ADF mental health services ‘underfunded’

A review of mental health care in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has found there are not enough resources or staff.

The independent review by Professor David Dunt found mental health problems remain stigmatised in the ADF and the wider community, and there are many barriers to seeking care.

The Federal Government says it will act on 49 of the 52 recommendations and the remaining three have been partially accepted.

About $80 million will be spent over four years to address the problems identified.

A leaked copy of the report admitted soldiers returning from war were not receiving adequate treatment for mental health problems.

Experts estimate that up to 10 per cent of combatants returning from the Middle East and Afghanistan may be suffering long-term mental health disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Defence Science and Personnel Minister, Warren Snowdon, and the Veterans’ Affairs Minister, Alan Griffin, said the review assessed the extent to which the mental health needs of serving and transitioning ADF members were being met.

“The report highlights the successes and gaps in the delivery of mental health programs and transition services and makes 52 recommendations to improve and extend those services,” Mr Snowdon said.

“Implementing the recommendations will ensure our current and ex-service personnel have easier access to best practice mental health services. Preventive activities will be delivered by staff dedicated to mental health promotion and multi-disciplinary health teams will ensure holistic care that also considers the needs of families.”

Professor Dunt says the ADF’s mental health strategy is admirable but under-resourced and understaffed.

He has recommended more training on mental health issues, better screening after personnel come back from deployment and a significant change to the way mental health services are provided.

“We need to have more psychologists on base particularly. We need to have a greater involvement of doctors,” Professor Dunt said.

“I think that all these different people need to work in multi-disciplinary teams at the base, at the regional level, at the national level and also here in Canberra at the policy and planning level.”

The implementation plan has 10 elements that will provide improved mental health governance and policy. They include: more mental health staff; increased mental health training for ADF personnel and providers; enhanced prevention strategies including better research; improved mental health rehabilitation and transition services; and better facilities for mental health services.

Mr Griffin said while many of the recommendations can be acted upon immediately, others will take several years to achieve.

“Both DVA and Defence will report regularly to the Government on their progress in implementing the recommendations,” he said.

“This Government understands the importance of robust and effective mental health support services. With more than 25,000 troops having served overseas since 1999, we must remain focused on ensuring both departments support the growing needs of our current and ex-service personnel.”

Medics show skills in the field

AUSTRALIA’S first Victoria Cross recipient, Captain Neville Howse, was serving as a regimental medical officer during the Boer War when he rescued a seriously wounded trooper under fire.

His professional reputation established, Howes rose through the military medical ranks in World War I to major-general commanding medical services in France, and was later a federal minister.

Colonel “Weary” Dunlop also benefited professionally from his military service.

By the time he was captured by the Japanese in 1942, he had already seen active service at Tobruk in Libya and in Greece and Syria.

Dunlop wasn’t the only doctor to show great ingenuity and heroism while POW – Albert Coates was at least one other – but he was the one best known.

Dunlop used the experience to push medicine beyond the bounds of well-resourced clinical peacetime practice, but simultaneously developed his personal and professional reputation.

Weary Dunlop’s war service presented a different problem as an aspiring general surgeon, who often improvised vaccines and equipment from what was available in the POW camps, as opposed to being able to use well provisioned dispensaries.

His civilian counterparts had long qualified for their Royal Australian College of Surgeons’ fellowships when he and his military cohort were finally demobilised.

Dunlop’s pioneering experiences of what might be termed field expedient medicine was not considered advantageous to his career.

When Winston Churchill’s health deteriorated significantly in the early days of World War II, it was a decorated former World War I infantry regimental medical officer he appointed as his personal physician.

Lord Moran – Sir Charles Wilson, MC – spent the early war years with the Royal Fusiliers before commanding the British Stationary Hospital, Boulogne, France in 1917-18.

He used the opportunity to study the effects of depression on soldiers, writing two books, The Mind in War and The Anatomy of Courage.

Between the wars he lectured the British Army Staff College on the effects of combat experience on soldiers’ reactions and subsequent mental health.

Moran was concurrently president of the Royal College of Physicians when he assumed his role with Churchill, who long battled what might now be, in part at least, described as PTSD. A former soldier, Churchill long battled depressive illness, even in politics.

