Chairperson’s foreword

Chairperson's foreword from Greg Yorke.

Commodore Greg Yorke, AM, CSC

As Chair of the Victorian Veterans Council (VVC), I’m delighted to present our annual report for 2021–22. The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to present challenges, but we have had a fantastic year for engagement with our diverse, adaptable and inspiring Victorian veteran community.

The VVC is proud to be a voice for veterans in Victoria, advocating to the Victorian Government for the needs and wellbeing of veterans and their families. To achieve this, we welcome and appreciate input from the sector and are committed to engaging with you.

Connecting our community

Over the past year, the VVC has continued to build and deepen its relationships throughout the veteran community and beyond. These connections are our greatest asset in understanding the diverse experiences of veterans, and raising awareness of their skills and contributions.

A significant part of the latter half of 2021–22 was spent undertaking planning and preparation to bring together Victoria’s ex-service organisations (ESOs) and veteran support organisations for a state-wide summit, with the theme of ‘participate, discover, connect’.

The inaugural ESO Summit, which was held on 6 August 2022 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, saw 250 in-person and online participants from ESOs, veteran support organisations, government and small business unite to discuss how we can continue to work together to support veterans and their families across Victoria.

We also completed our third Victorian Veterans Sector Study, focusing this year on housing, mental health, employment, education, and the impact COVID-19 has had on the veteran sector. The Veterans Sector Study team engaged across regions and widely online to garner input from the community.

During a busy year for many, we are also grateful to the organisations that took the time to meet with us, including Vasey RSL Care, the Victorian Multicultural Commission, Carry On, and Grosvenor Performance Group, as they progressed the Veterans Sector Study.

With VVC representatives attending exhibition openings and commemorative services across Victoria, we ensured the voices of our community in rural and regional Victoria were also part of the conversation.

Challenging times

We acknowledge it has been a difficult year for the sector, with significant media coverage of the ongoing hearings of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. The VVC has followed the progress of the hearings and provided advice to the Victorian Government to help inform its submission to the Commission.

We also saw the final withdrawal of Australian troops from Afghanistan in June 2021 after 20 years of operations in the country, and the swift reclamation of control by the Taliban in August 2021.

It is worth noting that while there is currently no large active deployment of Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel overseas, there has been extensive support provided by ADF members in recent years to disaster relief for bushfires, floods, storms, aged care and COVID-19 within Australia and Victoria. Many of these personnel are members of the Reserves, balancing their service with family, career and community commitments.

The release of 2021 Australian Census data on ADF service was welcomed. The inclusion, for the first time, of the ADF service question in the Census is a major milestone and will significantly enhance our understanding of our veteran community.

Commemoration and support

The VVC has continued to direct funds where they are needed most through our 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. Through 49 projects across both programs, they have delivered more than $700,000 of support to the community.

The VVC acknowledges the hard work of all those who contributed to commemorations across Victoria over the past year, including Remembrance Day and ANZAC Day. In 2021–22, we were proud to have also supported commemorations for the Battle of Crete, the 80th Anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin, Melbourne Legacy students, the Boer War and, of course, ANZAC Day services.

A voice for veterans

I thank our outgoing Chair, Mr Roger Clifton, who steered the ship so calmly over his term. I also thank for their service and dedication to the VVC the outgoing members whose terms ended during the year – Dr Ross Bastiaan AM RFD, Wing Commander Sharyn Bolitho, Ms Kim McAliney, Lieutenant Commander Peta Irving, and Mr Jamie Twidale CSM.

We also welcomed new members to the VVC during 2021–22 – Mr Glen Ferrarotto, Mr John McNeill, Ms Jo-Anne O’Brien and Ms Lucy Saaroni – and I look forward to continuing to work with them in supporting Victoria’s veteran and ex-service community.

I thank the Minister for Veterans, the Hon Shaun Leane MP, for his strong commitment to supporting Victoria’s ex-service community and for his support to the VVC. In all of our endeavours, the VVC is grateful for the support of the government’s hard-working Office for Veterans within the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing.