The Defence Bank Foundation is an independent charity established to raise funds to help injured, wounded and disadvantaged Australian Defence Force veterans and their families during their time of greatest need.
All funds raised by the foundation go to the Defence Community Dogs program which provides highly trained assistance dogs to ADF veterans. Trained in specific tasks to support veterans with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the dogs that graduate are helping veterans rebuild their lives – and in some cases literally save their lives.
It takes at least 10 months or 250 hours of professional dog training and costs over $10,000 just to train each dog to assistance-dog level. The cost of providing a comprehensive handover, follow-up support and training for veterans and their dogs is also provided by the program. In total this makes each dog worth over $30,000.
The dogs in the program are rescued and rehomed dogs. They first must pass a strict temperament assessment before being accepted into the program. Each dog is then trained specifically to assist veterans coping with PTSD.
Once fully trained, the dogs are given to veterans in need at no cost
Veterans who have been assigned a dog must attend a comprehensive handover program where they spend at least a week working with the trainers and program staff, learning how to handle, command and care for their new dog. This also provides veterans with an opportunity to bond with their dog while under the supervision of a professional dog trainer.
The dogs in the program are trained by inmates at correctional centres under the guidance of professional dog trainers.
The program has three distinct benefits: repairing the lives of veterans; rehabilitating prisoners and rehoming abandoned dogs. (Watch the Transforming Lives video to hear from veterans and inmates involved in the Defence Community Dogs program.)
“Defence Community Dogs program is a really unique program,” says Defence Community Dogs director Leanne Kyle.
“What we do is we get rescued and rehomed dogs and we specially train them to support veterans suffering from PTSD.
“I like to describe the program as a win-win-win program: there’s a win because we rescue a dog; there’s a win because an inmate is rehabilitated; and there’s a win because a veteran’s life is improved significantly and in some cases a veteran’s life is actually saved.”
The program relies solely on donations, sponsorships, fundraising activities and volunteers. Defence Community Dogs does not receive any government funding. All funds required for the running of the program are raised through the Defence Bank Foundation.
To help raise much needed funds, the Defence Bank Foundation Credit Card, was introduced in September 2020. It provides an additional stream of funding for Defence Community Dogs with half of the annual $45 fee paid by holders of the Visa credit card going to the program.
The Defence Community Dogs program has been running since 2014 and has successfully placed 55 assistance dogs with veterans throughout Australia.