The William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed: the past, the present and our direction for the future of our project.
The Vets’ Shed here in Glenelg has now been operating for nearly four years more in the role of an advocacy program rather than a Shed which it now is.
How did we occur?
The idea of a Shed to cater not only for Veterans but as a point where anyone whoever wore the uniform this country came into being through several Vietnam Veterans who thought that there needed to be life after pensions were provided to those who served.
In other words we were disappointed in the lack of 'after sales service' on a wider basis than was previously provided.
We approached the Australian Men’s Shed Association who availed us of their support for our program.
While there are over 1000 sheds in Australia some of whom have Veterans as members, the proposed William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed was to be the first Shed to be set up in this country to cater specifically for those who either served in an operation area or who served only in Australia.
Our Shed adopted the features of the Association such as Occupational Health and Safety and then set about looking to have a Shed built.
The rest is history.
We had an offer from a Vietnam Veteran to pay for any Shed to the value of $40K which was gratefully accepted and so the building eventually was completed.
How is our development progressing?
Initially we have attracted an older group of ex servicemen and Veterans who have banded together and are currently setting up this Shed in terms of sorting out all of the tools and equipment which had been donated.
Our members are also building benches from new and recycled timber and I can say that these are very solid and professional looking products.
Through all of this we are now being approached by an increasing number of younger Veterans and ex service personnel who are interested in becoming part of our program for a number of reasons and who are looking for our type of support since leaving the ADF.
The first is as a bonding process.
Irrespective of age differences there is a bond between us all and their willingness to join in the various programs is refreshing to say the least.
More recently we have been approached by a number of former female ex service personnel who have heard of the Shed’s work and that is another pleasing aspect to our program.
The aim of this project has never been to 'just repair chairs'. It's to help repair people.
The other side of what we do...
Although the idea of this program came with a view to providing those who served and wore the country's uniform with an 'after sales service', we were attracted to provide support for a group of less fortunate former men and women and they were the huge group who suffered much physical and mental abuse during their service with the ADF irrespective of how far back in time. These attacks occurred.
This aspect to our work arose when we were approached by a former Junior Rating who served at HMAS Leeuwin back in 1971 as a 15 year old recruit.
This man now 59 years of age, claimed that he had suffered serious sexual assault and rape at this establishment, and had suffered throughout the remainder of his life.
In short, we spoke to the Veterans Affairs Department who claimed that the incident had not been reported so no claim could be made on them.
We approached Senator Nick Xenophon who acted in this man’s interest by making the matter public and to our dismay we had some 149 ex service personnel coming forward to report similar incidents.
Since then our group has been dealing with a steady flow of victims of ADF Abuse and through all of this much money having been spent on reports and a Senate Inquiry being set up and a Task Force ( the DART, The Defence Abuse Response Task Force) being implemented to allow victims to have their abuses recognised.
Unfortunately this has not stemmed the flow of victims still coming forward to seek support from our Organisation.
We have dealt this day with over 300 victims of ADF Abuse in some form or other and continue to hear from later victims of ADF abuse.
We are able to provide legal, political medical and psychological support from our network but as much as we do each day brings with it some new sadness.
The Wlliam Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed has expanded it’s network by introducing now, five victims of ADF abuse who, to help themselves, are communicating with other victims of ADF abuse, with seemingly good results, a fact that we at the Shed are immensely proud of.
It should be noted by the reader that all who are part of the William Kibby VC veterans’ Shed are either Veterans or former serving personnel and volunteers and do this work because they see the necessity to support these former members of the ADF who have suffered dreadful abuses.
So where to from here?
The agenda of the Shed is to cater to the numbers of former men and women from the ADF who look to us for some sort of support, whether it be medical legal, psychological or just pensions.
Our equally most important age agenda is to address those former ADF personnel, who have lived their lives in fear and darkness, a sad result of either a distinct lack of proper leadership, protection and support, or just mass unreported bullying and brutality.
We at the Shed know categorically that it is all of those.
We vow to continue to advocate and assist those who cannot stand up for themselves.
Sadly we are very aware of the scourge that Mental Health issues provide all those who have served or in some cases those who still serve.
We are also painfully aware of an increasing suicide rate and without attempting to sound outrageous we are seeing these problems first hand
The William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed was recently approached by the Department for Veterans Affairs and told that our website indicated that in essence 'we were the best in Australia at what we do'.
A nice vote, we thought.
The Department went on to say that they would like our group to provide Rehabilitation to the young men and women who are leaving the ADF, specifically in South Australia.
Of course we jumped at the chance but it has obviously to be at the Department’s expense, because it should be noted that our group RECEIVES NOT A CENT FROM EITHER FEDERAL OR STATE COFFERS to do the work we believe governments should be crawling over themselves to assist us in providing.
We are excited to be involved in this field because i will give us the chance to hopefully aim those we deal with to maybe areas of employment where they envisaged being.
There is a long way to go here and a lot of work is ahead of us. The reader should also be aware that with those leaving the ADF there will always be the problems developing where Mental Health issues become a large problem.
As part of our network we can hopefully address some of these issues as well.
Now last but certainly not least is a fact that we are very proud of.
With a view to the future and the acceptance the William Kibby VC Veteran’s Shed has had with9n South Australia, we are now well on the way to planning both Sheds 2 and 3 to be set up both in Victoria and NSW and which will operate very much along the same lines as the 'Mother Ship'.
We see the need to support those who need support and require a “place to go” where they can bond and be part of a team.
So how can help us?
We need support.
There are no two ways about that and as we have stated before the only funds we raise are either by a sausage sizzle once a week at the Shed at Glenelg North, or by some private donations.
We need ongoing funds to exist and support those who served and in many cases suffered dreadful abuses and cannot who help themselves, or just to buy equipment for the Shed. Your support will be gratefully received and well used.
It should also be remembered that our Shed and other Sheds which we will build in the future, are and will be alcohol and substance free.
We recognise that too many existing problems can be caused and rekindled by this use.
Thank you for reading this testimonial.
The members of the William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed are very grateful for your time.
Should you wish to learn more about our project please do not hesitate to contact us either by email or by the website.