Veterans Centre for the Hawkesbury

By Tony Bosworth | Editor Hawkesbury Post
Labor and the Coalition both promise $5m of taxpayers’ money to set up a Veterans Centre in our region

Labor were first out of the blocks at the beginning of the month with news of a Veterans Wellbeing Centre – if they are elected in the upcoming Federal election on May 21 – in the Macquarie electorate, so Blue Mountains or Hawkesbury, and Labor MP Susan Templeman said, “local veterans would have substantial input into the development of the Veteran Wellbeing Centre, including on where it will be located”.

The centre would be a one-stop shop providing support for veterans’ wellbeing “with their transition from military to civilian life”, as Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel, Shayne Neumann, put it at the April 8 announcement.

Not to be outdone – and of course this is a feature of this election, we’ve also seen it with the promise to set up a Hawkesbury Headspace – the Coalition sent out a media release just short of a week after Labor’s announcement from Liberal Senator for Western Sydney, Marise Payne, also promising $5m for a Vets’ Centre but they have a specific site – they aim to repurpose an Officer Training Unit building used during the Vietnam War – it was opened in 1965 and closed in 1974 – at Scheyville.

Sen Payne said, “Since the establishment of this program in 2019, six centres have been funded under the Morrison Government.”

But only one of those funded centres is in NSW, at Nowra, and in February the RSL said, “A single veteran wellbeing centre at Nowra does not reflect demand either by client need or geographic spread, and additional facilities are needed in other communities with high demand, particularly those that surround ADF Garrisons”.

Such is the demand, the RSL got on with it themselves with a second centre established in Wagga Wagga but funded by RSL NSW and RSL Lifecare, not the Federal government, and the RSL have several more planned.

Richardsvetannouncment Apr 13 Veterans Centre For The Hawkesbury
(liberal/rsl group) liberal’s veterans centre announcement – rsl folks with liberal candidate sarah richards

So it seems there will now be 2 government-funded centres in NSW, no matter which party wins the Federal election. The government’s Hawkesbury centre is listed in the recent Budget papers.

MP Templeman said of the Morrison government’s Hawkesbury announcement, “I’m pleased to see the Liberals following my lead on a well-being centre, after Shadow Minister for Veterans Affairs Shayne Neumann and I announced Labor would commit $5 million to a local hub last week.

“But we won’t be prescriptive about these wrap-around services; local veterans have been providing important support to other veterans and their families for many years and they know what and where the need is, and, if elected, we will work closely with them about where this hub will be located and how it will work.

Veterans Centre“It’s a shame that, after having nearly a decade to deliver on desperately-needed issues like veterans’ well-being and Headspace youth mental health services in the Hawkesbury, the Liberals have chosen to hold out until just weeks before a federal election.”

“Desperate copy-and-pasting of Labor policy at five minutes to midnight is not the actions of a party that cares about delivering on genuine need,” Ms Templeman said.

Liberal candidate for Macquarie, Sarah Richards, who is the daughter of a veteran, said of the government’s Vets’ Centre announcement, “Growing up in a military family, I am the daughter of a veteran who served in Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and East Timor. I have lived my life on multiple RAAF Bases, including right here in Richmond. I have seen what war can do to someone. I have watched my dad suffer PTSD and I have vowed to fight to do all we can to help our veterans”.

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