By Colin MacGillivray
FEDERAL Veterans Affairs Minister Andrew Gee visited Seymour on Tuesday last week to announce a $27 million grant program to support veterans of the Australian Defense Force, ADF.
The Veterans Wellbeing Grants program combines two former federal grant programs – the Veterans and Community Grants Program and the Young Veterans Support Grants Program – under one umbrella, strengthening them with additional funding from $20 million.
Grants will be open to all veterans organizations, as well as community groups and health organizations that support veterans and their families.
Mr. Gee said it was possible to fund a wide variety of projects under the scheme.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the exciting and innovative projects and programs that will come to light as we roll out this program in the weeks ahead,” he said.
“I think you’re going to have veteran organizations that are very interested in the program, but you’re also going to have other community groups that work with veterans or have ideas that can help and support our veterans. and the veteran community.
Gee said groups with ideas for developing apps to support veterans’ employment and mental health could benefit from the grants.
“I’ve heard a range of ideas as I traveled around the country, so I think you’re going to see many and varied projects come to fruition,” he said.
“One of the things I hope this grant program can address is projects that improve the transition process for veterans. It’s vitally important [that veterans and families are better supported when they leave the service].
“Our veterans and their families give the best to our country, and Australia must give them the best in return.”
Gee said the government would relax guidelines on grant applications, including raising the maximum grant limit to $1.5 million.
“There are large organizations that haven’t received funding for whatever reason, so we’ve tried to relax the guidelines,” he said.
“Some groups have not been able to get funding in successive years because the grant guidelines state that if you received funding in the previous year, you cannot get it in the current year. . We’ve removed caps like this to make it easier for these groups.
“We want to get as much help as possible to veterans as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
Seymour RSL Sub-Branch President Andrew Cox, an Afghan veteran, said while additional funding for veteran support initiatives was welcome, he thought a more structured program would be appropriate.
“You have 3,500 ex-service organizations and… if you want to start an ex-service organization, all you have to do is get an ABN. There are a few where there are only one or two people,” he said.
“I think there needs to be some governance…and not just saying, ‘Here’s the money, fight amongst yourselves’.
“I think they need some sort of governance structure, whether it’s the RSL or an independent organization [body], but 3500 [organisations] Playing for yourself is probably not the best management strategy, especially when it comes to complex issues like transitioning veterans, mental health, and suicide.
Mr Cox said Seymour RSL would “certainly apply” for grants under the scheme.
“We don’t have disabled access to the venue and we don’t have a disabled toilet, which is a huge problem for guys with two prosthetic hips and one prosthetic knee. Two of our members are in wheelchairs. It’s a problem because those guys can’t come,” he said.
“Even though you have this physical presence of bricks and mortar, everything has to be accessible.
“[We’re] pay $1500 per quarter in electric bills. If we had solar power, that $1,500 could go to [the members]. So we’re going to apply for a few things.
“With a bit of luck [the money] happens to organizations that legitimately put in hard yards.
Mr Cox said an app called Swiss 8, pioneered by other Australian veterans in Afghanistan, was a good example of an innovative project that could benefit from government funding.
The app aims to reduce suicide in the veteran community by promoting physical and mental well-being and a sense of purpose and connection.
People can find the Swiss 8 app by visiting swiss8.org.
Free, confidential 24-hour advice and support for current and former ADF members and their families is available by calling Open Arms on 1800 001 046.
Lifeline Australia provides free 24-hour crisis assistance and can be contacted by calling 13 11 14.
People can call HeadtoHelp on 1800 595 212 or come in person to 54 Tallarook Street, Seymour to find out more about support services.