Outcomes from the National ESO Forum
How a peak body for ESOs would represent and advocate for the needs of all veterans, and other key takeaways from the third National ESO Forum.
At a glance:
- The forum provided an opportunity for representatives from ex-service organisations to collaborate on priority issues such as the establishment of a peak body.
- The body would represent and advocate for the needs of all ESOs, and its duties would include policy advocacy, performance reporting, best practice guidance and campaigning.
- A peak body would also take the lead in responding to recommendations from the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.
- Outcomes from the occasion will be formally reported to the Royal Commission as a collaborative submission.
The third National ESO Forum, held in Sydney in October and hosted by RSL Australia, gathered representatives from multiple ex-service organisations (ESOs) across the country, including RSL NSW.
Building on the momentum of two previous forums in November 2022 and May 2023, the day provided an opportunity for representatives to collaborate on priority issues to support the sector, such as the implementation of recommendations from the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.
The forum also offered an opportunity to seek consensus on an agreed set of priorities and preferences for an ESO peak body that will provide leadership and representation for all ESOs.
What did the previous forums establish?
At the first forum, participants agreed on the need to:
- Establish a peak body for the ESO sector to represent and advocate the needs of ESOs
- Map and categorise the services ESOs deliver
- Provide measurements of service quality to assist veterans navigating service needs and providers
- Explore standardised reporting and measurement frameworks for ESOs that use quantitative and qualitative data to measure the success of services and programs
- Prioritise the establishment of ESO-led, in-service transition coaching, support, and resources from ESOs for veterans
At the second forum participants agreed on:
- A potential classification system for ESOs, including Claims Advocacy, Referral Service, Wellbeing Support, Veteran Policy Promotion, and Commemoration and Camaraderie
- The purpose and scope of an ESO potential peak body
- The priority functions of an ESO peak body, including policy advocacy, performance reporting, best practice guidance and campaigning
What were the outcomes from the third forum?
The third forum offered a chance to further discuss the mechanics of classifying ESOs under the proposed framework, the peak body’s operational capability, governance standards and membership options.
Speaking at the RSL NSW State Congress and AGM, Isaac Ohlin, Head of Veterans Policy and Program Delivery at RSL NSW, said the forum represents a response to recommendations from the Royal Commission.
“This process … is seeking to better coordinate the voice of veterans and efforts to address Defence and veteran suicide,” he said.
“The RSL … has helped to inform the Royal Commission’s ongoing work [and] is likely to recommend a permanent body with Royal Commission powers to investigate the phenomenon of defence and veteran suicide on an ongoing basis.”
Speaking also at Congress, David McCann, Chair of the RSL NSW Veteran Services and Policy Committee, commented on the RSL’s role in relation to the peak body.
“The ESO peak body is going to be crucial moving forward – and we have to have a seat at the table,” he said. “We have to have our feet under the table with those other ESOs … that we will partner with as we have to, to make sure that every outcome is veterans-focused.”
The forum’s outcomes will be formally reported to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide as a collaborative submission representing the discussions and agreements reached on the day.
Representatives from more than 40 organisations attended the forum, with attendees including Matt Keogh MP, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs; Lieutenant General Natasha Fox; and Royal Commissioners Nick Kaldas APM, Peggy Brown AO and The Hon James Douglas KC.
Forum sessions were co-facilitated by leaders from several ESOs.
ESO roundtable meeting
A roundtable meeting for ESOs, organised by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) in late September, also gathered representatives from ESOs to discuss topics of importance to the sector. The session included updates on:
- How the DVA is working with the Royal Commission
- The Open Arms model of care for 2023-24
- The DVA’s Advocacy Working Group
- The ADF’s Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office
- The Younger Veterans – Contemporary Needs Forum