His was a classic case study, inspiring Moran to publish post-war his diaries of the treatment afforded Churchill.

The ADF’s Malaria Research Institute is regarded as a centre of medical excellence studying vectorborne diseases.

However, its conduct of recent clinical trials using ADF personnel raise serious doubts.

Given resources readily available to them, its deficiencies deserve close scrutiny.

Now it seems the ADF medical services have been offered to assist with experimental research into coronavirus vaccines proposed for quarantine facilities on Christmas Island.

While there are historical and service justifications for antimalarial research, it would seem a gross misuse of scarce ADF medical resources to conduct antiviral trials into diseases that seem well outside the ADF’s charter or experience.

Australia’s governments should not regard scarce ADF medical resources as its first line of emergency response or experimentation.

Save their expertise for the troops.



Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that an independent commissioner with the powers of a rolling royal commission will be appointed to investigate veteran suicide – a victory for mother Julie-Ann Finney who has collected almost 300,000 signatures in favour of a Royal Commission since her son David died a year ago.

Ally helps in hour of need

Written by Ross Eastgate

AMONG the countries that contributed to assist Australia fight the recent devastating bushfires was our nearest neighbour, Papua New Guinea.

Television news images of the arriving PNG troops showed a mutual affection between the PNGDF personnel and their Australian counterparts.

They suggested many of the personnel were known to each other, old mates whose friendships were formed in training and exchange postings.

It’s usually the reverse, Australian personnel and resources deployed to PNG to assist that country to deal with famine, drought and natural disasters.

Wildfires on the scale Australia regularly experiences are not within PNG’s experience.

They are not equipped nor trained to deal with them.

Volcanic eruptions, landslides, tsunamis and cyclones are more likely, though even then the PNGDF and emergency services do not enjoy the luxury of specialist equipment to deal with their aftermath, nor treat mass casualties when they occur.

Yet in Australia’s recent hour of desperate need PNG was there to help in whatever way it could.

In 1883, the state of Queensland annexed the British territory of Papua, the bottom southeast corner of the main island.

Indeed, many Papuans still express loyalty to Queensland.

In 1914, Australia seized the remaining German administered parts of New Guinea east of the then Dutch border, continuing to administer it as a League of Nations Trust Territory until post World War II.

In 1973, the separate territories of Papua and New Guinea became Papua New Guinea until they achieved independence in September 1975.

Australia’s stewardship of both territories survived two world wars, during which its attention to such national building qualities as education and development of government services did not match the expectations a developing nation might expect.

However, in that process enduring relationships were formed between the potential future leaders of both nations.

One of the most enduring and rewarding professional relationships existed with the ADF, which post-independence acquired separate identities as the ADF and the PNGDF.

The professional friendships forged in uniform have endured, with the internet keeping old comrades in touch as global acquaintances do.

One of the great failings of Australia’s post-independence relationship with PNG has been the way it has abandoned those former personnel who were, until independence, fully fledged ADF members.

They had ADF identities, while some navy personnel qualified as Vietnam veterans.

Nor is it just ADF PNG veterans who have been abandoned.

In a country that seriously lacks basic infrastructure, PNG, particularly remote areas, has relied on Australia’s external radio service, Radio Australia, once operating under the ABC.

With no internet or local radio supporting remote areas, rural PNG often relied on the familiar static signal of Radio Australia using special short-wave radios for reception.

The Australian Government has reduced many services, to the point that by January 2017 China had assumed control of previous RA frequencies that targeted the South Pacific.

Last week Radio NZ’s short-wave Pacific service marked its 30th anniversary.

Australia chooses strange ways to embrace its long-term friends.

We can find better ways to reward mutual loyalty and friendship.

KPMG Review of TPI Benefits

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The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) commissioned KPMG to examine the TPI Federation’s campaign for an increase in the TPI payment.

KPMG analysed the arguments put forward by the TPI Federation in support of their campaign against the legislative and policy basis for the current TPI payment rate.  The same analysis was also conducted on an alternative payment structure proposed by the Disabled Veterans of Australia Network.  This included investigation of the overall levels of support available for TPI veterans and consideration of whether any cohorts of the TPI population need greater assistance than others.

