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Letter to DVA Media

Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit

Sent: Tuesday, 25 June 2019 10:16 PM

To: ''
Subject: Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit


Good evening Rachel.

My name is Barry Heffernan.

I am a Vietnam Veteran and I run the William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed, in Adelaide

Rachel, I am sitting here after speaking to Ken Parnell who is the Advocate for our Veterans Shed, about the forthcoming Mental Health Summit and wondering why our organisation is never considered as a “suitable invitee.”

Let me give you a bit of background into our work since our inception, some 7 years ago.

The William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed was formed because of a distinct lack of “after  sales service” by your department.

We are members of the Australian Mens’ Shed Association and in fact, own our Shed.

I was doing some voluntary work at the Vietnam Veterans Association in Adelaide when I decided to set the Shed up.

Without going into a long diatribe, the William Kibby VC Veteran’s Shed was very instrumental in the setting up of the DART and along with much support, in particular  from former Senator Nick Xenophon.

Over the 4 or so year  of the DART, our organisation met with  and  supported, advocated on behalf of and generally took a leading role with, some 600 Victims of ADF Abuse.

Let me add here Rachel, the vast majority of those men and women we dealt with in the DART days and up until today, have attempted suicide in one form or another.

My colleague, Ken Parnell, has dealt with hundreds of former and current serving men and women seeking pensions.

His experience is that sadly,  some of his clients have gone to the extremes as well and either attempted or succeeded in ending it all.

My question to you is , do you think that our background in this field, accepts us as a prominent candidate for a seat at a summit?

These men and women, both former and some current serving, came forward with many  serious claims of Rape, Bullying, Sexual and Physical Abuses along with other forms of dreadful behaviour from fellow  members of the ADF.

To this day, The William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed is still approached by both former serving men and women, seeking out  a group with  experience in  these sorts of abuses.

I have been looking at the list of attendees for this Summit and I am both amazed and annoyed at the random selection of many if not all of these groups.

I would suggest that very few, if any at all , have the experience in dealing with victims of all forms of abuse in the ADF, at the grass roots level  as does the William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed.

Several months ago your Minister, Chester, and DVA Secretary Liz Cossan, arrived in Adelaide to present a Grant to the Flinders University to enable young Veterans to become involved in higher education.

The William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed, was also a smaller recipient of this grant.

My son lives in Sale in Victoria, which is in  the constituency your Minister.

I approached Chester and informed him that I had been to his office on a number of occasions  to try to set a time where both of us might be in Sale at the same time and I could inform him of the work of our Shed.

I had never had a  reply.

Had either of them taken  the time to speak to me I would have told them about our ongoing work with many Victims of ADF Abuse.

I would have spoken about our work with a number of Veterans who are,  or were in Custody.

I might have told the minister that one of these Veterans who served in Afghanistan, and is now member of our Shed, is a lead candidate for  a part of the Grant to provide Higher Education.

But they didn’t ask.

Another  thing you need to realise is that our Shed is self funded.

We raise all of our own funds by selling kindling or  products made in our Shed or doing a lot of sausage sizzles.

One thing led to another and we did not get to talk about our work, while both he and Cossan were in Adelaide.

I thought that it was an error of judgement on both of their parts for them  not to speak, especially  being that I was one of the recipients of the Grant.

Rachel I think that I have made a pretty good and obvious case for your Department to take a bit more notice of us and our work than is done at present.

Just 2 more points.

I am critical of the lack of understanding of the work of our Shed, by specifically the Management of your department.

Several years ago I was honoured with an OAM for the work of our Shed in dealing with all of the Victims of ADF Abuse.

Not what you do it for but it is nice to be recognised by somebody.

Second is this .

Some 6 months ago I approached your  Deputy Commissioner in SA and spoke to her about our desire to set up a group in  SA  to support both current and former serving women from the ADF.

That was 6 months ago,

I still not have heard a word from her.

Since then we have formed our own group which is running along very well now in support of women who have served, but Australia wide.


I rest my case


Sorry about the long message but I felt that we have  a very good case  about the work of the William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed, which needed to  be heard.


Barry Heffernan  OAM

Shed Coordinator

William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed

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