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News > General > Governance of the Veteran Community

Governance of the Veteran Community

Every veteran and member of the veteran community deserves happiness in life.
19 Jun 2022
Written by Ian Lindgren

The greatest risk to the successful implementation of the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide in August is the that current governance system remains in place.  We can choose to sit back and do nothing, or we can act.   Whatever we do, it needs to be collegial, there needs to be no organisational barrows pushed, and we need to remove the negativity that engulfs the veteran community.

We need to act now to comprehensively reform the arrangements that govern the veteran and veteran family community from day one in the ADF, through service and transition, to happiness after service and finally end of life.

It is a broad subject and as the saying goes “how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time”.  The approach needs to be both top down and bottom up.  At the high level we need to recognise there are several Commonwealth departments that have an impact on our lives because they govern the outcomes that affect us daily.   The key departments are Defence, DVA, ATO, CSC and Treasury and at this stage we should be familiar with the definition of the term Governance.  There are many definitions and perhaps this is one is easy to relate to:

Governance is ‘the framework of rules, relationships, people, systems and processes within and by which authority is exercised and controlled in organisations. It encompasses the mechanisms by which organisations, and those in control, are held to account.

It’s big picture stuff and I’ll refer to it as operating at the enterprise level.  Thinking about it can give you a headache, so I recommend knowing it exists, and then looking at the “bite sized chunks’ bits because these are manageable.   By this I mean for example, the treatment of veteran superannuation by the CSC, the claims process within DVA and the transfer of medical information from Defence to DVA as examples.

Do you feel your needs and those of our community are taken to the Commonwealth?” Well, the first thing to be aware of is that if we post them all on social media then that’s where they will stay and they won’t get to the Commonwealth unless someone collects them and sends them in a way that ensures they will be addressed.

What about veteran organisations?  As at today there are 8150 registered charities that help veterans.  Many are rightly focussed on providing a service such as a wellbeing retreat.  Others are national in nature and care for the mental health and education of their members.   Some of the latter will not engage with the Commonwealth, particularly DVA because they have concluded it is largely a waste of time.  I don’t argue with the conclusion, but I am concerned that their members’ issues are not taken to the Commonwealth.

Then there are the 14 Ex-Service Organisations that form the Ex-Service Round table (ESORT) together with DVA and Defence.   ESORT has a terms of reference that states it is “the main forum for dialogue” between the veteran community and DVA, to provide advice, enable broad consultation, enhance the ex-service community’s understanding of DVA’s service delivery performance through information sharing and improved communication between DVA and the ex-service community.  It is also responsible to consider how DVA engages with and provides services to younger members.  If that sounds fuzzy; then that’s why I volunteered last week to re-write it as a recommendation to take to DVA and the Minister.   Intent needs to be clear; the terms of reference is not clear.

The ESORT comprises of some exceptional people, both from the ESO members and the DVA and Defence members, but it is stymied by a terms of reference that does not meet community expectations. 

Some key questions are:

  • Do veterans and the veteran community expect the ESOs that attend ESORT to seek out and understand, then represent the needs of the whole veteran and veteran family community?
  • Should the ESO members of ESORT hold DVA and other Commonwealth departments to account when they meet?
  • If the answer to the question above is yes, then should ESO members of the ESORT wait until its terms of reference are re-written before it takes action to meet the veteran community expectations of it?   I say no.  The ESO members of the ESORT can act now.

Every veteran and member of the veteran community deserves happiness in life. Every veteran deserves health care during and after transition to the standards a reasonable person in the Australian population expects eg if you are injured at work and a doctor agrees, then all costs are immediately accepted.  Would the rest of the Australian community accept waiting for over 100 days for an acknowledgement that a claim has been received and another 200 or more days for it to be determined?  No.  So why should veterans accept this?  Why should our families wear the brunt of our frustrations while we wait?

Everyone only knows what they know.   Most people are comfy in their comfort zone.  Being constantly negative about the veteran plight wont help bring the community together, however being collegial will.  We need to get out of the comfort zone.

If these issues and others concern you then be part of the Australian Veteran Community and attend a virtual Town Hall on Thursday 30 June 2022 between 2pm and 3pm eastern time.  All it takes to remain in the current crisis is for good people to do nothing.  Register Here.

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