badly rattled. He self-admitted to a psychiatric hospital for two days of treatment.
The DVA has sent him a letter telling him he can have no further contact with the department — meaning he cannot represent veterans — until the investigations into claims of “serious and specific threats to kill” are put to rest.
“I have my theories about this,” Mr Quinn says. “The DVA is trying to get rid of all the people who stand up strongly for veterans like WFLT. I’m not the only one who’s been stopped from doing the work veterans desperately need me to do.”
THE AAT hearing was torture for WFLT. At the end of the second day, when his credibility had been intensely questioned by the DVA lawyer, he collapsed outside the Southbank tribunal hearing room. He was suicidal.
“Someone picked me up and asked me if I was OK. They sat me at a nearby bar and I made a few calls, trying to find a mate who could help me. I don’t even remember how I got to the psych hospital,” he says. “But I was definitely really struggling. It was very hard to go through. It almost got me.” There was more than the chopper incident and the tribunal that injured him. It is a difficult subject. When he was 26 years old, WFLT was a soldier on a UN mission in Bougainville. In one village, for two days in a row, he performed CPR on two infants who it’s believed had cerebral malaria. WFLT gestures how it looked as he worked on the babies. Two of his fingers enough to compress their tiny chests in heart massage. Half puffs into their little mouths to fill their lungs. Nobody blames him. He knows he did his best. But both times they were gone. Yet, 19 years later, he still feels it. It has affected his life. He was married for a while, but wondered at the time why the idea of having kids of his own was so painful. He says he’s OK to talk about it now. The interview with the Sunday Herald Sun knocked him around so he slept most of the following day. Revisiting his story was distressing.
At first the DVA’s legal team argued in the tribunal that he wasn’t even in Afghanistan. It was laughable. Within a short time their argument was shot down, but it still wobbled him.
The next year, when the tribunal resumed, he was accused of being “dead wood”, which went against the evidence produced.
In fact, according to the written decision by AAT senior member Elizabeth Shanahan, a report from the Regimental Sergeant-Major two years after his injury says he was up for promotion and would be well suited to be an instructor at the Royal Military College of Defence. He wasn’t dead wood. WFLT knows he should feel proud of his service as a commando. But accusations, however false, in a tribunal hearing can play games in the mind of an injured soldier.
“I am disgusted at how this was handled. The way the DVA treated me means I can’t wear my medals proudly. The mismanagement of my injury and case from start to finish is terrible,” WFLT says.
“I should be proud of what I did for my country, but instead the DVA trashed my service.
“So I sent my beret back.”
Commando ‘WFLT’ in the early days of his army career (far left) and (main) a group of Aussie special forces soldiers board a Black Hawk chopper for a mission in Afghanistan.