RSL LifeCare Veteran Services achievements and progress report FY22-23
In the wake of the recent Census data release, the commitment of RSL LifeCare Veteran Services to supporting veterans across the State has grown stronger. With the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide underway and research papers shedding light on the challenges faced by veterans and their families, our resolve to enhance their lives has intensified.
In response to this need and the growing demand for services, RSL NSW sub-Branches donated $3.1 million to RSL LifeCare Veteran Services to support the expansion of its services beyond mental and physical health, to areas of social wellbeing, as well as promoting educational and employment opportunities. The team has taken the initiative to convene professional development sessions every two months, uniting over 100 members across the nation in our network of veteran-centric and community-based services.
Here is a glimpse of the accomplishments within the RSL LifeCare Veteran Services’ core services from July 2022 and June 2023:
- Provide $682,516 in financial assistance including $397,000 in disaster assistance.
- Assist 341 veterans experiencing homelessness.
- Provide 5,128 nights of accommodation to veterans through our Homes for Heroes program and to veterans and families experiencing housing stress through financial assistance.
- Help 816 veterans to lodge 4460 DVA claims.
- Facilitate 220 veterans or partners receiving employment assistance or further education and training opportunities.
- Lodge 207 new VRB appeals, complete 291 Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mediation discussions and represent 37 full VRB Hearings.
- Guide 84 veterans through horse handling and riding courses.
The Wellbeing Team continues to provide recovery-focused support to veterans and their families. This includes financial assistance, access to employment and education pathways, and referral to external agencies. The team takes pride in aligning their work with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Wellbeing Model:
“Now that I am settled in a real place where I have a kitchen, a lounge room and a bedroom for the first time in nearly 10 years I was struck by just how much you all have contributed to my life. I doubt that I will ever be able to repay the kindness and generosity of actions and spirit. You have been the conduit to my small help offered as a Welfare & Funeral Officer. You collectively and individually have enabled me to grow from a very dark place. So, I wanted you to accept my gratitude and let you know that you all change lives for the better.” – Wellbeing client
Laptop pilot program
Collaborating with Optus and ASI Solutions, RSL LifeCare Veteran Services launched a pilot program that gifted 50 laptops to veterans and their families, RSL NSW sub-Branches, and Veteran Wellbeing Centers, equipping veterans and their families with essential tools to access education courses and employment opportunities.
DVA claims and appeals
The professionally trained and accredited claims advisors and advocates continued to support veterans and their families, assisting with claims to DVA that help provide clients with financial security and the ability to access medical support paid for by DVA under a number of different treatment schemes. The Claims & Advocacy team had a 44% increase on the number of claims submitted last financial year and are very proud to have supported 816 individual clients with what can often be a stressful and complicated process.
The team is active on seven different ships or bases across New South Wales, conducting claims appointments for current serving members.
“I am very happy with the outcome and would like to sincerely thank you for your efforts in making this happen…It has been a long hard road at times and the use of an expert, such as yourself, makes the process so less stressful – so thank you!” – Advocacy client
The services are free-of-charge. Contact the team if you need professional support with lodging or appealing claims to DVA.
Homelessness and housing support
RSL LifeCare Veteran Services continues to deliver the Rent Choice Veterans (RCV) Program, providing support to veterans in obtaining a rental lease and accessing subsidised rent for up to three years.
The Homes for Heroes team had full occupancy at the Narrabeen site for several months during the year, supporting veterans with transitional accommodation and works closely with clients to create action plans, aiding their journey to regain independence and find their own living spaces.
A standout success story from the year features veteran JC. Through the Homes for Heroes program and the RCV program, JC transitioned into his rental accommodation in Parramatta. He enjoys the hustle and bustle and multiculturalism and said that this program “helped him get back on his feet” and stated that this program “helps the individual, shows them the path, but there are things each person needs to do for themselves”. JC is also starting TAFE, studying an Ecosystem and Conservation Management course.
Veteran Wellbeing Centres
Nowra Veteran Wellbeing Centre
Supported by RSL NSW, the purpose-built Nowra Veteran Wellbeing Centre opened its doors in December 2022, welcoming over 450 visitors and hosting 107 events for 2,600 participants from December 2022 to June 2023. The centre provides a welcoming space to the local veteran community and is a one-stop shop for veterans and their families to access critical services, along with other service providers, including RSL NSW sub-Branches, Open Arms, and Invictus Australia.
In January 2023, the veteran and Shoalhaven community participated in the creation of a mural at the centre, transforming the interior space into a beautiful and meaningful piece of art that honours the service of veterans.
In March 2023, the Centre held a naming Ceremony for its hall, recognising the significant role of Indigenous veterans in Australia’s military history. The hall was named the Ernest Licey Hall – an Indigenous man from the NSW South Coast who was enlisted in the ADF under a false name as he was not considered an Australian citizen at the time.
The Centre has also fostered collaborative relationships with local ADF Bases, including HMAS Creswell, HMAS Albatross and Parachute Training School (PTS). These connections have become integral to their presences at key base events and commemoration. Additionally, the Centre has had the privilege of welcoming current serving ADF members to participate in their diverse range of activities and programs.
Riverina Veteran Wellbeing Centre
In March 2023, the Riverina Veteran Wellbeing Centre celebrated its first year of operation, solidifying its significance within the Wagga veteran community. During this financial year, the Centre welcomed over 700 visitors and played a role in 44 different events, with participation from over 1,900 attendees.
Following local ADF transition seminars, the Centre has hosted two dedicated ex-service organisation drop-in days, offering valuable insights and services to local veterans and their families, current-serving members, complementing the local ADF transition seminars.
The Riverina Veteran Wellbeing team had the honour of carrying the flame during the ANZAC Day March this year at the request of the Wagga Wagga RSL sub-Branch. The sub-Branch has been supporting the work of the team, and in September 2022, the sub-Branch committed to funding one of the roles at the Centre via the RSL NSW Veteran Support Fund (VSF).
In addition to attending Kapooka for DVA Claims appointments, the team presented educational sessions for current serving members, shedding light on available support. The Centre was selected as the charity of choice for the RAAF Base Wagga Mental Health Awareness Fun Run and earned recognition from the Kapooka Army Band during their performance at the Civic Theatre’s 60th Anniversary Gala.
The Riverina Wellbeing Working Party has also been established, a collaboration among key local Defence personnel, local government, community organisations, and ex-service organisations to explore ways to better assist veterans and their families in the Riverina region.
Spur Equine Program
The Spur program has continued to build on the success of the last few years, taking even more veterans through the program and building a group of passionate volunteers who care deeply for our horses, but also for helping veterans riding to recovery. Six volunteers attended and competed in three cattle sorting events under the colours of Spur Ranch.
Over the last financial year, the team delivered 12 horse handling or riding courses and embarked on an incredible trek through the Snowy Mountains. Additionally, the team provided a mounted ceremonial lancer troop support on ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day at Narrabeen and Picton.
The Spur team also hosted three contact days for RSL NSW sub-Branches attended by a total of 70 RSL members. Their beloved pony, Apache, made two visits to RSL LifeCare residential aged care facilities and has been undergoing extensive training to deliver support to aged care clients of RSL LifeCare.
RSL NSW, its 320 sub-Branches across NSW and RSL LifeCare Veteran Services, will continue to assist and connect to veterans and their families to the services they need.
If you or someone you know requires assistance, please get in touch with the RSL LifeCare Veteran Services team.