Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:10): My question is for the Minister for Veterans, Minister Leane.
I actually probably would have written to you about this today, but seeing as we are here, it gave me the perfect opportunity to ask you about it. As we know, veterans face homelessness at a far greater rate than the average population.
In fact DVA, the federal veterans affairs office, said there were about 3000; we now know that there are more like 6000 veterans who are homeless in Australia, and about a quarter of those are in Victoria.
We know everyone’s pathway to homelessness is different, but we know for veterans their pathway is generally an early discharge or an unwanted discharge from the forces. They are younger; they are less educated.
So my question is: during COVID have we seen those veterans housed in the response to COVID?
Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Suburban Development, Minister for Veterans) (12:11): I thank Ms Patten for her question, and I think it is a very good question.
I agree with her that it is a sad fact that the percentage of veterans that end up homeless is higher than the percentage of the general populace. It is an issue that I am actually really keen to work on as the Minister for Veterans, along with employment and along with mental health. I will endeavour to get Ms Patten more information than just this answer. If there is any more
information I can get, I am more than happy to do that.
Part of the problem I have found in the short time that I have been Minister for Veterans is we have even got a problem in identifying who is a veteran, particularly in that homeless space, so I have asked the Victorian Veterans Council to do a sector study to try their best to drill down for those answers. I am hopeful that they will be able to get a very clear idea, but it is still a big problem.
Part of the issue, and something I really want to work on, is that veterans, when they are in the services, have high skills in a number of disciplines, if that is the term—you have medics, you have people that are experts in telecommunication, you have people who are experts in water, you have people who are experts in all sorts of disciplines—but in the services they do not get accreditation that transfers to the private sector.
So I am setting up a round table of experts from the veterans sector and experts from the skills sector—and I really want to thank Minister Tierney because we are working together on this—on how we can, in our jurisdiction, at least find a way to accredit those skills, because we need
them as well. So I think employment is an issue with housing—and mental health, I have got to say— but I am very hopeful that the coming budget will have a component around housing, and I am going to work in with that component around this exact issue.
My understanding from just talking to people like Brendan Nottle from the Salvos and others in recent times is that he is identifying that a number of people have been housed during COVID, and he has told me that he has identified some people as veterans, Sometimes it is hard for them to say that.
In saying that—I know my time is running out—Ms Patten, I am really keen to get you more information if I can, and I really appreciate you asking me this question and bringing this issue to the house.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:14): Thank you, Minister. I do appreciate that, and it is certainly something that my constituents are raising, and obviously as the chair of the homelessness inquiry I know it has been raised there as well. But we know from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute study in this area that the pathway is, as you said, mental health, it is PTSD, it is lack of employment. It is a whole range of issues.
By way of supplementary, I am wondering if you could also provide me with some information about what Victoria might be doing specifically for our veterans who are suffering from PTSD here. I know there is some federal work, but I wonder if there is anything we are doing in Victoria specifically.
Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Suburban Development, Minister for Veterans) (12:15): I think that is part of the work that I just responded that I am really keen to do.
There was a recent federal productivity report with, I understand, a number of recommendations—more recommendations around the way DVA operates, the federal department—but I have got to say there were some recommendations around mental health that I really appreciate
have been accepted by the federal government. So I am really keen to work in on that.
I have had a number of conversations with the previous mental health minister around the work in the royal commission, and only a couple of days ago I had a conversation with Harriet Shing, who is doing a lot of work as the parliamentary secretary there as well. So we are pretty keen to interweave the outcomes of the royal commission with veterans as well.
But as I said, I think it is a shame that we get to this point with these people, a number of whom we sent overseas to very hot places, where I believe we do not look after them well enough at all.