The past year has been a challenging one for Victoria’s veteran community, with social isolation and the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19) on employment and security being felt broadly.
Amazingly though, the spirit of generosity and mateship for which our veteran community is so renowned also came shining brightly through.
Commemoration and support
With that spirit of community and service front of mind, we – fittingly – this year commemorated the bravery and sacrifice of the nearly one million Australians who went off to World War Two (WWII), as we marked the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, and Victory in the Pacific Day; the official end of the war for Australia.
The Victorian Government’s commemorative program to mark this anniversary was a wonderful opportunity to reflect, but also to thank our living WWII veterans, many of whom are now in their late 90s and 100s.
I was pleased to participate in grant assessments for the 75th anniversary, which resulted in a wonderful virtual program of events that provided engagement opportunities for all Victorians – so important at a time when traditional commemorations and services cannot be held.
Also vitally important right now is the continued support of our ex-service community, and I thank the Victorian Government for new funding announced in April 2020, which will be distributed in the next financial year through the ANZAC Day Proceeds Fund and Victorian Veterans Fund grant programs.
I also thank the Veterans Branch, Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) for its hard work in continuing to deliver these grant programs, which in 2019-20 provided a total of $961,113 across 67 projects and welfare initiatives.
The Council's focus
In order to ensure this support reaches those who really need it, the VVC has this year continued to focus on communication and engagement with the ex-service community, including working closely with DPC to update and refresh our database of ex-service organisations in Victoria.
I would like to thank my fellow VVC members for their adaptability in meeting virtually to continue VVC business and ensure we continue to meet our objectives under the Veterans Act 2005.
I would also like to thank former Chair Lieutenant Colonel Laureen Grimes, former RSL Victoria representative Brigadier Michael Annett CSC, and former Melbourne Legacy representative Mr Geoff Brewer for their tireless work advocating for our ex-service community.
And I am delighted to welcome new RSL Victoria member Mr Jamie Twidale CSM and Ms Anita Hogan who joined the VVC this year. I also congratulate member Ms Pelagia Markogiannakis on her appointment as Deputy Chair in January 2020.
Lastly, I acknowledge and thank Dr Ross Bastiaan AM RFD and Mr Bruce Mildenhall for their work chairing the VVC’s Funding and Governance Sub-Committees, and thank the VVC members for their contribution to the committees.
Before coronavirus (COVID-19), the VVC was fortunate to have spent some time out and about, including an insightful visit to the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital in September 2019. This was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the work of the Veteran Liaison Officers and the contemporary operations of the Veterans’ Psychiatry Unit, commonly known in the ex-service community as ‘Ward 17’.
I was also pleased to attend the Australian Nurses Memorial Centre and Albert Coates Memorial Trust scholarship awards nights, supported by the VVC as the trustee for patriotic funds on behalf of the Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen and Women.
The VVC recently welcomed the new Minister for Veterans, the Hon Shaun Leane MP, and the VVC looks forward to working closely with him in 2020-21.
As we look to the future, the VVC has some big projects in the wings focused on broadening our reach in the ex-service community. This includes a new program of engagement under a new 2021 Communications Strategy.
We are also excited to be working closely with the Minister for Veterans and DPC on a detailed Veterans Sector Study this coming year, which will help give us further insights to better support every Victorian veteran.
I thank you for your interest in the work of the VVC and am pleased to present the VVC’s 2019-20 Annual Report.