No cash for hurt Diggers
THE nation’s first “one stop shop” for wounded veterans and their families will be built in Sydney — but it needs public help to finish it after it failed to get federal government funds.
Based on models in the US and the UK, the $35 million centre in Concord, in Sydney’s inner west, will include accommodation for families of veterans suffering both physical and emotional trauma from all over the country.
Veterans support group Soldier On will manage the facility but spokesman John Bale said it was only two-thirds funded — thanks to the state government and an undisclosed philanthropist — and needs corporate and public donations to complete the mission.
Soldier On asked the federal government to make up the shortfall but has not received funding. Mr Bale said it was ironic the federal government was happy to spend money on memorials in France to commemorate Anzacs from 100 years ago but not for helping today’s Diggers.
“It’s not that the care is not there, it’s that it is all over the place, this specialist and that specialist and not holistic. This would close the gap,” Mr Bale said.
Mr Bale described the centre as akin to Ronald McDonald House, which provides support for families of sick children.
It will run in concert with Concord Hospital’s new clinical centre for veterans to be opened in 2020.
The $35 million centre will be named after 4RAR commando Lieutenant Michael Fussell, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2008. It will include an accommodation block for 40 people and will also be available to veterans and their families from other national agencies such as Federal Police and intelligence services.
David Savage was an Australian Federal Police veteran of 20 years before he shifted to UN war crime investigations. He was working as a reconstruction adviser in Afghanistan in 2012 when a 12-year-old suicide bomber rushed him.
The now 55-year-old wheelchairbound veteran has spent months in various hospitals with 20 surgeries but has had to move between various institutions. His wife Sandra has had to give up her career to be his fulltime carer and has had to move from hotel to hotel to be close to him.
“I don’t think there are enough specific services for veterans … purpose-built facilities would be great, families could stay close and certainly the range of injuries you get from war you usually are in hospital for lengthy periods of time and it would be great to have family around and (professional) people around them to support them too,” he said.
NSW Health Sydney District’s Director of Psychology Lil Vrklevski said: “By integrating care in a single location, the centre has the potential to provide both mental and physical rehabilitation to achieve the best health outcomes.”
A spokeswoman for Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester, who met Mr Bale, said the government already offered funding support to many veterans’ programs.