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Items filtered by date: October 2017

A wonderful time was had by all at our Black Tie Red Carpet Dinner. 

The food was fantastic, there were lots of prizes and of course the people there were marvellous.

The highlight of the night was when our Ambassador Mrs Linda Hurley, gave a wonderful speech and then sung a beautiful song that she composed and wrote for AFOM. There were not many dry eyes at that moment. Mrs Hurely is truly an inspirational Lady.

For photos of the evening, follow the lionk below.


We would like to give you a quick overview of what AFOM is doing, firstly what we have done and achieved in the previous 12 months and what we are planning for the next 12 months or so and why.

However, I would like to point out what we don’t do first. We try as much as possible not to replicate what other ex-service organisations are doing, while there may be overlap in some cases – we refer on. For example, we do not do pensions, we do not do one on one professional counselling, we do not fundraise to send people overseas. We work mostly at grass roots levels and address the gaps we find in services.

In the last 12 months: We do make representation to Government and the appropriate departments and have made contributions to many mental health enquiries both to Government, Senate enquiries and other bodies e.g. Mental Health Commission

We have had men’s retreat, thanks to John’s organising and of course masterful cooking! These retreats have started to become the norm, where the men are champing at the bit to go back to the mountain. So much so they have been building small builds, shelters and other out buildings to make their lives more comfortable. They have now named their retreats as “Boot Hill Veterans Retreat” it has a GP boot as their logo. Anyone want to go to the men’s retreat? See John.

We have had lady’s retreats. The last one included two current serving Military ladies. I wasn’t sure how the mix would be, but all was fine. The ladies from previous retreats have now become peer support people to each other (great friendships have been made) as well as for others. For example, _ I get messages via our webpage for help, when they are in this area, I can put them in contact with either support groups, relevant ESOs or for those who just need someone to talk to, there is myself, but now also the younger partners. We are really trying to have another one next year, as I have already had enquiries from some of the younger partners about coming.  There is lots of good wine, nibbles and of course the massages.

Lindsay and John run the Red Friday Coffee meetings, where those people can come and go each Friday have a chat, help and support each other or just have a coffee.

We have run Invisible Wounds workshops and from that (feedback) we are planning an Adolescent Mental Health Workshop in the New Year. – I have some great speakers/educators lined up – and they like us are doing it for free.

We are slowly growing with the research Program we have with the University of New England, and we even had enquiries on collaborating with researchers from overseas. Academia is a slow process.

We have FINALLY gone through the hoops of setting up a research prize for young post grad students who want to research in trauma, mental health including PTSD families and surrounding topics.

We have been inspired by a young filmmaker and had a short film made about us.

We have had another paper published about the well-being of partners of veterans, which led to press releases in several states and radio interviews.

Gail has been a general and key note speaker based AFOM’s research and work.

We represent AFOM at Ceremonies, ANZAC day and were very pleased to receive an official invitation to be at the dedication of the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial last month.

We feel we have achieved a lot in the last 12 months. We are a small band of people who are passionate about the health and well-being of families of the Military as well as front line responders. We are all volunteers and juggle these projects between work, family and the day to day issues of managing mental health issues in our families. We receive no financial benefit, in fact we pay for most of the costs and travelling from our pocket.  All our board members are either current or ex serving Military or members of their family.

We have Bunnings BBQ’s to raise money to run the retreats and workshops – so we can offer Military families time out without costing too much. We then then nights like this to raise money to carry on.

We collaborate and refer on where we can, and where we can’t - we fill in the gaps.

The next stage of our plan: is to address another gap we have found. More recent research, here and overseas, talks about the families and the importance of looking after them and how the departments might engage in them more.

Despite millions of Dollars being spent on different programs and research the suicide rate from Military Veterans keeps rising. No data is kept on the suicidality of partners of veterans, however, when it was bought to their attention again -it was recently promised, so fingers crossed for that.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare talks about how our lives may be shaped: We all bear the imprint of our past, our experiences in early childhood are central to how we feel, think and behave as adults and contribute to the shaping of our emotions, preferences and choices. No amount of research can delineate the paths individuals will follow through their lifetime – but what we can do is clarify the forces and themes that lead many people in similar directions and help shape their lives. This leads overall to a greater understanding of others and life.

What do we know?

– We know that children of Vietnam Veterans (In Australia) are 300% more likely to attempt suicide. There has not been much research done on post 75 Australian conflicts and children of those personnel that serve. However, we could deduct that there may be problems down the track, given previous Australian research and current overseas research.

We know that there is a higher rate of suicide (13% higher) for men who have left the forces? Remaining in the Military, and Good leadership is a protective factor for many.

With Leaders such as Lt Col Morris (attending the Black Tie Dinner) , we can understand that, the excellent leadership qualities count for a lot.

Research has shown (overseas) that the highest single factor of Peacekeepers and Peacemakers who suicided or attempted suicide was relationship break up – this was a study that looked at 22,275 peacekeepers who served on “International Operations. Where they found that stressors from service could have contributed to suicide they stated:  it cannot be excluded that stress reactions following peacekeeping may have contributed to possible strains on interpersonal relationships. Preventative work should, preferably provide psychosocial support for veterans and their families. 

So, we can moan and groan, we can blame government departments and other institutions, or we can do something.

In line with all of that and AFOMs commitment to filling the gaps and to trial a model that we have developed I have been collaborating with local people in the Singleton Hunter area, who are as passionate about these issues as we are. So, our plan for the next few years is to establish a veterans and family resource centre. This will also encompass first line responders.

There will be 3 arms. Firstly - Education – we believe that education on a community level is the best way to approach mental health (In fact one of our goals is to make is to make the area we are working in the Mental Health Literacy Capital of NSW if not Australia – we do aim big). This also helps to reduce stigma and the beneficial flow on effects of that.

Secondly: Act as a resource directory to all available services (and again to identify any gaps) and thirdly to have a one stop shop – so to speak. This will have all the relevant ESO’s with expert people who attend to pensions and allowances, for current and past serving, war widows and not have people being sent from one place to the other. We hope to have this as a drop-in centre as well.

We are currently working on strategies based on what we know for giving new families to the area, more accessibility and knowledge. Combined with other organisations we want to offer more support and hopefully catch a lot of the partner/families that find it hard to participate in a new environment.

We have a handful of committed people already and we are waiting for discussions with other organisations in the area, to make this a reality. There is a lot more to discuss – but that is not for tonight. If you would like to know more see me (after the food). You may wish to be on board or assist in other ways – all genuine help is appreciated.

We can’t help and save everyone, but we can do our best and hopefully show what can work if a community pulls together, on these issues.

So, thank you to everyone, who have supported us over the previous 12 months - we really do appreciate it.

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