Bundy war veterans left in need
HINKLER has the second highest number of veterans in the country, a statistic that has prompted calls for more support and services for those who have served their country.
The Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region is home to 4650 former servicemen and women, second only to Gilmore in New South Wales, which took the top spot with 4685 veterans.
“I have no answer to the reason behind it, other than Bundaberg is the best place in Australia to retire,” Bundaberg RSL sub branch president Phillip McNamara said.
But while it may have a perfect climate to enjoy the sunset years, Mr McNamara said there was an urgent need for more services catering to veterans.
He said the closest DVA offices were in Hervey Bay and Mackay, leaving veterans from Bundaberg and surrounding areas to rely on RSL volunteers for help with pension advice.
“We are trying to get a Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) representative in Bundaberg — we need more advocacy in this area,” he said.
Mr McNamara said Bundaberg RSL pension officers were often forced to tell veterans they could not help with urgent needs, or had to put them up in motels so they had somewhere to stay.
“There are no facilities in the region to offer a displaced veteran emergency accommodation,” he said.
“A veteran might tell us they need emergency accommodation or medical help, and we have to say there is nothing we can do.”
He said the sub branch was about to start fundraising to build its own shelter for veterans in need, but would need at least half a million dollars.
Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia Bundaberg and District sub-branch volunteer advocate John Macartney said one of the biggest problems was that the pension had not risen in accordance with the cost of living.
“Federal MPs recently got a pay rise of 4.1% but the pension only went up 1.3%,” Mr Macartney said.
“The money is just not there for helping smaller veterans’ clubs like Biggenden and Eidsvold.”
He said veterans in rural areas were being left behind and could not access vital services.
“Former servicemen are suffering in rural areas, and they are often the ones who need services the most,” he said.