew what Soldier On was about. No-one knew what the mission was or why they felt the need to create Soldier On.

From those very humble beginnings, from those little seeds, big trees grow. We are talking about only five or six years. Soldier On has grown from a tent on a lot of land in Griffith to being not an empire but a very well-respected service that provides a range of facilities and support mechanisms to ADF members who have come back and are going through tough times. They now have a fantastic facility, which is the old CSIRO facility, over at Crace. There they offer financial counselling and workplace transition. They do a lot of therapy work through physical exercise, craft, art and painting. They have education programs and music programs. The beauty of that facility is that it's large—it has a historic connection with Canberra as well—and that provides them with an opportunity to have those diverse learning experiences, support experiences, counselling experiences and psychological support experiences. It's all at that place in Crace, which is terrific.

This fundraiser, as always, was well attended by Canberrans. Again I thank Canberra for supporting Soldier On. You've been with Soldier On from its very humble beginnings. You've always been out in full force to support the national fundraising efforts by Soldier On. They're always wonderful nights. We always hear from very powerful speakers. At the evening there were a series of speakers talking about their transition from trauma to being well, their journey from trauma to now being healthy. We had the opportunity to hear from a number of speakers on that front. It was a really worthwhile event, and I hope it raised lots of money for Soldier On because it does provide great services.

I am pre-empting a bit of what Soldier On is going to be announcing. I got only a little taste of it. I hope I'm not letting the cat out of the bag too early, but I understand that Soldier On this month is going to be making an announcement about incorporating first responders—a number of paramedics and others—into the significant safety net, the parachute, that is offered by Soldier On in terms of its services. Unfortunately, I won't be able to get to that event, because we're sitting, but I wish Soldier On all the best. I think it's terrific that it is expanding those services to not just deal with ADF members but also first responders, because we all know that those first responders quite often do experience significant trauma and there are just not the support systems that are there currently for ADF members.

While I am speaking of veterans and those who have served their country and have suffered trauma and been physically or emotionally damaged in the process, I want to mention that I also had the great pleasure just last week of taking part in Legacy fundraising efforts. Legacy, as we know, supports the families and children of ADF members who either were very badly injured or, unfortunately, died in their service for our country. Again there was a terrific response from Canberra. I again thank Canberra for buying teddy bears, pens, bracelets and pins or just making donations to Legacy.

Legacy provide services for I think about 70,000 families throughout Australia. They provide a terrific service and they've been providing that since World War I. Essentially, the concept of Legacy was born at the hideous battle at Pozieres, where we lost thousands and thousands and thousands of Australians in one day, amongst the rain, mud and constant bombardment, when a dying digger turned to his mate and said, 'Look after the missus and the kids when you get home,' Every 20 seconds, artillery was firing over. It would have sent anyone mad. It was a hideous, hideous day in Australian history. Thousands and thousands of young men from all over our country were killed that day in those dreadful circumstances. For those who weren't killed, anyone would have gone mad in that process. As I said, artillery bombs were dropping every 20 seconds. It would drive anyone mad. It was a very dark day in our history—Pozieres. Even though there is a memorial on the windmill site, I do think that there's more that we can do to honour those who died in Pozieres and those who survived. How anyone could survive that hideous battle, I don't know. But I think that there is more that we need to be doing to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice at Pozieres. As I said, the memorial on the windmill is modest. It is beautiful in its modesty, but I do think that there's more that we need to be doing on Pozieres—the recognition of that. I note that we've got Polygon Wood commemorations coming up shortly. It was equally tragic.

Just going back to Legacy, I had the great privilege of attending Legacy's national launch. At that launch, there were a number of Junior Legatees who played a number of roles in the event. One of them was a Junior Legatee named Mark MacInnes. His speech was really powerful. I want to read it into the Hansard. It was very personal. It was very powerful in that it was so personal. It was also very raw. It was very brave and courageous of this young man to share his journey with Legacy. In fact, he was originally sceptical of Legacy and, as he said, it caught him 'mid-fall'. In his speech he said, 'Legacy caught me mid-fall' when he was highly sceptical of it. I would like to read briefly some of the contribution that Mark MacInnes, a Junior Legatee, made to the national launch here in Canberra a week ago. He said:

I was thirteen when my father, Andrew, a dedicated ADF member passed away suddenly, my sister Kate, was only a month past the age of twelve. That day, my mother lost a husband, and both of her kids lost a figure of guidance, support, and most of all, unconditional love. It was as if a once blue sky became black, dark and full of those storm clouds that unnerve you even before the lightning comes crashing down. Although the path of loss is something all of us will have to tread, it's always difficult. For myself, I felt as though nobody I had closest to me would understand how I feel, I felt isolated, unable to turn anywhere. My school friends hadn't had this happen to them, my teachers could say all the pleasantries they liked, to me, it wouldn't help … I would have been about 16 to 17 when my sister and I first properly immersed ourselves in the Legacy community, throwing away youthful bravado and pride to finally see why this organisation thought us to be worthy of their support.

How gorgeous is that—'thought us to be worthy of their support'?

I'm not someone who likes to admit they are wrong, to those who know me the best, I'm way too stubborn to willingly do it, but with Legacy, I'll happily swallow that pride I keep and happily accept that I was foolish.

This was in terms of turning Legacy away.

You see, Legacy, once upon a time to me, was just the occasional Christmas voucher …

But, now, Mark MacInnes, as a Junior Legatee, saw Legacy as, basically, catching him mid-fall. It protected him, it nurtured him and it provided him with emotional and financial support.

I commend Legacy for the work that they do in supporting our widowers and the children of ADF members who have made the ultimate sacrifice.