How Bronte Pollard works with sub-Branches to advance veterans’ wellbeing

As RSL NSW Liaison Officer at the National Centre for Veterans’ Healthcare, Bronte Pollard helps to connect veterans with services and support in their local community, including RSL NSW sub-Branches.

At a glance:

  • As RSL NSW Liaison Officer at the NCVH, Navy veteran Bronte Pollard is the link between veterans, NCVH services and sub-Branch support.
  • The position has now become paid with support from the Veteran Support Fund.
  • After a veteran finishes their time at NCVH, Pollard facilitates a connection with their local RSL NSW sub-Branch and other ESOs to ensure support continues upon their return home.
  • The role enables him to collaborate with sub-Branches about how they can help provide more informed health and wellbeing support to their members.

As the RSL NSW Liaison Officer at the National Centre for Veterans’ Healthcare (NCVH) at Concord Hospital, Navy veteran Bronte Pollard assists with connecting veterans to NCVH services, which include pain management, drug and alcohol health, psychiatry and rehabilitation medicine.

Importantly, he also liaises with RSL NSW sub-Branches and RSL LifeCare Veteran Services to ensure veterans are supported in their own communities upon leaving the centre.

The Liaison Officer role, an initiative of the RSL NSW Strategic Plan 2021-26, was at first an unpaid position. Now, with support from the RSL NSW Veteran Support Fund (VSF), it has become a paid role – a critical step in recognising the value such a role can play in veterans’ support and a reflection of RSL NSW’s commitment to servicing and supporting veterans receiving care at the NCVH.

“What I’m so happy about it being a paid role is the acknowledgement that the role is providing for people,” says Pollard. “That there’s enough worth in the role that it should be permanent and it should be paid. My goal is for the role to become self-sustaining in the future.”

The VSF seeks to track and connect statewide sub-Branch contributions to causes that support veterans and their families, ensuring that every dollar donated is recognised as part of RSL NSW’s work to support veterans and their families across the state. Sub-Branches can make a voluntary contribution to the VSF, which will help to deliver the initiatives of the Strategic Plan.

Engaging with sub-Branches

Pollard describes the Liaison Officer role as a bridge between the veteran and NCVH services and support, support which should not disappear upon their return home. That’s where sub-Branches have a role to play.

“The veteran may not have had any exposure to the RSL NSW network, or they may not have had a positive experience when they did reach out locally,” explains Pollard, who is also the chair of the RSL NSW Young Veterans Committee. “It’s about giving them confidence and guiding them through. I also explain to the sub-Branch what their situation is and what sort of assistance the veteran needs.”

Although he is cautious to reveal too many details owing to patient confidentiality, Pollard recalls multiple examples of veterans he’s helped to connect with a sub-Branch.

“There was a veteran on the South Coast who was able to join their local sub-Branch and build a social connection,” he says. “There was a veteran living in a small rural town out west who had no connection to RSL NSW and was in need of domestic assistance. By connecting with the local sub-Branch, I was able to understand their capabilities and hand the veteran over to them for further support.

“I also assisted a veteran with the process of obtaining a psychiatric assistance dog. He’s now just waiting to be matched with the right one. It was a good learning experience for me to go through that process from beginning to end, not to mention achieving a great outcome.”

Pollard’s experiences liaising with sub-Branches may vary, but the results are always worthwhile.

“A lot of sub-Branches want to help, but some aren’t quite sure how,” he says. “So it’s great being able to offer them guidance and educate them about NCVH services and about my role. Not everyone is always singing from the same hymn sheet, but overall the response from sub-Branches has been great.”

Access for all

A core part of the NCVH’s service offering is that veterans seeking treatment are not limited by geography.

“I hear people in the RSL NSW network say there are no services for veterans in the bush,” says Pollard. “I can understand that; the majority of veterans do come from the Sydney metropolitan area, because they have ease of access.

“But there’s quite a number that come in from regional areas. The onsite accommodation at the NCVH, transport assistance and the relationship that case managers build with veterans removes as many barriers as possible for veterans from the bush to obtain services.”

These services are complemented by those provided by RSL NSW’s partner charity RSL LifeCare Veteran Services, which are available from anywhere in the state.

Pollard recalls an example of NCVH services making a difference in the life of veterans living in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains: fellow Navy veterans and lifelong partners Zita and Wayne Vafiopulous, who stayed at free onsite accommodation at Fussell House while they both received treatment at NCVH.

The pair was later welcomed by David Clarke, Honorary Secretary of Five Dock RSL sub-Branch, who showed them about Sydney before their return home.

“I was just talking to Zita this morning,” says Pollard. “We were reflecting on her husband’s journey. She said that being able to come up to Sydney and access the tests and clinicians at the NCVH was life-changing for Wayne’s conditions.

“That’s a really important message that I’d like all of our sub-Branches to know: it doesn’t matter if you’re in the city or in the bush. The NCVH offers a great service, and for those from the bush even more so. There really are no barriers and it’s a service that fills that gap for people needing medical treatment.”

Good for the soul

Pollard has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of face-to-face contact he’s been able to provide to veterans seeking treatment at the NCVH.

“One of the things I hadn’t considered when we were planning what the Liaison Officer role would provide was the amount of peer-to-peer support,” he says. “There are some veterans I don’t really do anything for other than just have a chat over coffee to help settle the nerves. It’s about them having that person they can feel comfortable with, who speaks their language and has walked in their shoes. This work is good for the soul.”

Ultimately, he credits the hard-working NCVH team as the driving force behind the quality of service provided to patients and guests of Fussell House.

“I’m incredibly honoured to work with the most amazing team of health professionals,” says Pollard. “As Liaison Officer you have to be careful to avoid becoming a backyard therapist or clinician, but you do get to understand how the health system works.

“There are a lot wiser people out there than me, but getting to see how they interact with clients helps me provide more informed support for veterans.”

 

RSL NSW sub-Branches can help deliver the initiatives of the RSL NSW Strategic Plan 2021-26 by

making a voluntary contribution to the Veteran Support Fund.

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