Aboriginal affairs

Recognition for Indigenous veterans

The Minister for Veterans Issues says an important part of his new plan to better support veterans is to recognise the contribution made by Indigenous Australians in the defence of Australia.

Peter Tinley announced the first strategy for veterans and families on September 4, to address the issues facing veterans when they return home from service.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Memorial at Kings Park. Photo: Bella Kitchen

“Ongoing research is required and also making sure that we understand any particular areas of need, peculiar or specific to Aboriginal people, and making sure Aboriginal veterans get that extra level of help they might need,” Mr Tinley said.

“We had Aboriginal people in every uniform, for every conflict, for 87 years before they were even counted, so we think that belongs in a very special place of recognition and support.

“Many Aboriginal people served, but they hid their Aboriginality in a range of ways to make sure they got enlisted.”

Mr Tinley said veterans faced many challenges when transitioning back into civilian life and he would like to see the strategy attend to critical areas facing veterans, such as homelessness. 

A 2018 study by the University of Western Australia found 1 in 20 of the 8000 homeless people interviewed were ex-military personnel.

The new strategy includes a plan to harness the skills of veterans to help them find jobs and benefit the WA economy.

Soldier On is a not-for-profit organisation providing veterans and their families with social activities, employment, education and psychological support.

Soldier On communications and marketing coordinator Angus Jolly said partnerships with business organisations were essential to ensuring a smooth transition for veterans, who are vulnerable when returning home from service.

“A real partnership between defence force organisations, such as Soldier On, who are assisting veterans as they transition and the business community to really ensure that veterans find employment, so down the track issues such as homelessness do not occur, and that often stems from unemployment,” he said.

Mr Jolly said although more could always be done, Soldier On was happy to see the government working cooperatively with support groups to look after veterans and their families.

The strategy has been called a historical first, never before has the government put in place an action plan to assist veterans’ wellbeing after service.

It focuses on recognition, understanding, support, participation and commemoration.