Nov 2015: Update on Veterans Activities

This last quarter of the year has seen us involved in a wide range of engagement. It has also been a period where we have become aware of how wide and complex the needs of our veterans and their families are. We have had numerous requests for assistance as well as many people suggesting additional things that we could be involved in.

Our Raison d’etre has been to provide spiritually based pastoral care as well as education in holistic health. In working with veterans and their families we have tried to encourage people to take self-responsibility in building resilience in their lives once they are empowered with the information to do this.

We are achieving these things well, but the quantum of needs out there is far beyond our current capacity to deliver.

As we meet with people, it is tragic to hear the lack of trust that veterans now have in some health professionals and reluctance for Vets to seek medical assistance. At the international PTSD forum in Brisbane that Gary, Caitlin and Michael attended, leading psychiatrist Dr Andrew Khoo said that despite advances in many areas of medicine, Veterans health was the least understood. He made the statement that the best medical treatment is only showing improvement in one third of clients, with one third showing no improvement and one third getting worse.

He made the dramatic comment that exercise and compassion for individuals, seemed to have a better impact on Vets than drugs! Of course compassion is what we are offering in VCA!

The PTSD forum also gave us the opportunity to speak personally on what we in VCA are doing, to the Patron of the Forum, Sir Angus Houston, Chief of Defence Force, Deputy Chief of Army, Deputy Commissioner of DVA, head of VVCS, and key players in every Ex-service organisation.

We are now well known in the Veterans space.

The Forum heard that many complementary therapies like yoga, massage, companion animals and adventure sports are having better acceptance by veterans than drugs or Cognitive therapies.

Unfortunately many Vets aren’t doing much at all to help themselves, with many being caught up in the DVA categorisation and mindset of their being Totally and Permanently Incapacitated! But what we are saying is that healing is possible if veterans embrace a comprehensive holistic health regime to move from survival to being able to live.

The best results are also coming from peer to peer activity where veterans help other veterans. Sociologically, veterans are predisposed to think that civilians just don’t understand them, but deeper down the issue here is one of trust, identity and belonging.

We won’t change that, but the implication is that our front line workers are best being service or ex-service people themselves.

Gary has provided presentations once again to:

  • RAR Assn National Conference (40).
  • Soldier Recovery Centre (2×20),
  • Junior leaders courses (4×60),
  • Burleigh Catholic parish (30),
  • Knights of Southern Cross (30), and
  • NNSW SVDP leaders Conference (60).

We provided a display at the Homeless Vets sleep out, Exercise Stone-pillow, and Gary led a service sacralising the plight of homeless and the need to respond to this situation. RSL Care will take the lead on this challenge.

During the period, we received some significant donations. RSL Care provided us $30,000, Knights of the Southern Cross provided $4000, RSL QLD provided $2000, and Samford RSL sub branch provided $1500!

Thanks to all these organisations.

Clearly our value and contribution is also being recognised. This will give us the capacity to cover our admin expenses and now remunerate some pastoral staff.

Development of our website, has been facilitated by Sandra Hammond and Rob Vicary. It is a work in progress as we develop more resources.

Future commitments include talks to:

  • Gold Coast RSL – 28 Nov, Mudgeeraba
  • RSL – 6 Dec,
  • and invitation to speak at future Defence Conduct after Capture courses (7 courses per year at Canungra for SAS and Commando troops preparing for overseas deployments).

Gary’s focus in coming months, in addition to giving presentations, is to develop and mentor our pastoral carer team such that we can develop this key objective area.

Our next meeting will be at 7.30pm on Sunday 15 Feb 16, with subsequent meetings on 15 May, 14 Aug, and AGM on 20 Nov.

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