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Thursday 29 November, 2018
Hon Steven Marshall MP
Premier of South Australia
VETERAN COMMUNITY ‘TOWN HALL’ MEETING
26 November 2018
Anzac House Drill Hall, Torrens Parade Ground
It has been my absolute privilege to serve as the Premier of South Australia and to take on the portfolio responsibilities for Veterans’ Affairs following the State Election eight months ago on 17 March 2018.
One of society’s most solemn obligations is to care for the physical, mental and emotional health of veterans and their families. I am determined that my government will fulfil this obligation.
Prior to the election I worked hard to familiarise myself with the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio as Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. I received, and continue to receive, a good deal of correspondence from your community – much of it quite moving. It reinforces my belief that men and women who serve in our defence force are a cut above the rest and are deserving of particular consideration when issues are brought forward.
Having said that, military service is a federal issue – there are some things we can do at state level and some we simply cannot. Today’s gathering is a chance for me to talk through some of those things and also to hear from you directly. I’d like to know what you think is going well and what areas the state government can improve upon. Let me say at the outset, that if an issue raised has merit, but cannot be addressed at state level, I will advocate for a resolution either directly with the federal minister, or at the annual Veterans Ministers’ Round Table or its supporting biannual Commonwealth, State and Territory Committee meetings. I will point out that this can be a time consuming process requiring patience.
Before I update you on progress with regard to our election commitments that relate to veterans’ affairs I would like to say thank you for your service. I know the military are not fans of public acknowledgements, but I hope within these walls you will accept my thanks on behalf of the people of South Australia – saying thank you illustrates our gratitude towards your service to our nation, so thank you.
I assumed responsibility for the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio to ensure an across-government approach to the delivery of services and support to the veteran community. I am acutely aware of the importance of families and carers who don’t necessarily fall under the veteran umbrella but who are just as worthy of special consideration and are very much part of the veteran community. In forming this approach I found the South Australian Charter for Veterans instructive.
It defines the veteran community as inclusive of: “…spouses, widows, widowers, partners, former partners, carers, children, parents, siblings and relatives of serving or ex-serving members, and should include anyone with an evident link to, or interest in, matters associated with veterans’ welfare or wellbeing.”
I am also aware of the need to consider the whole family unit as when service personnel transition, the whole family transitions. But I am also conscious of the need to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of older veterans and their families from conflicts long since past. It is with this in mind that the government made some commitments before the election and I would like to update you on the progress within these areas.
Access to government services – I strongly support data collection on the numbers of veterans and ex-service personnel in South Australia who become homeless, experience mental health problems or are incarcerated so that we have a better understanding of the needs of veterans and can deliver better services to them – if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. All prisoners are now asked if they have served in the Australian Defence Force upon admission into custodial arrangements and individuals at risk of homelessness seeking support services are also asked if they have served. It’s still early days with this process, but I can assure you that here in South Australia and across the nation, much is being done to identify and support those who have served. For example, we have received August and September incarceration figures from the Department of Correctional Services that enables us to feed into national data to develop a clear picture of the extent of this challenging issue for veterans and their families.
Family support – We are supporting the Partners of Veterans Association of Australia to continue to provide vital services to partners and families of veterans via a small grant to assist with administrative costs including printing and membership management. I can report that this grant has been allocated and the Partners of Veterans are utilising this funding to continue their valuable community work.
Avenue Memorial for Anzac Highway – We are beginning the process to re-memorialise Anzac Highway. There are approximately 45 plaques recognising individual units and associations that are placed at the base of trees on the median strip of Anzac Highway. These were part of a Legacy and RSL commemorative project some years ago that are largely unknown to the general public. Veterans SA and Legacy are discussing where to relocate these plaques to provide greater visibility and acknowledgement of the service offered by the organisations represented.
Defence Industry Employment Program for Ex-Serving ADF Personnel – My Government has established a Defence Industry Employment Program for Ex-Service Personnel. We recognise the value our veterans bring to the workplace through their skills and experiences developed during military service. Their strong work ethic, leadership and problem-solving skills are highly valued attributes and we want to continue to enrich the workplace with experienced workers. And today, it was great to announce the signing agreement between the Defence Teaming Centre and Defence SA to partner on delivering the Defence Industry Employment Program. This program will create more job opportunities for South Australian veterans through a targeted program and improved access to Government Services. For example, around 5,200 direct jobs will be created through the naval shipbuilding activities in South Australia, this presents a significant opportunity for our veterans to take advantage of the jobs that will flow through the defence sector in our state for decades to come. I am pleased that stage one of the program is underway with extensive research being conducted into existing employment programs for ex-service personnel’s. Through this program, my Government is determined to provide the right assistance to transitioning veterans in areas such as advocacy, employment, advice and community support. And, to further assist ex-service personnel to return to civilian employment we are also considering options to boost opportunities for ex-service personnel in state public sector employment. Officers involved in public sector recruitment and human resource management will be well informed about the skills and attributes of former ex-service personnel and how they can meet South Australian public sector employment requirements.
Memorial Headstones – We have recently concluded a three year funding agreement with the Headstone project to place an appropriate headstone on the graves of World War 1 service personnel who returned from the war and whose death was not attributed to war caused injury or illness. We believe it is fitting that their service is recognised for the significant contribution it was during a time of great need. We will continue to recognise your service to our nation as a mark of respect for what you have done.
In South Australia, we have seen our veteran community come together to commemorate the centenary of the Great War. I would like to congratulate everyone who has been involved in this mammoth task around the state. It shows that the veteran community, 100 years later, is playing a vital and everlasting role in ensuring the legacy of our veterans lives on. I am very conscious of the need to balance the time and resources dedicated to commemorating the service and sacrifices of members of the Australian Defence Force. There is the need to provide employment opportunities and services to our veteran community, particularly for younger working age veterans, some of whom we know face challenges as they transition out of the Australian Defence Force back in to the civilian community.
It is obviously not a case of either doing one or the other, but as we move on from commemorating the Centenary of Armistice, I believe it is time to focus intently on the services our veterans expect from their state government. We do, as always, have limited resources, and I’m about using these resources where the community will get the most appropriate services they require and need.
So now it’s over to you, to ask me a question or provide your thoughts on what could be done better. If I can answer your query today I will, but if I can’t, I’ll take that question on board and come back to you with a response.