This year, we’re committed to reaching more veterans and families impacted by service. Hear from our CEO, Troy Watson, about his vision for 2021 and our areas of growth.
After the challenges of 2020, I think it’s fair to say that many people headed into 2021 with a sense of hesitation. But, despite the unknowns of what this year will bring, we do know that support for veterans and their families cannot stop. Whether our lives return to a new normal, or we head back into lockdown at some point, we stand ready to support veterans and their families through every situation.
This year, more than ever, those in the wider Defence community need our support. Sadly, suicide rates among male veterans remain more than 18 per cent higher than the general population, and among female veterans, rates are over two times higher than Australian women. Mental health issues are also significantly higher. Many veterans and families are feeling increasingly isolated and need to know that there is somewhere to turn when they need support.
We are committed to meeting these needs and being a place of safety, understanding and support to those impacted by service. In 2020, demand for our services continued to grow, with the number of people joining Mates4Mates increasing by 21 per cent year on year. But with an estimated half a million veterans living in Australia, we know we’re still only scratching the surface of supporting those in need.
In 2021, to reach more people, we are investing resources into building a stronger online presence to ensure services are accessible to those living in more states and territories, and regional areas. We’ve also expanded our clinical team to meet the growing demand.
We will also continue to expand our physical footprint. First and foremost, our launch into the Northern Territory will see us move into a temporary location this year so we can deliver more services while we seek out a permanent location to open in 2022. We are also revisiting businesses cases for service sites in Ipswich and Cairns that were put on hold due to COVID-19. We will keep you informed on any new developments in those areas as the year progresses.
While expanding our digital and physical footprint is important – we can only do so much on our own. Which brings me to another focus of 2021 – collaboration. While it might sound like just another buzz word, it’s a crucial one. By continuing to work with other like-minded ex-service organisations, we can provide a more comprehensive and streamlined support network for the Defence community.
This year, we will continue working closely with organisations like RSL Queensland (who continue to generously support us) by aligning our future service delivery plans and looking at shared physical service areas in Centres as an example. These small changes will make a significant difference in the lives of veterans and their families. Siloed organisations can only achieve so much – but together, we can save more lives.
I’m conscious that every decision we make needs to be based on the question – will this provide a better outcome for veterans and their families? And when it comes to expanding our footprint, launching more online services, and partnering with other ex-service organisations that share common values, then the answer is yes.
Thank you for your continued support. We couldn’t do what we do without you – our veterans, supporters, donors, fundraisers and community members.
If last year taught us anything, it’s how to adapt and grow, build resilience and carry on despite the challenges. We will be taking these lessons into 2021 and building on them to better support our Defence community.