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Wednesday 10 July, 2019
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has released the following communique from the Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit convened by the Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel on 26 June 2019.
(Originally published on www.dva.gov.au)
26 June 2019
The Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel, the Hon Darren Chester MP, convened a national summit of experts in veteran mental health and suicide prevention to reshape the 10 year Veteran Mental Health Strategy; and to focus on a National Action Plan to improve veterans’ mental health, wellbeing and to significantly reduce suicide. This is the first step in a series of consultations to ensure veterans and their families shape the government’s response to this important issue.
The Prime Minister has made mental health one of his highest priorities and will be driving new efforts to improve mental health for all Australians right across government.
Minister Chester has been charged with ensuring that the mental health needs and services for veterans and their families receive maximum effort in the new term of government.
Participants at the Summit acknowledged that there is good work being done to support the mental health and wellbeing of veterans and their families. Yet, a more collaborative approach is needed to move from an illness model to a wellness model.
The Australian Government as a whole, and Defence and DVA specifically, will need to work closely with veterans and their families, researchers, ex-service organisations (ESOs), business and service providers to lead national policy efforts to implement practical, local, community-led and evidence-based solutions.
The Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy will be renewed and the Summit participants agreed to work together to engage veterans and their families in the development of a National Action Plan, for endorsement by government, by the end of this year. This work starts now and will be designed and built through local engagement with veterans and families. Similarly the existing national network of experts, service providers, businesses and ESOs can support and enable veterans to transition well and live well.
We have identified four critical priority areas:
The Summit identified some priority areas for the action plan, and we will identify more as we engage further with veterans and their families:
Summit participants agreed that to be truly effective, DVA’s future approach should be characterised by collaboration, communication and a focus on communities and families.
In the coming weeks and months, in the preparation of the National Action Plan and renewed Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, there will be extensive national and local engagement to ensure that the strategy and all practical actions are co-designed by veterans and their families, for veterans and their families.
Minister Chester has announced the appointment of Repatriation Commissioner, Don Spinks, effective 1 July 2019. The Commissioner, as part of a planned intense national dialogue, will also engage with the veteran and defence communities to get their input into the National Action Plan.
Minister Chester also committed to establishing a bi-partisan Parliamentary Advisory Group of MPs and Senators with ADF service to progress veterans’ issues, including support for veterans’ mental health.
All present at the Summit want to send a message of assistance and support to veterans and their families. There is help available and anyone who is struggling with their mental health can have confidence to approach services for help. People who may have had less than ideal experiences with DVA in the past are encouraged to ‘give us another go’ as there have been many improvements to DVA and the services we offer. There is still much to do and we want to work with veterans and their families, listening to them as, together, we formulate the Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy and National Action Plan.