Good News in Veterans Care – February 2021

Lets live in hope that 2021 will be a blessed year for all of us. Amazingly, 2020 brought us a number of blessings including the development of our peer-mentor program and a Gold Coast-based health and wellbeing program.

The VCA community now excitedly are about to commence the residential phase of our 15th Timor Awakening program, based from St Georges at Rainbow Bay on the Gold Coast with 20 participants. We look forward to a bright year with activities progressing at both strategic and tactical levels. Please read on, especially to hear about our success with VETS in Timor.

Thank you to our sponsors and supporters

We are grateful for the support of many sponsors. Bolton Clarke and RSLQld have been our major sponsors throughout. Thank you so much.

Regular financial support comes in through Knights of the Southern Cross, The Australian American Association, and more recently the City of The Gold Coast, Brisbane City Council, Community Underwriters and a number of generous individuals who give us a monthly donation. Your names are inscribed in the Book of Life!  

We are grateful too,  to the HR Team at the Archdiocese of Brisbane, led by Di Lally and Christy Welldon who have supported us with many requests, time and effort.

In this issue, we report on:

  • Strategic engagement with DVA
  • Timor Awakenings on Gold Coast and in Timor
  • Individual support
  • Progress on Veterans Educational Training Scheme ( VETS) in Timor
  • Thanks to our sponsors

Timor Awakening Planning Dates 2021

  • TA15 (Gold Coast – Holistic Health Program)Sat 26 Feb to Sun 7 Mar 2021
  • TA16 (Gold Coast – Peer Mentor Program) Sat 20 to Sun 29 Aug 2021

Strategic engagement with DVA

Transforming the National approach to Veterans, from a focus on sickness and compensation to a priority of enhanced health and wellbeing ( HWB) remains our strategic aim and is gaining traction through the invitations to us by DVA for Tenders to provide Peer Support and HWB, invitation to contribute to the DVA Rehab policy rewrite, and invitation to dialogue with the National Commissioner for ( Reducing ) Veterans Suicide.

Results of these and other reviews we have contributed to in the past including the DVA Productivity Review, Welfare Advocacy Review and Men’s Health Peer Education Review are all due to be announced in line with the May 2021 Budget. We can feel a paradigm shift towards Welbeing, and pleased that we have championed this approach with a solid evidence base of its utility.

Most significantly, the National Commissioner, Bernadette Boss engaged personally with us and asked for a raft of information on how we are keeping people alive, and restoring hope through our approach. She has to produce a report to Govt by year’s end on measures to take to reduce veteran suicide. We got a positive feel that she will be able to direct implementation (and funding) of initiatives. We take pride that instead of complaining about the problem, we are modeling and implementing a solution.

Timor Awakenings on Gold Coast and in Timor

We await the opportunity to return to Timor, but anticipate that is unlikely before early 2022.

Meanwhile we will continue to offer Gold Coast programs with TA16 planned for 21-29 Aug 21 and TA17 scheduled for March 22 in Timor if possible, or the Gold Coast otherwise. We seek to continue to upskill our Peer Support Mentors, and have bid for a $150,000 DVA grant to further professionalise our program in line with the national VET training framework where a Cert IV in Mental Health Peer Support may be obtained using a veteran-specific training management package, that we could develop, for use by ESO across Australia. EOI for TA16 are available on our website here.

Individual Support

While the Flagship of VCA, and most successful pathway we deliver, is definitely Timor Awakening, it is important for all to be aware that we are quietly offering individual support to veterans and family members on a daily basis.

In fielding responses across a wide range of requests, we use a triage model, offering peer support and advice where we can and referring to other specialist ESO or clinicians where a client is not yet ready for a TA experience.

We’ve got a wide range of knowledge and expertise among our team, and have been particularly grateful to welcome Mick Lay and Scott McAndrew to our staff. They are tribal elders in their own right, and already making a positive impact.

We gather as a team each Monday at 2 Victoria Park Rd Kelvin Grove, alongside Michael Stone, Michael Albrecht, Ro Langan, Candice Carroll and Col Ahern. I also acknowledge our Management Committee and many other volunteers and supporters, approx 20 in all, that contribute as well.

Veterans Educational Training Scheme (VETS)

Fundamental to our ethos and rehabilitative model, is not just that we get healthy, but that we contribute to the health and wellbeing of others. We have done that through Veterans and VCA members showing both gratitude and compassion by personally contributing over $240,000 to the education of hundreds of veteran family members in Timor, especially in rural areas where poverty is common. As a result of a dream and vision that Michael Stone had some years ago, the dream is now a substantial reality as pictures below will show.

Moreover as a result of Veterans Care Association submissions to the As Govt, Ambassador Almeida and Michael Stone met with Minister Alan Hawke in early December 2020. As with Minister Darren Chester, they were very impressed with the scope and impact that Australian/Timor-Leste Veteran engagement was having in Timor-Leste and for Australian veterans.

Michael briefed the Minister and a number of MPs on the Timor Awakening program and in specific the Veterans Training Centre that we have self-fundraised and built in Dai-Sua, Same (just north of Betano). (See below photos). Australian veterans and their families have completely funded this project-to-date. The project has been a success due to extensive community consultation and MOUs with the Aust/TL Veteran Friendship Association (TL Veterans) and AHHA education (SOLs).

Major achievements in 2020 include the establishment of a 50m fresh water bore (including piping and water storage), building of an ablutions block, building of a 10x25m dormitory and teacher accommodation building, building of a 10x25m outdoor classroom area, building of a new kitchen and large covered eating, recreation and study area. All the buildings in the photos below and in the report have stemmed from our Timor Awakening commitment to build an English language facility in Same.

Michael was asked by the Ministry of International Development and the Pacific to put together a 2 year proposed plan to enhance this program, which we are calling the Veteran Education and Training Scheme.(See attached 2 page proposal). It follows the successful design and implementations of the Same Training Centre, noting that we are still fundraising US$150,000 to complete the vision in Same. Also attached is an update report compiled by SOLs on the habitation of the school in January 2021. The school is full of life providing english classes and other semi-skilled vocational education to a wide range of students, including local authorities, farmers, madres, padres and university students. This is a facility in a remote area aimed to train the rural poor, and empower them with skills to improve rural communities and have a chance at labour mobility, such as the seasonal worker program. The boarding facilities are filling up and with a live in community development works are underway for compost, subsistence gardens, animal husbandry and many other educational and practical initiatives.

Thank you Michael for your vision and commitment. This is a great work of Charity that has been a labour of love, and enormous effort on your part as well as many who have supported in kind and in cash. May it continue to flourish as a legacy of our Australian – Timorese friendship and partnership. Tax deductible donations to continue this work can be made here.

All together we are improving lives and saving lives. This a great work of compassion. God delights in what we do. May you all have a blessed Lent and Easter.

God bless you.
Your Padre, Gary


Bolton Clark
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