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Kookaburra Kids pilot program

The Government is providing $2.1 million over two years to the Australian Kookaburra Kids Foundation to develop and evaluate a pilot program for the children of current and former Australian Defence Force (ADF) members who have been affected by mental illness.

Kookaburra Kids was founded in 2002, and aims to provide intervention and education to help children living in families affected by mental illness.

Kookaburra Kids runs recreational and educational camps, activities and events for children eight to 18 years old who have a parent with a mental health condition. It provides age-appropriate mental health education focusing on coping skills and resilience. The pilot, which is scheduled to start mid-year, will take into account the unique issues related to ADF families.

To find out more about Kookaburra Kids, visit www.kookaburrakids.org.au.


How DVA handles child abuse claims

In June 2016, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held a public hearing to inquire into the experiences of men and women who were sexually abused as children in the ADF.

DVA has considered the issues raised. In assessing claims, it will look at all the available evidence and, depending on the particular circumstances, can determine that an incident of abuse occurred based on a statutory declaration alone.

DVA has a dedicated team that manages all new claims relating to sexual and other forms of abuse.

Any survivor of child abuse in the ADF can lodge a claim for compensation with DVA.

To apply for compensation, call 133 254 (or 1800 555 254 for regional callers).

More information is available on DVA’s website.

DVA’s priority is to provide immediate support to abuse survivors and has put in place arrangements to make sure claims for such abuse are managed with sensitivity.

Under a measure announced in the 2016–17 Budget, anyone who has served for at least one day in the full-time ADF can access treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse, without having to claim that the condition is related to service.

To access treatment, you can call 133 254 (1800 555 254 if you are in a regional area), or email nlhc@dva.gov.au.

Support for abuse survivors is also available via the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service, which is available to provide support 24/7 on 1800 011 046.


The Digital Readiness Bill

On 2 March, the House of Representatives passed the Digital Readiness Bill. This followed an inquiry and report by the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, which recommended that the Bill be passed. The Bill is scheduled to be debated in the Senate on Monday, 20 March.

If it becomes law, the Bill will do two main things. First, it will enable DVA to introduce computerised decision-making for simple decisions, such as granting benefits where no human interpretation or discretion is required. This will speed up decisions and free up DVA staff to support clients with complex care needs.

Second, the legislation would enable the Secretary of DVA to disclose certain client information where he or she certifies that it is in the public interest to do so (‘public interest disclosure’).

Some members of the veteran community have become concerned by the public interest disclosure provisions of the Bill. There has been a suggestion that the Bill would enable DVA to release veterans’ personal information as a means of preventing them from criticising the Department. This is simply not true.

The intention of the public interest disclosure provisions is to enable DVA to release client information in rare instances when it is necessary to do so. These include: where a client may be planning to harm either themselves or another person; enforcing the law; Australian Public Service (APS) Code of Conduct investigations; service provider abuse; and misinformation detrimental to the veteran community.

The latter instance relates to circumstances where the misinformation has damaged the integrity of programs or prevented veterans from getting assistance from the Department, leading to more widespread distress among veterans. The release of personal information under these circumstances would be limited.

The public interest disclosure powers are not the same as those of the Department of Human Services, which do not include the Digital Readiness Bill’s built-in safeguards. These include that:

- only the Secretary of DVA (not any of his or her delegates) can authorise the release of information, and that he or she can only do so in accordance with rules set by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. If the Minister does not make the rules, then the Secretary cannot exercise the public interest disclosure power.
- there are limits on disclosing personal information and, unless the Secretary complies with the natural justice requirements before disclosing personal information, he or she commits a criminal offence.
- the veteran must be contacted before any information can be released.
- the public interest disclosure provisions must be reviewed after they have been operating for two years.

Further, several additional safeguards will be introduced under the proposed Public Interest Disclosure Rules. These will include:

- a requirement that a disclosure be proportionate and reasonable in all the circumstances
- the Secretary must first consider a release of de-identified information before making a disclosure
- a general prohibition on the release of a person’s entire DVA record
- limitations on the release of a person’s medical information.

The draft Public Interest Disclosure Rules under the Digital Readiness Bill were developed following consultation, with input from Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Amanda Rishworth, the Privacy Commissioner, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and a Senate committee. Consultation on the draft rules is ongoing.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan has asked for an independent Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) for the Digital Readiness Bill’s public interest disclosure rules once they have been finalised.

‘The Digital Readiness Bill’s rules are designed to strengthen privacy protections for veterans as their first priority. These rules will codify safeguards about the use of personal information,’ Mr Tehan said.

‘This is in addition to the Privacy Impact Assessment already conducted when the rules were initially drafted.

‘The rules have not been finalised and we are continuing the consultation process. I invite anyone to have their say by emailing me at minister@dva.gov.au.’

More information:
- On 4 March, the Minister published a statement on DVA’s Facebook page.
- On 8 March, the Minister published a media release about the PIA.
- You can read the Bill itself as well as the explanatory memorandum on the Australian Parliament House website.


DVA's graduate program

Each year, DVA invites recent university graduates, or final-year students about to graduate, from a range of academic disciplines to apply to our Graduate Development Program. Applications for the 2018 program are now open.

The program has once again been ranked in the Australian Association of Graduate Employers Top 75 Graduate Employers List, which recognises organisations that provide the most positive experience for their graduates as determined by graduates themselves.  
Candidates for DVA's program often have a personal connection to Australia’s servicemen and women. Jack Pearson, one of our 2017 graduates, was attracted to working in DVA by the prospect of helping to develop ways to better serve veterans. He has recently completed training to become an Army Reserve captain, and is currently Command Indigenous Liaison Officer for 2nd Division.

A member of Aboriginal Veterans of South Australia, Jack has completed a master’s degree researching Indigenous veteran experiences in South Australia, and is particularly interested in the Department’s engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans.
The DVA Graduate Development Program runs for 11 months and is designed to expose graduates to the broad range of important work DVA undertakes, while propelling them into a successful Australian Public Service career.
In addition, graduates participate in the Australian Public Service Commission Graduate Development Program. This program involves face-to-face workshops, individual coaching, and the opportunity to work on a major team project to address current issues facing DVA. On completion, graduates may be considered for advanced standing towards specific master’s degree qualifications at the Australian National University or the University of Canberra, and the Practical CPA course at CPA Australia.
On successful completion of the DVA Graduate Development Program, participants are offered ongoing permanent positions with DVA.
If you know a graduate who would be interested in assisting former and current ADF members, encourage them to find out more by:
emailing graduate@dva.gov.au
visiting our webpage www.dva.gov.au/about-dva/jobs/graduate-program
phoning the DVA Graduate Program Manager on 08 9366 8220.
Applications close 12 April.

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS)

A free and confidential counselling service for Australian veterans, peacekeepers and their families. For more information on VVCS services and eligibility, please visit the VVCS website or phone 1800 011 046.

Veterans' Affairs e-News is a regular service provided by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Comments or feedback on Veterans' Affairs e-News may be sent to AMBENEWS@dva.gov.au

Department of Veterans' Affairs

GPO box 9998

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