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Monday, 26 November 2018
Page: 11507

Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle) (17:07): It's with pleasure that I rise to join with my colleagues in support of the motion before the House today, moved by the member for Dawson. The motion acknowledges the extraordinary work of veterans counselling services and celebrates the recent transition from what was known as the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service to what is now referred to as the Open Arms—Veterans and Families Counselling Service. As many of my colleagues have said, it is a terrific move. When I think of all the veterans I have known throughout my life, I can't imagine any one of them not supporting the opening up of the fantastic counselling services to a broader range of serving and ex-serving personnel from any theatre of war—so, regardless of the particular conflict—and whether or not their trauma is a result of conflict or service.

Many of my colleagues before me have spoken of the history of the setting-up of the counselling service and the instrumental role that the Vietnam veterans played in those early, formative years of its establishment. I'm the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and remember very well my father going to Vietnam and returning. Many, many years passed before my father and, indeed, our family needed to access those counselling services. I am one of 27,000 people who participated in the Vietnam Veterans Family Study that tried to shed some light on what the intergenerational impacts of deployment and war are not just on the serving veterans but, indeed, on family units as a whole.

The proposal that these counselling services should be opened up to accommodate the many people impacted by deployment life is something that we on both sides of the House all support. Indeed, we have horrifying statistics around suicide for ex-service personnel. We also have some particularly disturbing evidence around the ongoing impacts of post-traumatic stress disorder. The legacy left by the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service, in the two areas of suicide prevention and the treatment of PTSD in particular, is something that the Open Arms organisation will, hopefully, be able to expand on, and it will, indeed, deliver even better, more improved services to more people. There has always been greater demand than there have been services and resources. We know that, and anything we can do to address that is absolutely worth supporting, in my view. Open Arms, as I said, will be a lasting legacy of the Vietnam veterans who identified from day one the psychological impacts of war and also of military service itself. These impacts often last decades, well after the physical wounds have healed.

I would like to take this opportunity to really give thanks and praise where it's very much due: to the many people in my community who give so much of themselves in ways to support both serving and ex-serving personnel in the Newcastle region. I think first and foremost of Mr Stephen Finney and Ken Fayle, who were both involved in various ex-service organisations, including the Newcastle RSL sub-branch and the TPI Association, which is now based out at Wallsend. I have RSL sub-branches not just in Newcastle; there is Waratah-Mayfield, Merewether-Hamilton-Adamstown, Stockton and Wallsend and District sub-branches, to name just a few. I also pay tribute to Gerry Bailey, who is one of a very active men's health peer group that look after each other. I also want to acknowledge the partners of veterans and, indeed, the longstanding effort of Mrs Pat Cleggett, the former national secretary from Newcastle.

Debate adjourned.