From the National President - February 2021
Despite the downsides of 2020, the year provided several positives that I will cover in this report.
We can be easily drawn into the gloom with much of the news and social media focusing on the negatives. I’m not against social media. However, if used incorrectly, it can erode confidence and create despair, especially for the those who are emotionally fragile.
DVA’s operation during 2020
The AFA National Board continued to function throughout last year, regularly meeting each month. Department of Veterans’ Affairs Ex-Service Organisation Round Table (ESORT) continued to meet each month and more regularly during the height of the COVID concern in Australia. State/Territory Divisions were kept informed either by reports from myself and by attending Deputy DVA Commissioner’s Forums. DVA organised its workforce to ensure veteran and family support was maintained throughout last year.
I advised earlier of the Association’s commitment to obtain a remedy for the ADF Firefighters who had struggled for over a decade to have their contamination exposure injuries recognised. I can confirm the Government will provide support in the May 2021 Federal Budget.
Sharon Bown (Vice-President) and I will continue to engage DVA to ensure there are dedicated processes in place to manage claim submissions.
Australian War Memorial Last Post Ceremonies
Sharon Bown advised the Association’s involvement in Last Post Ceremonies was largely being undertaken by members of the ACT Division. Visiting members from other States are welcome to represent the Association at these events.
Statue of Sir Richard Williams at Moonta, SA
The Board agreed to seek donations from each Division towards the cost of the bronze statue of Sir Richard Williams that will be situated in Moonta, SA. AFA Ltd will match the contributions made by Divisions.
Major issues – AFA Ltd Board of Directors Meeting February 2021
- AFA Foundation. The AFA Ltd Board of Directors at its February 2021 meeting agreed to establish an AFA Foundation Working Group that has the authority to second expertise to assist the Foundation’s establishment and fundraising activities. The working group will meet during the first week of March to identify the beneficial focus of the Foundation. I can advise the Foundation will support veterans and families of all Service origins.
- Joint Boards Steering Group. The AFA Ltd Board of Directors also agreed to continue the Joint Boards Steering Group (JBSG) that will be assigned a new set of tasks. The Board is grateful to Jim Campbell who will continue to facilitate the meetings.
- AFA Ltd Constitution. Drafting of the AFA Ltd’s new Constitution being undertaken by a working group is progressing. The document is scheduled to be presented to the Board in May. The Board agreed the existing Constitution has several shortcomings and is not suitable for a federated organisation.
- Community Engagement. The Community Engagement Working Group will meet for the first time during the first week of March. The activity is aimed at promoting the Association at Federal and State/Territory levels and will have a direct impact on the AFA Foundation.
- Air Force Association Alumni. The Alumni is to be developed using the Linkedin Sharon Bown will oversight the task.
DVA’s National Consultative Framework
A recent survey of the National Consultative Framework (NCF) indicated the model was not working effectively. Sharon Bown and I co-chaired a DVA workshop that indicated several of the forums operating at the tactical level were not being effectively managed, which was also causing ESORT to deal with day-to-day operating problems rather than concentrating on veteran and family support strategic issues. DVA asked me to chair a working group to devise a new NCF model. Work is underway and a new model is expected by mid-2021.
Veteran Suicide Prevention
Many of you would have seen or heard about the very vocal component within the veteran community that has been criticising the Government’s decision to appoint a National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention and decide against a Royal Commission into Veterans’ Suicide. Some time ago, the Association provided a cogent argument in support of the Government’s decisions on these matters.
The Association appreciates people will differ in their opinions but some are driven by emotion rather than fact. The Air Force Association in concert with other leading Ex-Service and Service Organisations is very disturbed by veteran suicide. However, there is evidence to support the appointment of an ongoing, independent commissioner to not only investigate veteran suicide but to monitor behaviours and practices that may lead to suicide and provide advice to Defence and other government agencies on preventative measures. The Association has written to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs supporting the Government on its decisions.
Carl Schiller, OAM, CSM
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