RSL Goodna sub branch vice president Les Hill and treasurer Bill Holmes are inviting former service personnel to take advantage of an upcoming expo.
RSL Goodna sub branch vice president Les Hill and treasurer Bill Holmes are inviting former service personnel to take advantage of an upcoming expo.

Expo extends helping hand to battling veterans

THE PERSONAL battle that so many men and women face after leaving the Defence Force is well documented, if not very well understood.

An increasing amount of resources is being invested into providing better support for those who slip through the cracks after their career in the Army, air force or navy comes to an end, and with good reason.

The rate of mental illness, homelessness and suicide among former Defence Force personnel is disproportionately high.

Recent figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported 465 suicides between 2001 and 2018, with the rate of suicide among male veterans 21 per cent higher than the general male population, and the rate of suicide among ex-serving women twice as high as the general female population.

In July 2020, the RSL Queensland reported a 26 per cent increase in inquiries to its homelessness program, 39 per cent growth in its wellbeing services and a 113 per cent increase in employment inquiries.

It is a crisis that Goodna RSL sub-branch members Les Hill and Bill Holmes hope to help address on a local level.

The sub-branch, in its quest to reach out to younger members of the community, will host an expo on March 13 featuring representatives of a string of agencies and businesses that can help veterans who are doing it tough.

Mr Holmes, the treasurer of the sub-branch, said a lot of people struggled to find direction in their lives after leaving the Defence Force.

“When I left in 1994, I didn’t have anything to steer me in the right direction,” he said.

“What really worries us is people with mental health problems being left sitting like a shag on a rock if we can’t help them.”

Vice-president Mr Hill said lives were at stake.

“We will lose more of them if we don’t act,” he said.

“I left the Army in 1974 and they just said to me: See you later.

“I would have gone through 10 jobs in the first 12 months because I just couldn’t settle down.

“When you are in defence, you are told what to do and when to do it, but when you go back to civilian life, you have no instruction.

“Everyone expects you to know what to do.”

The expo, to be held at the RSL’s sub branch meeting rooms at the corner of Brisbane Tce and Layard St, Goodna, will feature representatives from DVA, counselling services, the health and fitness industry, lawyers with advice on wills, and even accountants.

“A lot of young men and women are looking for a bit of direction, and half the problem is that they don’t realise that kind of help exists,” Mr Hill said.

The expo runs from 10am-2pm.