With Anzac Day comes an opportunity to reflect, give thanks and connect. Occasions like this prompt us to make that time in our busy lives.
Leading up to Anzac Day this year the wider community has received an insight into the deep challenges our veterans and their families must rise to as a result of their service to our country.
I recently met with Eden-Monaro veterans on the lawns in front of Parliament House.
For too long we have been aware that the suicide rate among our veterans is nearly twice that of the general population.
I welcome news that a Royal Commission will now look at the many issues that play into this tragic statistic. We need to brace ourselves for what we will learn and galvanise our resolve to do better.
MPs on both sides of politics have added and shared their own experiences, and it’s been my privileged to sit in the chamber and bear witness to this testimony.
My colleague the Member for Solomon, Luke Gosling, a veteran himself, drew on the words of Russ Swan, a Vietnam veteran from Darwin.
“Consider this,” Russ asks.
“You sign up to serve your country, and as a result, afterwards, you’re so disillusioned you’d rather die than live and enjoy being a grandfather or a grandmother.”
Simply heartbreaking words; feelings that are reflected by local veterans.
This Anzac Day, as always let us acknowledge all those who have served and continue to serve in our Defence forces – but with a special focus, let’s remember the women and men who have suffered the despair that Russ points to – and the people they leave behind.
To the veterans still living with that sadness.
Please know that you are loved and needed. Please reach out and get the support that is rightfully yours.
Mental health and wellbeing support for current and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel and their families is available via 'Open Arms’ - 24 hour counselling on 1800 011 046.
More than that, the simple act of coming together as a community and showing your support with your time and presence has real potential to help a veteran who might be struggling at this time.
Services are planned from Queanbeyan to Majors Creek, to Eden, Cooma, Tumut, Yass and Braidwood. I’ll be doing my best to get to as many as I can and I encourage you to join your local commemorations.
Your smile and words of thanks will mean so much.
Photo: Meeting with Eden-Monaro veterans on the lawns of Parliament House.
Media contact: Ian Campbell, phone 0417 482 171