Communities in crisis – How RSL NSW helps disaster-affected veterans

Australian Army veteran Glen Morrison and his wife Faye were two of many residents of the Cobargo region ordered by the NSW Rural Fire Service to evacuate their home on New Year’s Eve 2019.

“The quickness of everything that happened was absolutely unbelievable,” says Glen of that night. “You can’t fathom that fire can spread so quickly. I have been living in the area for many, many years and I’ve never seen anything quite like it before, and nor do I ever want to see it again.”

The couple were fortunate to escape with their lives, Glen’s workshop and Faye’s sewing shed, but along with many other people in the community, lost their home and all of their possessions. “We’re fortunate – a lot more than others, who lost absolutely everything,” says Glen.

After the ash settled, a visit to RSL NSW headquarters in Sydney, ANZAC House, provided Glen with some hope for himself and the Cobargo community.

RSL DefenceCare’s Disaster Assistance Fund provided immediate relief for Glen and Faye. Through the Disaster Assistance Fund – which was boosted thanks to various RSL NSW sub-Branches that contributed to support veterans in need – RSL DefenceCare provided immediate financial support to help Glen cover urgent costs. This included partially funding a solar system which provided light and power to the couple’s new home.

Glen was also able to give back to the tight-knit community of Cobargo with vouchers that could be used for emergency items, including food, clothing and fuel provided by RSL DefenceCare – in collaboration with RSL NSW.

Following the recovery effort and encouraged by the support the local area had received, Glen put his name forward to become the new President of the Cobargo RSL sub-Branch. “The support that veterans received during this disaster gave an added perspective to my understanding of what the RSL is all about,” says Glen.

Like many veteran families and members of regional communities, Glen and Faye are rebuilding their lives following a devastating start to 2020. Glen reflects that the assistance and support from charities “makes life a lot easier” for affected communities.

After seeking help for the bushfires, a Claims Advisor from RSL DefenceCare was able to continue working with Glen on other compensation claims he was entitled to with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). He had never claimed before, didn’t have a White Card and wasn’t aware of his entitlements.

“The reason I wanted to tell my story is because RSL NSW and DefenceCare, and many other people in the community, have been so good,” reflects Glen.

If you’re a veteran that requires access to the RSL DefenceCare Disaster Assistance Fund please contact the team via defencecare.org.au or by calling (02) 8088 0388. Alternatively please call RSL NSW on 1300 679 775 or email support@rslnsw.org.au.

Holistic support is available to all veterans and their families through DefenceCare’s services including housing assistance, financial support, assistance with DVA claims, and advocacy at the Veterans’ Review Board.

*RSL DefenceCare is a program of RSL LifeCare Veteran Services

Image: Defence Australia

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