As the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have continued over the past year, our diverse Victorian veteran community has continued to show inspiring adaptability, mateship and generosity.
The Victorian Veterans Council is proud to be working alongside this community to continue advocating for the needs and wellbeing of veterans and their families.
Broadening our connections
Over the past year, the Victorian Veterans Council has continued building and deepening its relationships throughout the veteran community and beyond. These connections are our greatest asset when it comes to understanding the diverse experiences of veterans and raising awareness of their skills and contributions.
During a busy year for many, we are grateful to the organisations who took the time to meet with us, including the Bravery Trust, Open Arms, the Australian National Veterans Art Museum, and senior figures at the Commonwealth’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
This year also saw an impressive example of collaboration in the veteran sector, through the opening of the Vivian Bulwinkel Veterans and Families Wellbeing Centre, a one-stop support and wellbeing hub for veterans and their families jointly run by Melbourne Legacy and RSL Victoria.
Celebrating our diversity
Like Victoria more broadly, our veteran community is incredibly diverse. The Victorian Veterans Council is committed to ensuring the many diverse communities within our veteran community are properly recognised and represented.
I thank our Deputy Chair, Pelagia Markogiannakis JP, and Council member, Peta Irving, for keeping us particularly informed about the issues affecting women veterans on both a state and national scale.
We have also met with representatives such as the Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities and look forward to continuing to meet with further leaders across diverse communities in the coming year.
Crucial commemoration and support
During these challenging times, supporting and honouring our ex-service community is so crucial.
The Victorian Veterans Council has continued to assist the Victorian Government to direct funds where they are needed most by assessing applications for two grant programs - the ANZAC Day Proceeds Fund, which supports welfare activities, and the Victoria Remembers Grant Program, which supports commemoration and educational projects.
These grants have a powerful impact on people’s lives. For instance, $100,000 from the ANZAC Day Proceeds Fund went to Melbourne Legacy to support the educational needs of children of veterans. More than 315 items were provided, including course fees, uniforms and laptops.
The Council acknowledges the hard work of all those who contributed to commemorations across Victoria over the past year, including Remembrance Day and ANZAC Day, which was often challenging in an unpredictable pandemic environment.
A strong voice for veterans
I thank the Minister for Veterans, the Hon Shaun Leane MP, for meeting with me regularly so the Victorian Veterans Council can be a strong voice for veterans to the Victorian Government.
Under the Minister’s instruction, we have also begun to prepare for a new Veteran Sector Study, which will provide fresh insights into the makeup of the veteran sector and the welfare and priorities of our veterans. We welcome the inclusion of a question around Australian Defence Force service in the 2021 Census, which will provide further data about our veteran community.
Our Council welcomed some exciting new members this year, being Ken Tsirigotis from Melbourne Legacy and Dan Caines, both contemporary veterans. We extend a huge thanks to Elizabeth Brown, who retired from membership in September 2020.
In all of our endeavours we have been supported by the Government’s hard-working Veterans Branch, which is now based in the newly-formed Department of Families, Fairness and Housing. This Department is leading the Government’s policies and services dedicated to community wellbeing.
We are making great progress in developing a dedicated website for the Victorian Veterans Council, which we hope will provide great information for veterans and their families. This has been spearheaded by Council member Sharyn Bolitho, supported by Ken Tsirigotis.
I thank fellow Council member Anita Hogan for also expanding our presence on social media so we can better connect with the community.
I would also like to thank Dr Ross Bastiaan AM RFD, the Chair of our Funding Sub-Committee, and Bruce Mildenhall, Chair of the Governance Sub-Committee, along with their committees themselves for their tireless work over the past year.