No cash for hurt Dig­gers

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - CHARLES MI­RANDA IN AFGHANISTAN

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.

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