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Wednesday, 16 September 1942


Senator CLOTHIER (Western Australia) . - Last week I asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army if the Minister would give instructions that the Soldiers Dependants' Appeal Organization- in Western Australia be supplied with the names and addresses of dependants of men killed on service in order, that it may continue to do the work it has been doing. Sue]] information was made available in the early days of the war, when General Durrant was in command in that State. To my question the Assistant Minister replied -

The work of the Soldiers Dependants' Appeal Organization (Western Australian War Patriotic Fund) lias no official connexion with the Department of the Army and records of its work are not maintained.

The request of this organization to be furnished with the names and addresses of next-of-kin of members of the forces who become casualties has received consideration at intervals over the last two years, but although it is desired to render philanthropic bodies all possible help, it is regretted that the decision already given, that this information cannot be divulged to such organizations, cannot be varied.

I submit that full consideration has not been given to this matter. I quote the following letter which I received recently from the secretary of this organization : -

As you no doubt are aware, the public of Western Australia very generously responded to our appeal for funds to enable us to grant assistance to all dependants of our fighting forces who from time to time might find themselves in necessitous circumstances. With the increase in the military allotments the average dependant is now reasonably well off, but the plight of widows and dependent children is still acute. A large number of widows have had very little business experience, and as a result find themselves in difficulties when they have to face up to their altered conditions. On my committees we have honorary solicitors who can attend to all legal matters Which confront such people, estate agents and accountants who arc able to advise on real estate and financial matters, and numerous other gentlemen who are only too anxious to assist in any problems which might face such widows.

When this fund was first inaugurated, the State Government accepted responsibility for the payment of the clerical staff necessary to carry out the executive work of the organization, as it was realized that the organization would have to play a very important part in advising and caring for dependants of men who left home with the fighting forces. At the start of operations we interviewed General Durrant, and explained to him the aims and objects of the fund, and requested that he authorize the Records Office to keep us supplied with the names and addresses of dependants of mcn who were killed on service. This information was provided for a time, and in a number of cases we were able to provide much needed advice and assistance.

At a later date word was received that the supplying of this information was to be discontinued, and although we have made repeated representations to the various Ministers at Canberra, we have not yet been successful in having the information again provided.

Another phase of this subject" relates to the provision of free legal advice to soldiers. Recently the following paragraph appeared in the West Australian : -

Considerable misunderstanding is said to have arisen about the offer of solicitors who aTe members of the Law Society to help soldiers and their dependants. An officer of the Australian Military Forces said on Saturday that members of the Law Society had undertaken to prepare wills and simple powers of attorney for soldiers free of charge, lint could not undertake to advise them generally on such matters as their marital relations and the management of their properties. The Soldiers Dependants' Appeal Committee at the C'.T.A. Building, Perth, was willing to assist deserving dependants of soldiers in distress. In matters of difficulty the secretary referred to members of the legal profession, who assisted him free of charge.

The Law Society " passes the buck "in this matter. When one solicitor to whom a case is referred cannot handle it, he returns it, and it is referred to another solicitor. Thus considerable delay is caused. At the same time, the firm of Kott and Lalor has attended free of charge to over 250 eases referred to them. The principal of that firm served in the last war, and his partner is now a prisoner in Malaya. On the 9th September I received the following letter from the secretary of the organization: -

It would appear that the Law Society of Western Australia is now only prepared to do a very limited amount of work for soldiers and their dependants, with a result that quite a number have gone back to the military authorities for advice.

A few days ago one of the legal men at Francis-street communicated with me and explained that it was almost an impossibility for their legal staff to cope with the inquiries that were being received. I therefore, on behalf of my committee, agreed to handle as far as possible all cases of soldiers and their dependants. You will recollect that the legal firm of Messrs. Kott and Lalor do all our work and are agreeable to co-operate in this latest arrangement. Probably this latest announcement may carry weight when you submit your case to the Minister about legal advice being provided by Messrs. Kott and Lalor.

ReNames and Addresses of Widows.- A typical case was brought to my notice during the week of a widow, whose husband was killed bverseas. Prior to enlistment the husband was selling a small property on terms and buying another residence for his family. When he died it was found that he had left a small insurance policy which his wife had no difficulty in collecting, but complications arose whenthe final instalment had been paid on the property that was being sold. The widow was not aware that probate had to be obtained and as a result matters have been left in abeyance for threeor four months. Only during the last three days did the woman become aware that my fund could assist her, so she called in. We are taking steps to obtain probate of the will so that the widow will be able to transfer the property, which was sold to the rightful owner. Had we been supplied with the name and address of this widow no doubt we would have finalized her case months ago and thus saved her a considerable amount of worry.

As you know we are endeavouring to get as much publicity from the papers as possible to let soldiers' dependants and widows know of our activities, but unfortunately those who are most in need never seem to see the paragraphs.

I think this case may also help you in persuading the Minister to provide the information about widows and children of men killed onservice.

I have been down there often, as has Senator Allan MacDonald, and we both know the wonderful work these people do for the soldiers' wives and relatives. I have been supplied with the following information from the report, by the chairman of the Soldiers Dependants' Appeal Organization on the activities of the relief and associated committees from the 1st July. 1941, to the 30th June, 1942 : -

The constitution provided that assistance should be limited to members of the Naval Board, the Australian Imperial Force, the Air Board, and nurses, but in November last it was widened to include the dependants of merchant seamen, who came within the scope of the Seamen's War Pensions and Allowance Act. Subsequently, on the 7th April last, it was still further widened to include the dependants of all members of the fighting forces on full-time duty, provided they are not eligible to receive assistance from other funds.

For the period under review, 1,117 applications , were received, of which 865 covered requests for assistance under one or other of the headings which will be subsequently referred to, and 252 requested legal assistance or advice. Of this total, 948 were from residents in the metropolitan area and 169 from the country:884 claims were approved, 193 rejected, and 40 are still pending finalization. Since the inception of the fund, approximately two years ago, 1,792 families submitted 2,255 requests for assistance - of which 1,873 were granted, 342 rejected, and 40 are in abeyance pending finalization.

Dependants' Allowances: Since the outbreak of war, dependants' allowances have been increased on two occasions. At the commencement, a wife and two children received a minimum allowance of £2 16s. per week, which rate operated up to the end of 1940. Then a domestic allowance of1s. a day was granted to wives with children, and an extra 6d. for each child, thus making the income of the wife and two children, £3 10s. against £2 10s. Those figures operated until the 7th November. 1941, when a further increase was granted to both the soldier and dependants. As from this date, the minimum allowance for a wife and two children was increased to £4 0s. 6d. a week. This sum, together with the grant of 5s. child endowment (which is paid to mothers with more than one child under sixteen years of age) increased the family income for the wife and two children to £46s. 6d. a week as against the original amount of £2 16s. payable at the outbreak of war.

I mention these facts in detail as they have a direct hearing on the type of expenditure which the relief committees have authorized during the period under review, as is shown by the following figures. The number of orders issued for the twelve months is as under: - Clothing, footwear, layettes. &c. -

 

 

The amount expended under the various relief headings for the period from the commencement of the fund to the 30th June, 1941, and the twelve months ended 30th June, 1942, is as under : -

Clothing, footwear, layettes, &c. -

 

A special mention should be made in connexion with the hospital assistance. This represents relief to 176 families - and whilst £620 8s. was expended, owing to the special concessions granted to this fund by the Government subsidized institutions, the total relief to dependants amounts to £1,430 12s. 6d. In other words, further relief amounting to £804 4s. 6d. over and above the actual amount expended.







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