KPMG also compared the draft recommendations of the Productivity Commission review A Better Way to Support Veterans, released on 11 December 2018, against the TPI Federation’s response to the draft Productivity Commission report and their proposed alternative recommendations.

The KPMG Review of TPI Benefits was completed and provided to DVA on 15 November 2019.

Disaster assistance for DVA clients – Bushfire crisis

The impact of the bushfires is being felt across the nation, including by members of the veteran and defence communities. Health and safety is the priority during this time, and we encourage you to listen to the experts on how to be prepared.

The ABC, as the national broadcaster, provides up-to-date information on all alerts and warnings.

Further information is also available on each of the state government websites.

Members of the veteran and defence communities can also access:

  • The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment – one-off financial assistance to eligible Australians adversely affected by the bushfires. For more information on eligibility, and how to claim, visit the Department of Human Services websiteor call 180 22 66.
  • Defence Service Homes Insurance – to lodge a claim or for assistance please contact 1300 552 662or visit the Defence Service Homes Insurance website.
  • Open Arms counselling support(24/7) – veterans and their families requiring emergency counselling support can call 1800 011 046.
  • Crisis payments – a one-off payment to financially assist eligible people following a range of defined circumstances. For information about the crisis payments and eligibility please read Factsheet IS121 – Crisis Payments
  • Other assistance – DVA’s Veterans’ Access Network (VAN) can be contacted on 1800 555 254to assist with a wide range of issues, including replacement of aids and appliances, ensuring availability of pharmaceuticals, and arranging transportation to medical appointments.
  • Veteran’s Home Care – assists you to continue living independently by providing a small amount of practical help including safety related home and garden maintenance that can help prevent health and safety hazards around the home. For program clients affected by the fires please contact your service providers or assessment agency.  For eligible, affected veterans that need new services or services in a new location contact a VHC Assessment Agency on 1300 550 450.

If any other services or support you receive from the Department are being impacted by the fires, or if you need extra support in requesting these services, you can call 1800 555 254 for assistance.



Please find below the proposed sequence of events for the Battalion’s 75th Birthday celebrations in October. The dedication of the Vietnam First Tour Memorial from Holsworthy to Townsville will take place. The East Timor 20th and Afghanistan 10th anniversary of there deployments will also be honoured.
There will also be an opportunity for sub-units and groups who wish to have mini-reunions

Proposed Outline of Events (TBC).

Wed 14 Oct 20
PM…Association welcome drinks at venue TBA

Thu 15 Oct 20
AM. The re-dedication of the first tour memorial. Following this, a memorial service for all other conflicts held on the Battalion Parade Ground centred on the existing memorial.
The Battalion will scope providing a guard for this and the first tour service, band, Chaplin, Colours and mascot.

PM Association function at venue TBA. This will be along the lines of the Somalia reunion conducted previously and will pay tribute to the First Tour of East Timor 20th anniversary and Afghanistan 10th anniversary

Fri 16 Oct 20
AM. Opening of the History Room at the 1RAR Museum.

AM/PM. Open Day, possibly followed by a BBQ.

  1. Opportunity to hold group functions.

Sat 17 Oct 20
AM Parade (combined with 2 and 3RAR TBC)
PM ..Offs and SNCO dinner. This is for current serving members only from 1,2 and 3 RAR, with a limited amount of VVIPs and VIP. It is not intended for veterans. Having said that, if 2 and 3RAR don’t attend some veterans may be able to attend.

  1. Opportunity to hold group functions or we take over a venue for combined informal drinks.

All times above TBC.

As more details become available they will be posted, this will allow you all time for planning your return to Townsville

NSW Regional Seniors Travel Card

The NSW Government wants to give you regional seniors travel card worth $250.

All you need to be is an aged pensioner holding:

  • A pensioner concession card
  • A DVA Gold card (as far as I can determine)
  • A Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holder

and live in NSW but not in Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong and Blue Mountains Council areas.

You can apply from 29th January 2020 on line or from ServicesNSW.

See for details.

Also look at for over 70 NSW Government rebates and savings that you may be missing out on.