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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 260

Senator CHILDS —My question, which is directed to the Minister for Veterans Affairs, relates to the organisation of the Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service within the Department of Veterans' Affairs. The Minister will be aware of complaints that counselling services in the Department were not reaching out to the client population and their families and that insufficient resources were being made available. Would the Minister care to comment?

Senator GIETZELT —The Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service is now entering its fifth year of operation and has proved to be one of the most popular innovations in the Department. I am pleased to say to Senator Childs that there is no suggestion at all that there will be any curtailment of the activities of the Counselling Service. In fact, sufficient funds have been made available to extend it and to maintain the high level of counselling essential to many Vietnam veterans. The Veterans' Entitlements Act that the Parliament passed last year formally established it as a permanent feature of my portfolio. On average, we are making contact each month with some 2,000 veterans who served in Vietnam. A constantly increasing number of veterans seek its services.

We provide advice on a whole range of matters-legal, financial and employment matters and child management problems-and stress management workshops are organised as well as assistance with psychological problems. We have women's groups that operate in the organisation; social programs have been established; and, as I have indicated to the Senate previously, we have established in Queensland the first half-way house as a pilot scheme to provide those veterans who have above-normal stress with an environment in which they can sort out their problems. I was informed at lunchtime today by one of the New South Wales representatives who came to see me that another one is in the pipeline for New South Wales in a rural pursuit. These are all designed to meet the requirements of Vietnam veterans.

While I am on my feet, Mr President, I would like to take this opportunity of congratulating a former employee of the Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service, Graham Edwards, whom I met in my first year in the Ministry, who subsequently became the selected and endorsed Australian Labor Party candidate for the State Parliament in Western Australia and who was elected only this week to the Western Australian Cabinet. It is the first occasion on which a disabled veteran has been elected to such an office. It is a great tribute to him that the Western Australian division of the Labor Party has been able to promote him to the Cabinet. He resigned from his position with the Counselling Service to contest the election. He is obviously the first such person to reach such high office in our community.