The eighth public hearing of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide will be heard in Wagga Wagga between November 28 and Dec 1, and local grassroots organisation for veterans and first responders, the Pro Patria Centre will be presenting a submission at this hearing.
In an effort to raise funds to buy the building, the Pro Patria Centre has produced an inspirational documentary presented by Gold Logie-winning actor and mental health advocate, John Wood. This beautifully produced video features the stories of veterans and their families who have already benefited from the generosity and heartfelt support of their community.
Jason Frost’s story will surely resonate with many veterans, as will the stories of the Wheeler, Murphy, Cheney, and Fuson families.
Pro Patria is a first-of-its-kind health and holistic treatment facility which, sadly, is on a short deadline to remain open. The centre needs to find $1.5million to purchase the former Carmelite monastery by March 2023.
Unlike the politically directed investments of various “veteran hub” initiatives, Pro Patria’s mission is grounded in community support and delivering much-needed service to veterans, first responders, and families.
The Pro Patria Centre is located in the town of Wagga Wagga - known as the” home of the Australian soldier” - is operating from the former Carmelite monastery and needs to buy the building outright by March 2023, at a cost of $1.5million, to continue operating under community ownership.
PPC is a unique holistic facility, offering a range of medical, professional support, and strategies and skills to restore, regenerate and empower veterans and first responders in their lives beyond their service.
Board member of PPC, Dr James Read, said the demand for veterans’ services in the region was intense and constant, given Wagga Wagga is home to two key Australian Defence Force bases - the Army Recruit Training Centre at Kapooka and the Royal Australian Air Force Base, Forest Hill.
“Wagga is home of the soldier and for the past 20 years, veterans have been retiring in this region and yet have never had access to all the services they need,” Dr Read said.
“On numbers alone - there are 4,800 veterans in the region and a significant number of first responders - the need for services is clearly evident. The former government had promised to fund a veterans centre in Wagga but the new government has not honoured this commitment."
“We are now working hard to raise the money through private sources. It is challenging and we are determined to succeed,” he said.
Minor renovations to the centre were completed in August and more comprehensive medical services are now being delivered on-site.
It is the only facility offering medical treatment in conjunction with other proven, DVA approved services for veterans and first responders, including a specialist rural GP, psychology, psychiatry, and access to a wider range of therapies and treatments in Wagga.
Many veterans would have to travel to Sydney, Melbourne or Canberra for treatment if the Pro Patria Centre did not exist.
Dr James Read, a PPC Director, said the appeal of the grassroots centre lay in the fact it was established by veterans who have seen too many of their colleagues commit suicide, and who fully understand the unique needs of those in the front line.
"The current services provided by the government - despite the hard work and best intentions of the people behind it - are just not working. Our centre provides a place of connection, catering holistically to the unique needs of veterans and also first responders who are exposed to trauma on a daily basis - and in a regional area like this, they often come face to face with tragedies where they might know the person,” he said.
“A first responder is committing suicide every second day in this country - it’s obvious they need comprehensive support and care too.”
PPC’s formal submission to the Royal Commission will focus on the significant health concerns veterans face in the regions and the current lack of coordinated services.
Dr Read said PPC’s submission will reveal veterans’ direct responses about their health and wellbeing needs.
To donate to the building fund, visit www.propatriatrust.org/make-a-donation
For more about Pro Patria visit propatria.com.au/