For the first time a junior non-commissioned officer will be appointed as the new Department of Veterans Affairs (Interim) Repatriation Commissioner. In a break from precedent, Glen Ferrarotto, a highly respected member of the veteran community; former Corporal; Royal Australian Electrical Mechanical Engineers (RAEME) Vehicle Mechanic (VM); Afghanistan veteran; businessman; and young father, has been chosen for the position on the retirement of Don Spinks AM, who leaves having filled the role since 2019.
From DVA: The Repatriation Commission grants pensions and benefits, and provides treatment and other services under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) to veterans and members of the Australian Defence Force, their partners, widows, widowers and children. The Commission also provides advice to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs on related issues.
Typically, the position of DVA Repatriation Commissioner has been one filled by a former senior officer or, in the case of the immediate past occupant, a Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army. Prior to Spinks, Major General Mark Kelly, and Brigadier Bill Rolfe held the role.
That Ferrarotto has been appointed to this position is a significant shift and an important one.
A huge cohort within the veteran community are angry with DVA. They see it as an organisation out of touch, and with the Royal Commission into Veteran and Defence Suicide continuing, one that is running out of time to reform itself.
There is a need for rapid change to regain relevance. This appointment may help with that due to Ferrarotto’s undeniable contemporary experience.
Ferrarotto is a comparatively young leader in the veteran sphere, but already has an impressive CV.
Growing up in Victoria, Ferrarotto joined the Australian Regular Army in 1998 and trained to be a RAEME VM. In the year that his predecessor was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 after 24 years in the Army, Ferrarotto was starting RAEME trade school and hadn’t yet turned 20 year old.
His career saw him deployed from Malaysia, to Kuwait, and then to Afghanistan, where he was deployed twice as a patrol mechanic with the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG)
These were serious Afghanistan deployments; as a patrol mechanic, his responsibility was to ensure the long-range patrol vehicles they operated on kept running, and at times he was required to do this serving whilst receiving fire from Taliban fighters.
In 2008, Ferrarotto transitioned out of the Army and into the private sector.
He founded a recruitment agency focused on ex-service men, women, and their families. Both Ferrarotto and this business have been recognised with the Prime Ministers Award for Most Outstanding Individual Contributor to Veteran Employment, and Excellence in Supporting Veteran Employment.
Since 2021, he’s been a Veteran Engagement Advisor to DVA, as well as a member of the Victorian Veterans Council.
He has served as President of the Montmorency Eltham RSL sub-branch and as a member of the RSL Victoria State Executive. Whilst on the State Executive he has twice taken a moral stance and publicly resigned in protest from his elected position.
This moral precedent is very important. At a time when veteran frustration with DVA is seen as being at record levels. Ferrarotto has a tough job ahead. He needs to harness those strong morals and demonstrate to those within the veteran community that he is willing to stand up and show he is the right man for the job.
He must use his contemporary knowledge; his apprenticeship within the Ex-Service Organisation sphere, and utilise his experience at the coal face of veterans’ issues to advocate and advise government, whilst also managing his relationship with the veteran community. He’ll need to gain the trust and faith of both, at a time when some feel like there is a war between them. It will be a tight balancing act and there won’t be much room for him to hide.
How will he do it?
Only time will tell. Gaining the support of the veteran community and government is a crucial factor, but his success is not a given. It's a demanding role, yet someone with Ferrarotto's background may well be equipped to navigate its challenges. His appointment is a historic moment that merits celebration, and I personally feel that he is deserving of the veteran community's backing.
We wish Glen the best.
Glen Ferrarotto has been contacted for comment and an interview. Watch this space!