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DVA’s National Consultation Framework: An exercise in self appraisal

Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester’s media release of 2 July 2020 entitled Veterans' views sought to shape future engagement announces the positive news that “veterans and their families are being asked to provide their views on how the ex-service community is consulted and engaged, and how this can be improved.

The survey invites input from ex-service organisations, individuals and families, with a special appeal for participation from veterans and families in regional and rural areas.

According to the DVA announcement of 1 July 2020, “this survey focusses on the effectiveness of current mechanisms for consultation between DVA and the ex-serving community, as well as ways to improve them for the future.

While this might seem all very positive, anyone looking to provide constructive input into how the ex-services community is consulted will be disappointed.

This survey starts out by asking a dozen or so questions on the operations of committees and round-tables about which only those directly involved would have any knowledge. For example, Question 7 asks, “Of the forums within the National Consultation Framework, do you believe there is overlap in functionality or practice?

Then there’s Question 12 that enquires, “In your opinion, do the forums meet frequently enough to sufficiently consult on and resolve core issues?” By this point, I think most people outside of the bureaucratic tangle of DVA’s National Consultative Framework would be wondering if they are qualified to continue with the survey.

For those that persevere, Question 15 offers a tiny glimpse of hope that there is an opportunity for the rank and file to contribute. It asks the potentially useful question: “Other than face-to-face meetings, what other media (if any) do you think the Department should use to sufficiently capture input from the ex-services community?

The select-all-that-apply options include webinars, social media, interactive website and regional workshops. Surely, they already know that the answer to this is “all of the above”.

One can only guess what kind of statistical justifications the DVA functionaries have in mind; regardless, this survey is the latest example of the department’s failure to properly engage with the veteran community. Likewise, DVA’s National Consultative Framework does not provide veterans and their families a clear pathway for engaging in the mysterious matters and issues discussed at the various forums and round-tables.

From the outside looking in, DVA’s consultative framework has the characteristics of an over garnished specimen of bureaucracy that justifies the jobs of the public servants who keep it running. In reality, the framework and all the work that must go on to prop it up amounts to nothing more than a poor excuse for meaningful consultation.

DVA, if you are still interested in suggestions on how to better engage with the veteran community, please feel free to give me a call. You have my number.


Mark Schroffel is a veteran, strategy consultant, and researcher interested in veteran support policies and transition programs. He designed and led the Melbourne Legacy sponsored ShoutOUT research initiative to gather insights and stories about post-1991 veterans and their families. Mark is a co-founder of Australian Veteran News and can be followed on twitter @MarkSchroffel

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