2015 saw the end of fifth year that the Shed had been in operation, not as a 'stand alone' Shed as such, but an institution which has in particular been dealing with those who joined the ADF and during their time in the Service, suffered the brutalities of sexual and physical assaults, bullying and continual harassment.
Although we were pleased that some 2,450 victims of ADF Abuse had the courage to come forward and tell their stories to the DART (Defence Abuse Response Task Force) and in most cases, receive minor recognition for their abuses, it is the belief of this organisation that both the governments of the day and the alleged perpetrators, have got off lightly from both their commitments to the abused and the punishments for their cowardly deeds.
To those who are reading about the William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed for the first time , please let me explain how we came into being.
We were initially a group of four Vietnam Veterans who thought that the after sales service for those who had served and received their pensions and that was very much lacking.
We were all fans of the 'Shed program' having had sheds in our own backyards and knowing the therapeutic value of them, decided that the enjoyment and use of a Shed should continue and be spread around.
We joined the Australian Men’s Shed Association and the rest is history.
Our Shed was very kindly paid for by another Vietnam Veteran who heard my story on ABC Radio back in 2010 and the emergence of the William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed began.
We have now included a day each week where former serving members join together and enjoy each other’s companionship while building or restoring toys or furniture or just enjoying a coffee or tea.
This year saw the introduction a wider range of services including the welcome arrival of Ken Parnell, a Naval Veteran, who brings to the Shed a vast experience in Pensions and Advocacy work.
We believe that 2016 will see the Shed increase in it’s ability to support all current and former serving ADF Personnel who approach us for assistance.
We welcome Ken to our ranks.
As I said earlier, the direction of the Shed has been in the main, to seek out and provide a package of support and advocacy over many areas to those current and former members of the ADF who have suffered all forms of abuse and bastardisation, either in their terms now and in their previous roles within the ADF.
In 2016 we are expecting an election.
Our organisation with begin lobbying all of the major and minor parties to make them made aware of the shortcomings of the current and previous governments’ policies in terms of their support for the victims of ADF Abuse.
What will we be advocating?
Our Organisation will be pressing for a new DART, or similar operation, to be reintroduced to allow victims of ADF to have their claims of abuse recognised and adjudicated upon.
It has been proved beyond doubt that there is a constant level of abuse within the ADF irrespective of what the ADF seem to want to have the public believe.
Within the first three quarters of 2015, the William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed had received claims of abuse from 58 alleged victims.
These claims were from 53 former members and 5 still serving members.
It should be noted that myself, as Shed Coordinator, attended a Senate Hearing into supporting Victims of ADF Abuse back in September 2014, and waited a full 12 months before being told by two members of the DVA (Department for Veterans’ Affairs), that a criteria for supporting our work was unable to be found, so now we continue to raise our own funds to assist these struggling people.
When the DART was initially set up by the previous Labor government, we were under the impression that both the DART and DVA would be working in unison to provide a comfortable transition for the victims of abuse to receive support from the government in terms of pension allocation and support for any injuries and other disabilities caused by their various brutalities.
Not to be.
Until this day, the DVA has continued to place a barrier of out of date legislation in front of victims and their advocates, which indicates the unfairness and intransience of governments to accept a long overdue duty of care for their lack of proper governance, and responsibility for those who served and suffered.
To this day the ADF, and in turn the current government, believes that it has the mechanics in place to advocate on behalf those who make claims against it, but it is a sad situation that we have an increasing suicide rate which indicates that things are not as the government would have people believe.
The two groups which the government believes can advocate on behalf of those making claims against it have time and again been rejected by victims as being unable to either guarantee confidentiality, or give no guarantee that the government will fairly investigate itself.
The William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed will be pressing those in power, and those seeking power, to act on a long standing embarrassment which for many years has been covered up and generally ignored.
I refer here to the Rapke Report, commissioned by the Federal Government in the early 1970s and written by Judge Rapke, into bullying and abuse at HMAS Leeuwin, but in it’s fullest form, has never seen the light of day.
In the months ahead, we will be bringing the Shed community up to date on meetings we have had with those in power, and those who seek power, on behalf of those men and women who have served this country and suffered the humiliations of rape, assault and other abuses.
William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed