Veterans' Advocacy and Support

Contributed by Robin Creyke and Peter Sutherland and current to September 2018.

There are a significant number of agencies, government and non-government, which play a role in respect of veterans’ advocacy and support. Agencies relevant to veterans in the ACT are briefly discussed below, grouped into:
  • Commonwealth Government Agencies;
  • ACT Government Agencies;
  • Ex-Service Organisations and Forums;
  • ACT Community Agencies.

Commonwealth Government Agencies

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) supports war veterans, war widow/ers, serving and former defence force members, eligible AFP members and eligible dependents and carers through compensation and income support, access to health care and rehabilitation services and transition support emphasising wellness and self-sufficiency. For further information, see: Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Advocacy Training and Development Program

The Advocacy Training and Development Program (ATDP) within the DVA is the next evolution of the Training and Information Program and replaces TIP. The ATDP has been developed as a partnership between DVA, ex-service organisations (ESOs) and the Department of Defence. The vision of the ATDP is to train and develop selected practitioners to provide high quality advocacy services to current and former Australian Defence Force members and their dependents, covering rehabilitation, compensation, appeals and welfare. For further information, see Advocacy Training and Development Program.

Office of Australian War Graves

There are over 66,000 Australian war dead in identified graves around the world and another 35,000 commemorated on Memorials to the Missing. In Australia, there are over 12,000 war dead buried in war and civil cemeteries, over 1,000 named on Memorials to the Missing, and some commemorated in Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) Gardens of Remembrance. The OAWG, an agency within DVA, maintains war cemeteries and individual war graves in Australia and the region, commemorates eligible veterans who died post-war and whose deaths were caused by their war service and builds and maintains national memorials overseas.

For further information see: Office of Australian War Graves.

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service

The Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) provides free and confidential, nation-wide counselling and support for war and service-related mental health conditions, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. VVCS also provides relationship and family counselling to address issues that can arise due to the unique nature of military service. VVCS counsellors have an understanding of military culture and can work with clients to find effective solutions for improved mental health and wellbeing. The Canberra service location is 6-8 Campion Street, Deakin ACT 2600, telephone 1800 011 046.

In October 2018, VVCS is changing its name to “Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling”, see Open Arms.

ACT Government Agencies

ACT Veterans’ Advisory Council

The ACT Veterans’ Advisory Council (VAC) comprises community members with a material interest in issues affecting the veterans’ community in the Australian Capital Territory and provides advice to the ACT Government about matter relating to the veterans’ community. The VAC is appointed by the ACT Minister for Veterans and Seniors, Mr Gordon Ramsay MLA and comprises Brigadier Alison Creagh CSC (Chair), Mr Gerard Pratt (Deputy Chair) and 10 other members. For further information, see ACT Veterans’ Advisory Council.

Office for Veterans and Seniors

The ACT Office for Veterans and Seniors: For further information, see Office for Veterans and Seniors.

Ex-Service Organisations and Forums

ESO Round Table

The ESO Round Table (ESORT) is a forum is intended to enhance the capacity of the Repatriation Commission and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission. This forum aims to address issues of strategic importance to the ex-service and defence communities and assist in setting directions for the medium to long term. The Chair is Ms Liz Cosson AM CSC, Secretary of DVA. Specific responsibilities of ESORT include:
  • acting as the main forum for dialogue between the MRCC, the Repatriation Commission, DVA and the leadership of the ESO and Defence communities
  • providing advice on how government can better facilitate a common approach to veteran and ex-service issues against the current background of ageing members, declining membership and multiple ex-service organisations not necessarily united in their common concerns
  • guiding strategic directions for the portfolio; and
  • serving as the main body for consultation under the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 on the development of legislative instruments impacting members of the ex-service and Defence communities under:
For further information, see ESO Round Table.

Australian Capital Territory Consultative Forum

The Australian Capital Territory Consultative Forum is established by DVA and will:

1. provide a mechanism for regular consultation and discussion between the Deputy Commissioner NSW/ACT and Ex-Service Organisations (ESOs) to discuss systemic issues that concern the veteran and defence communities arising from the range of DVA operations including:
    • operational issues
    • health care including hospital and community based care
    • aged care both residential and community based
    • health and well-being
    • income support
    • compensation
    • rehabilitation
    • emerging issues for currently serving and recently separated ADF members.
2. sitting as the Australian Capital Territory Treatment Monitoring Committee, monitors the access to and the quality of treatment available to entitled persons as private patients under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986;

3. enhance the ex-service community’s understanding of DVA’s service delivery performance in the Australian Capital Territory through improved communication and information sharing between DVA and the ex-service community;

4. assist in identifying issues that may require referral to a national-led forum e.g. the ESO Round Table for strategic issues or the Operational Working Party for day-to-day operational matters;

5. provide a mechanism to disseminate information about Veterans’ Affairs initiatives and Department of Defence and broader Commonwealth activities where appropriate;

6. provide a forum which facilitates the maintenance of an effective working relationship between ESOs, the Deputy Commissioner and DVA staff in the Australian Capital Territory.

Membership comprises representatives of the following organisations:
  • Returned & Services League of Australia NSW
  • War Widows Guild of Australia
  • TPI Veterans' Association of ACT Ltd
  • Vietnam Veterans Federation of Australia (ACT)
  • Defence Force Welfare Association
  • Canberra Legacy
  • ACT Kindred Organisation Committee

Veterans Indemnity and Training Association (VITA)

The Veterans Indemnity and Training Association (VITA) is a national association of ex-service organisations (ESOs) and other groups. It was established to foster the training and professional standards of ESO practitioners, including, but not limited to, the obtaining and maintaining of professional indemnity insurance cover for such practitioners. VITA is partially funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and the Department partially funds its professional indemnity insurance and provides advice to VITA. In Secretary, Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Burgess (Freedom of Information) 2018 AATA 2897, the AAT held that disclosure of the terms of the PII policy held by VITA in 2014-15 (with the premium amount redacted) would cause no detriment to DVA or VITA. For further information on VITA and its activities, see the DVA web site at Advocacy Training and Development.

Canberra Legacy

Legacy is dedicated to caring for the families of deceased and incapacitated veterans. Today Legacy's caring and compassionate service assists around 65,000 widow(er)s and 1,800 children and dependants with a disability. Legacy is a voluntary organisation supported by veterans, servicemen and women, and volunteers drawn from all walks of life. Our support and services now extend to include the dependants of members of today's Australian Defence Force who lose their lives as a result of their military service. Canberra Legacy is based at 33 Geils Court, Deakin ACT 2600, Telephone (02) 6285 1800. For further information, see Canberra Legacy.

Defence Force Welfare Association

The Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA) exists simply to foster the best interests and wellbeing of all members of the Australian Defence Force and their families in any matter likely to affect them during or after their period of service. The DFWA ACT Branch address is GPO Box 2272, Canberra ACT 2601 and its office is at Building A81, Harrison Road, RMC Duntroon.

The DFWA is a member of the Alliance of Defence Service Organisations (ADSO) , which comprises many of Australia's major military ex service organisations. The Alliance represents a significant number of members of Australia's Defence Family on national advocacy and representative matters to the Australian Parliament and all political parties. Its aim is to promote and protect the conditions and well-being of the Defence Family that embraces over three million people.

Returned & Services League of Australia

The Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL) is a national ESO, which was founded in 1916 and whose purpose is to help veterans and their families by offering care, financial assistance and advocacy, along with commemorative services that help all Australians remember the Fallen.

The RSL Australian Capital Territory Branch has a Veterans Support Centre which provides pension and advocacy support, assisting veterans and families with Government entitlements. The Centre is located at 7-9 Geelong Street, Fyshwick ACT 2609, Telephone 6260 6344. For further information, see RSL ACT.

TPI Veterans’ Association of ACT Ltd

The Association promotes the interests of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) veterans and their families. The Association’s address is PO Box 450, Erindale ACT 2903, Telephone (02) 6291 9185. For further information, see TPI ACT.

War Widows Guild of Australia

The War Widow’s Guild of Australia was formed on 22 November 1945. Today the guild advocates for all War Widows from all conflicts. The ACT contact is PO Box 3041, Manuka ACT 2603, Telephone (02) 6162 o503. For further information, see War Widows’ Guild of Australia.

ACT Community Agencies

Legal Aid ACT helps people in the ACT with their legal problems, especially people who are socially or economically disadvantaged. Legal representation can be provided in criminal law, family law and some civil law matters. Legal information is provided through a telephone advice line (1300 654 314), the Older Person ACT Legal Service (6243 3436) and legal advice and minor assistance is available by appointment at the Legal Aid ACT office at 2 Allsop Street, Canberra City, Telephone (02) 6243 3411. For further information, contact Legal Aid ACT.

Canberra Community Law

Canberra Community Law (formerly Welfare Rights and Legal Centre) is a community legal centre providing legal services to people on low incomes or facing other disadvantage in Canberra and its region. The CCL office is at Level 1, 21 Barry Drive, Turner ACT 2612. For further information, see Canberra Community Law.


Care Inc is a community organisation set up to ensure low income consumers are treated fairly and have support to overcome debt. Care Inc services include the Financial Counselling Service, no interest loans, community education and the Consumer Law Centre ACT. Telephone 1800 007 007. For further information, see Care Inc.

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