CEO Update - Some will have the strength to march, some will not…

Next week we take a day to remember those members of the defence force who have served our nation, in war and peace, including those who gave their lives in various theatres of conflict across the globe.

ANZAC Day holds a treasured place in the Australian psyche, and rather than fading over time, it seems that remembrance has found a new generation eager to pay their respects, and honour the memory of those broken by, or lost to war and service.

In the lead up to the ANZAC Day we saw a proposal for a substantial extension to the Australian War Memorial, rumoured to be in the order of $500 million. I commented at the time that I am one of the War Memorial’s biggest fans, but it seemed to me that the most important way we can honour the fallen, is by honouring the living with easy access to any services and programs they might require to overcome the effects of their service to the nation.

We know that our veterans experience terrible rates of mental ill health, and I would like to think that we could spend our resources supporting them before we started to build more underground galleries at what is already a world-renowned attraction.

The lead up to ANZAC Day has also seen us welcome Soldier On as a new Member of Mental Health Australia. And even as we did this, the annual “Pollie Pedal” was cycling across the country raising awareness of the plight of our returned service personnel. Soldier On’s admirable work aims to assist veterans with a list of services and programs that seem pretty straight forward:

  • Find a job or new vocation
  • Learn new skills
  • Be healthy and well
  • Strengthen your family relationships
  • Connect to mates and community networks
  • Continue to serve Australia
  • Participate in community, social and sporting activities.

So I can’t help but reflect that it is disappointing that we need charities and fundraisers to be providing these kinds of basic services to the people who have served us.

Imagine, for a moment, that we needed volunteers to hold community fundraisers to send our service personnel off to war. There would be outcry. In no time at all we would see government increase the Defence budget to support the deployment of our troops.

But when those that survive the ravages of war return, we seem willing to accept that they will often depend on charities like Defence Care, Legacy, the RSL, Soldier On and many more to help right the wrongs of war and make a transition back into society.

Jennifer M. Granholm, summed it up perfectly when she said “Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops, and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honour the dead best by treating the living well.”

So next Wednesday, on April 25, as we hear those words ‘lest we forget’, let’s not forget this…

Some service men and women will have the strength to march, for those that never returned. But for some, the living, it is all still too raw, too soon, and too hard. And they’re the people who deserve our highest priority and support, if we are to improve the mental health of our community.

Warm regards,

Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

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defence, mental health, veterans

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