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Thursday, 19 March 2015
Page: 1964

Veterans


Senator O'SULLIVAN (QueenslandNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:56): Mr President, on indulgence—I welcome to the Senate the fine young men from the Toowoomba Grammar School in Queensland, including my grandson.

My question is to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Senator Ronaldson. Will the minister advise the Senate how technology developed by the government is assisting veterans to tackle the challenges of mental health?


Senator RONALDSON (VictoriaMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Special Minister of State) (14:57): I thank the honourable senator for his question and acknowledge his grandson's presence. You must be very proud—well done.

This weekend, right across Australia, all Australians will have the opportunity to welcome home those who served in Operation Slipper. There will be troop marches throughout the nation. I encourage all Australians to attend and support those men and women who were engaged in Operation Slipper. Many of those men and women may require now, or sometime in the future, assistance to deal with anxiety, stress or other mental health conditions. I have said to this chamber before that veterans' mental health is a matter of great personal importance to me and also to the government. I am therefore delighted today to launch a new smartphone app, called High Res, which continues the government's commitment.

The High Res app features two major functions. The stress management feature helps users manage their immediate reactions to a stressful situation. The app prompts users to test their physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioural reactions and helps them adjust their responses with the use of tools on the app. The performance training feature helps users optimise their mental performance with regular resilience training, hence the name of the app. Training, setting goals and tracking their progress through self-assessment will help users respond better to future challenges in work and in life.

High Res has been developed in collaboration with the Department of Defence and is based on their BattleSMART (Self-Management and Resilience Training) program. High Res is the latest example of DVA using emerging technology to help the Defence community, including families; to raise awareness of mental health issues; and to improve access to professional support. (Time expired)


Senator O'SULLIVAN (QueenslandNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:59): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Thank you, Minister, for that comprehensive answer. Can the minister further explain to the Senate how the High Res app forms part of the government's agenda for veterans' mental health?


Senator RONALDSON (VictoriaMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Special Minister of State) (14:59): I again thank Senator O'Sullivan. DVA has developed a range of significant resources to support serving and ex-serving personnel with mental health conditions and particularly provide assistance to their families. In 2012-13 there was some $179 million spent which, as I have told the chamber before, is uncapped and is indeed demand driven.

Many of our online mental health resources are through the At Ease portal. The At Ease portal helps people recognise the symptoms of poor mental health, locate self-help tools, mobile applications and advice and helps them access providers and treatment. We have also developed the Working with Veterans with Mental Health Problems accredited training module with the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. (Time expired)


Senator O'SULLIVAN (QueenslandNationals Whip in the Senate) (15:00): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Will the minister advise the Senate of other projects and programs the government has introduced to assist veterans and their families with tackling mental health issues?


Senator RONALDSON (VictoriaMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Special Minister of State) (15:01): I again thank the honourable senator most sincerely for this very important supplementary question. Last year I launched the Transition and Wellbeing Research Program—a significant research initiative led by the University of Adelaide. This research program will provide a comprehensive picture of the mental health and wellbeing status of serving and ex-serving personnel, including reservists. For the first time, this will include a picture of mental health disorders in the first four years after discharge, including PTSD. It will investigate how individuals previously diagnosed with a mental health disorder access care and examine the consequences and needs of families of serving and ex-serving personnel, especially those with mental and physical health issues arising from their service. This will help the Australian government to ensure that its policies now and into the future are best tailored to meet the needs of these men and women and their families. (Time expired)

Senator Abetz: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.