Lamperd, Ruth: Families speak about military loved ones lost and how we failed them

Lamperd, Ruth

Families speak about military loved ones lost and how we failed them‘, Sunday Herald-Sun, 13 August 2016

The story reveals 41 military personnel and veterans died this year from suicide, the same as the number of Australians who were killed in Afghanistan during 13 years of war. Family stories are detailed, along with a government response from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Another story in The Australian.

Honest History notes that a small amount of the more than $331 million that has been spent so far by the Commonwealth (and another $230 million by the States and corporates) on commemoration of World War I and the ‘century of service’ is devoted to research on PTSD. John Bale from the veterans’ organisation, Soldier On, has said that the majority of that commemoration total of more than half a billion dollars should have been spent on today’s veterans.

Clearly more needs to be done, though it is not merely a matter of allocating money. It is also to do with the mindset that has for a century focused far more sharply on the so-called ‘fallen’ (the men and women who are seen to have died honourably in their country’s service) than on those who return home, physically and mentally damaged. A senior official involved in commemoration once told Honest History that commemorative ceremonies gave psychological benefits to returned soldiers. Maybe. More direct benefits would be welcome also. Meanwhile, perhaps the boastful and expensive Monash museum at Villers Bretonneux could incorporate a collection box.

Last week, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs last week announced some initiatives for veterans which included mental health. There is to be a government response shortly to a Senate inquiry.

David Stephens

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