In an age where it seems a new External Support Organisation (ESO) starts up every few months, it would appear that there is an abundance of choice of support service provider available for a struggling Veteran to choose from. In reality it’s difficult for an affected or wounded Veteran to find an organisation that is best suited to support them and their families. As I’ve discussed before, there are geographical constraints in place, some ESO’s don’t provide a certain service and increasingly it seems word of mouth travels quickly. For both good and bad reasons.
One of the key reasons why Veteran ESO’s are continually relied upon so heavily is due to the issues many of us face when dealing with the ADF upon discharging. Stories of supportive transitions from the ADF into the civilian world are becoming increasingly rare; with many long-term servicepeople claiming (insert service) has changed. Couple this with often frustrating interactions with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the RSL; it should come as no surprise many Veterans seek out an independent entity for support.
With so many Australian Veterans putting their hands up and asking for help more than ever, I, and many others, expect a more collaborative environment between ESO’s, Veterans and the ADF. Sadly it seems to be the norm that no open dialogue exists in this realm. Instead it seems increasingly more common for ESO’s to align themselves with and become more entrenched with the ADF way of thinking.
For many, including myself, this is moving away from what makes interacting and engaging with an ESO a more valid, positive and crucial experience; we crave and need separation between the ADF for a chance at a positive recovery from injuries both physical and mental.
What we need more than ever is not to have our collective voices heard but to have our individual stories listened to. In the past few years actively supporting, and being supported by ESO’s, it has become very clear that a shift across most organisations has occurred with charities set up to support Veterans transforming into an organisation competing for a bigger profile and more funding. In order to achieve this new goal and fight over finite sources of funding, Veterans’ experiences and stories are constantly being mined and treated as a commodity in order to achieve that new goal.
I’m aware that this opinion will evoke a large amount of criticism. But I counter with my own experiences with ESO’s over the past four years. The shadow cast by expectation of both the ESO and yourself to keep providing your time and representing Veterans is a cold darkness that is hard to escape from. It makes those critical steps to recovery much harder to scale without a beacon to guide us. With the commercialisation of the modern Veteran, we are rapidly losing our identity under the guise of supporting others like us.
The recent appointment of former CDF and current NSW Governor, GEN The Hon. David Hurley AC DSC, as Patron in Chief of arguably Australia’s largest and most well-known Veteran ESO, Soldier On, is indicative of a larger culture change in ESO’s from supporting Veterans to expanding profile.
As another ANZAC Day approaches and emotions come to the fore, many Veterans who have been quietly fighting their own internal battles choose this time to open up to their mates and family and ask for help. Many harbour feelings of resentment and sadness from their treatment in the ADF and towards the upper echelons of rank of their respective service. Was it really the best decision to appointment a previous Chief of Defence Force, especially one so divisive with his attitude in-regards to PTSD and Veteran Suicide, as the new Patron In Chief and most public representative of Soldier On?