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Thursday 24 December, 2015
At this time of the year when we reflect on the Centenary of Anzac, it struck me that we are often reminded to think of those who were killed at war, and not so often of those whom they left behind. Many around Australia would face a Christmas without loved ones – or in the case of those wounded who did make it back – with family members suffering from seen and unseen injuries that would end their lives prematurely. Legacy has been caring for these families since shortly after the end of the First World War.
I became a member of Legacy in 2006 at the invitation of a number of Pulteney Old Scholar, World War 2 veterans. Many of them had been Legatees since the end of the Second World War. They include John Rieschbeth, a naval officer in the Second World War who was recently awarded a service plaque to mark his 50th year of contributing to the vital work of Legacy.
Having become a Legatee, I subsequently discovered with great pride, that my Great Grandfather, Brigadier Murray Bourchier, Commander of the 4th Light Horse and best known for the First World War’s Charge of Beersheba campaign, was one of the original signatories to the Legacy Charter. This document still guides the principals and operations of Legacy nationally today. I had known that he had been elected to the Victorian Government having stood on a platform for returned servicemen, and that he also became Deputy Premier of Victoria during his subsequent parliamentary career; but that he was a founding father of Legacy was a wonderful revelation and increased my admiration for him tenfold.
I was at lunch with colleagues recently and after mentioning my involvement with Legacy, I was asked whether Legacy was winding down as an organisation. I must say I was a little taken aback. Legacy enjoys wonderful respect and support in the community, largely due to the work of our Legatee forebears, but being so close to it, I obviously mistakenly assumed everyone was aware of our ongoing work.
Since 1923, Legacy has existed to provide support for the widows and children of deceased Veterans. Legacy’s guiding vision is that no dependent of the Australian Defence Force will ever suffer financial or social disadvantage as a result of the death or incapacity of that serviceman’s or servicewomen’s service. A recent revision to the Legacy Charter now extends our care to families where the Veteran is alive but suffering from the unseen wounds of war, most notably PTSD.
During the intervening years well over 100,000 families have had Legacy support. Indeed Legacy is still caring for 90,000 widows nationally – some 7,000 of whom reside here in South Australia. They include 13 World War 1 widows, 6,333 World War 2 widows, and 723 post World War 2 widows. In addition, we take care of the interests of 53 dependent children as well as a number of disabled adult dependents.
Some of the activities in which Legacy has been involved nationally over the last twelve months include running 3,000 care programs for socially isolated widows including 16,000 day trips; taking 459 dependent children on holiday camps; providing financial support for education of 350 dependent children; facilitating over 3,000 pension entitlement claims, as well as providing many hours of legal and financial counselling; providing financial relief payments to over 1200 families; making 40,000 home visits to frail and elderly widows; organising 8,000 home maintenance visits; installing 3,500 emergency medical alarms for the frail and elderly; and funding 120 continuous child care placements.
Since the year 2000, more than 50,000 Australian servicemen and women have been deployed overseas, in battle zones, in warlike placements and carrying out humanitarian work. We stand ready to support this new generation of veterans and their families; all of whom are, or will become, eligible for Legacy benefits. Our work is far from done.
As I know many of you who read this short missive are great supporters of the work of Legacy, I take this opportunity to thank you. Your generosity, in kind, of spirit and financially, continues to help make our work possible.
I take this opportunity too, in this significant year of the Anzac Centenary, to wish everyone a happy, safe, restful and reflective Christmas.