It was a great privilege to be appointed the Assistant Minister for Defence, the Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and the Assistant Minister for the Republic in June.
It’s the first time an Australian government has appointed an Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and we are working hard to ensure a better future for our Defence and veteran communities.
Today I am in Burnie and it’s great to be able to engage with veterans and families to hear about what’s important to them.
We have listened to veterans and families across the nation and supported their calls for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.
The Albanese Government has tabled a formal response in Parliament to the Commissioners’ Interim Report, which was released in August and made 13 recommendations.
We have implemented one of these recommendations (recommendation 5), and agreed to nine, and in principle to one, and noted two others.
At the election, the Albanese Government also committed to employ an additional 500 staff at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and remove the staffing cap.
These staff are being recruited and will help to reduce the current backlog of claims and see veterans and families receiving the services and support they need.
We will continue to work with the Royal Commission to ensure issues are addressed, such as access to information where possible within existing legislative frameworks.
Submissions to the Royal Commission remain open until 13 October 2023 – I encourage all within the veteran community to share their stories publicly or in private session.
While the Royal Commission continues, we are committed to improving the services and support available to our serving members, veterans and families.
Parliament has already passed legislation extending the Incapacity Payments for Veterans Studying Pilot Program, and the Defence, Veterans’ and Families’ Acute Support Package.
We have also committed to rolling out more Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs at key around the country with significant defence and veteran communities, including the expansion already underway in Tasmania, including here in Burnie.
The government has also announced a $24 million Veteran Employment Program to provide greater support to Australian Defence Force personnel as they transition to civilian life.
Matt Thistlethwaite is the Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.
This opinion piece was published in The Advocate on Thursday, 6 October 2022.