I am currently attempting to garner support for the inclusion of a question in the 2021 Census to identify people who have served in the Australian Defence Force (ADF). This is an issue that has been discussed and “strongly endorsed”, to use the words of the DVA communique, at the last two Veterans’ Ministers’ Round Table meeting in 2017 and more recently the one held during the Invictus Games in Sydney. To date, there has been no action taken and by years end the ABS will have finalised the 2021 Census questions and it will be too late.
This is a very significant issue and given that limited information is collected, there is very little accurate data on our veteran community. National data on where veterans live once discharged from service along with employment status, family composition, etc. is crucial to enabling government and ex-service organisations (ESO’s) to deliver relevant and timely veteran support services needed during the transition and into civilian life. Considering the ADF’s current high operational tempo and with over 5,500 personnel leaving the ADF each year not having this data makes it extremely hard to effectively deliver crucial support service.
Once a veteran has sought assistance, in particular from the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), there is visibility but up until this point, we have a limited idea where we might need to reach out. This is far from ideal as most veterans wait until in extreme crisis before reaching out for help. Last year alone we had 85 recorded veteran suicides and one has to ask had we known more could we have drastically reduced this number.
Recently our State President, James Brown met with the Minister for Veterans Affairs Darren Chester, and Shadow Minister Amanda Rishworth also urging them to support the inclusion of a question on the 2021 Census asking about service in the ADF. I’m happy to say both MPs have committed to seek the support of their colleagues in resolving this matter, and ensuring veterans are counted on the next Census. We would greatly appreciate your support as well.
In reaching out to you I am seeking the support for the Change.org petition that I have initiated as part of a small way we can band together and make our voices be heard. To date after only 3 days we closing in on 2000 signatures. My goal is 10,000.
I would also encourage each District, Sub-Branch and/or member to write to their Federal Member highlighting the need for this question to be included.