Motion - Veterans Organisations

Wednesday May 05, 2021

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (12:36): I rise to support the member for Hammond's motion and to speak a little bit about some services in my electorate. I want to pay tribute to Bob Sandow, the RSL President and his committee for an amazing ANZAC Day service. It culminated in the mid-morning march down the main street where there were at least 5,000 or 6,000 people lining the streets as the march went through. He had organised for the RAAF to fly a plane from Adelaide very low down our main street and coordinated the timing of that flight with the mid-morning march. It was a truly remarkable experience for all involved, and of course the RAAF was celebrating 100 years of service.

I also want to talk about Sergeant Stephen Wyte and his endeavours to support veterans. He is doing this with Laurie Mann as well by running a fundraiser at the Mount Gambier Attamurra golf course. I want to talk a little bit about Stephen Wyte. He has written to me seeking support and it is quite timely that it comes in with the member for Hammond's motion. Of course, this is on top of the member for MacKillop speaking yesterday in his grieve about the township of Robe and the very tight-knit community there. They are offering their houses to returned servicemen to come down to Robe, stay for three or four days, watch the ANZAC Day football and participate in the ANZAC Day services. It is just a wonderful gesture from that community to support our veterans.

Stephen Wyte is certainly doing his part to not only raise awareness but raise funds for veterans and the establishment of a veterans' service hub. I will go through his letter which I think is quite apt. It states:

My name is Sergeant Stephen Wyte and I served 14 years in the Australian Army as a Soldier. I served in both the Army Reserves and the Australian Regular Army. My main employment was as a Rigger Parachute in the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps. As a Rigger Parachute, we were responsible for packing and maintaining the Army's parachute fleet and also had to be volunteers for parachute operations. In 2016, I discharged from the Australian Regular Army and next year I will be discharged from the Army Stand-by Reserves.

Australian Defence Veterans are people who have proudly served Australia and the Australian community in any of the three services; the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Airforce. A Veteran is one whom has served not only during wartime or conflicts, but during peace keeping operations, natural disasters, and times of peace. Serving in the Defence Force is not just a job, it is an honour.

Unfortunately, this service often results in personal sacrifice and can come at a steep cost to Veterans, their families and loved ones. The personal costs often include physical and mental injuries taking a huge toll on both the Veteran and their support networks, impacting their quality of life and employment possibilities even leading to suicide.

I myself was injured in a parachuting accident in 2008 resulting in my medical evacuation from the parachuting exercise. I am still dealing with the conditions from this and other events or incidents which continue to have daily impact on my life both mentally and physically.

The Limestone Coast Veterans' Services Hub (LCVSH) is a group of veteran volunteers who see it as their social responsibility to assist Veterans and their families in the South East of South Australia and across our Victorian border in their own time. They draw on a strong sense of mateship and comradeship among those of us who have served our nation. That strong bond of mateship is the motivation that drives them as volunteers to assist Veterans and families in need

Their mission is to support Veterans with their wellbeing needs and advocating on their behalf with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The [support group] will be holding a Veterans Friendly Community Charity Golf Day as a fund raiser to finance the new Veterans Outreach Program. The program aims to support Veterans and their families, ensuring our younger veterans do not think they have been forgotten; and they do not feel isolated or are experiencing hardship in our community.

I feel it is vitally important that Veterans know they are supported, they feel welcomed and engaged in their community; that each Veteran knows their service is recognised. I feel the support shown by the community this ANZAC Day demonstrates this sentiment. The Veterans Outreach Program will also support Veterans and their family's with assistance for rehabilitation into the community, increasing their quality of life…

We are seeking your help [as the member for Mount Gambier] with the operation of this Charity Golf Day. All donations are supported and care of the Plympton RSL alongside the Plympton Veterans Centre, which is a charity listed on the Charity Register and regulated by the Australian Charities and Not for Profits…

Mount Gambier and indeed the Limestone Coast is a fantastic place to reside and raise a family. I relocated [here] three years ago as I recognised what the area has to offer myself and my daughter. We would like all Veterans to know they are an important part of the Mount Gambier and Limestone Coast community and we welcome them and their families or support networks.

Stephen Wyte

I thank Stephen for sending that to my office and taking the very important step of not just supporting veterans but raising money and engaging with the business community of our electorate to have that holistic approach, so congratulations to Stephen on that.

Briefly, I would like to acknowledge the entire community of the RSL, with Bob Sandow as the president; Peter Bruhn as vice-president; Leigh Newton as treasurer; Margie Winterfield, who is a good, close personal friend of mine; Ian Summers; Malcolm Driscoll; Dieter Merkel; Kelvin McRae; and Kelly Copeland. They do an amazing job for our community.

I would say that our services, whether it is Remembrance Day or ANZAC Day, are some of the best in the state, certainly by number as well as coordination and impact on the community, particularly the next generation coming through. Without such a strong committee, that type of impact and professionalism would not be what they are today. According to official records, I am sure we only had about 900 at the dawn service, all spread apart. Of course, the unofficial record would be much greater than that.

With those words, I commend the member for Hammond, who is not only a fantastic member but also a fantastic South Australian and Australian. His support for veterans needs to be acknowledged and certainly the passion he brings to this place. I am very happy to support a great member and a great motion.