Veterans advocates fight for wellbeing centre

VETERANS WELCOME: Limestone Coast Veterans Hub representative Liz Wheeler was hopeful the organisation could use the unused former swimming complex on O'Halloran Terrace to create a veterans wellbeing hub.

Elisabeth Champion

VETERANS advocates are calling on the State Government to support their plans for a Limestone Coast Veterans Wellbeing Centre.

The Limestone Coast Veteran’s Services Hub representatives Laurie Mann and Liz Wheeler took their case to the State Government during Country Cabinet in Mount Gambier last week, in the hopes of securing government funding.

They have their eyes on the now disused olympic swimming pool complex on O’Halloran Terrace.

In 2019, the Australian Government committed $30m to develop a network of six Veteran Wellbeing Centres across Australia, with the focus on health and wellbeing, and now the group is fighting to have one here.

Currently, the only wellbeing centre in South Australia is based at the Repat Health Precinct in Adelaide.

The centre would provide a quiet place for veterans to meet and chat, as well as offering meeting spaces to visiting specialists and mental health professionals, access to services and assistance and even facilitate the running of programs and activities specifically for veterans and their families.

Local veteran Scott O’Dea, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), said a wellbeing centre would be beneficial to him and all veterans in the region, many of who find local restaurants and businesses unwelcoming or overstimulating.

He said that talking to other veterans and like-minded people was a huge help to his own mental health, and would love to see a wellbeing centre which could facilitate that.

“A lot of us struggle with stimulation, so I think a drop-in centre, or something along those lines would just be great,” he said.

“There is nothing else like it in the state, except in Adelaide.

“It’s taken me seven years to complete my DVA [Department of Veteran Affairs] forms – three years to find a doctor to take it on, and another five years after that, so we need somewhere where you can just go and vent and a drop-in centre would just be awesome.

“It would also be a good way to get small exposures to things that they aren’t coping with, like large groups, random noises, that sort of thing – they are big triggers for veterans.”

He said they weren’t asking for a lot, just a small space that will allow veterans and their families to feel welcome and safe.

“We just want a small place with a few offices, where you can sit with people with similar mindedness and that’s when it becomes about family; if I feel alright there, then I will bring my wife, and she can talk to others, it could also be a place for partners and kids.”

Member for Barker Tony Pasin is also throwing his support behind the push.

“Our servicemen and women, veterans and their families have given so much to the defence and security of our nation and, in return, it is our duty to provide them with the very best support we can,” he said.

“A Veteran’s Wellbeing Centre in Mount Gambier would build community connections and give those in need essential support and easy access to the services available.

“Whether it be mental or physical health support, help finding a job, assistance in lodging claims, or just providing a friendly place for a chat and a coffee, the organisations running these centres are working tirelessly to help our veterans and their families.

“We have a large, active and proud veteran community here in the Limestone Coast and I am committed to continuing to work closely with the Limestone Coast Veteran Services Hub volunteers to ensure essential services are delivered at the grassroots level.”