The Oh-So-Woke Department of Veterans Affairs

I am a client of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) and, as far as I’m concerned, they do a pretty good job.  In fact, I’ve never had a complaint, but then I’m fortunate in suffering no major problems.

However, following the release of the infamous Brereton Report, the DVA – and indeed the Defence Department – came in for a lot of criticism from families of veterans who have taken their own lives.  I daresay some of this criticism was justified since DVA is, after all, a bureaucracy and all that implies. But I think much of it was misguided — there is only so much anyone can do to help someone determined to end their life. 

We are told that 500 veterans committed suicide in the last ten years and these are overwhelmingly non-serving.  That puts them in a cohort of about 60,000 people, and about 6,000 people leave Defence each year, I believe.  That is an astonishingly high rate of suicide – about four times that of the general population and much higher, I believe, than in previous wars.  It would be interesting to know the correlation between these deaths and multiple deployments because operational intensity is the only reason I can think of that might explain this.

The survivors of many, if not most, veteran suicides talk of feeling let down by Defence.  This is understandable but probably in most cases, unfair.  There is much I find disturbing about current trends in the military, but I doubt that lack of concern for the welfare of members past and present is a systemic failure.  But there is no doubt that if this deplorable rate of suicide is to be brought under control, action must rest initially and overwhelmingly with the Department of Defence and DVA.  But underpinning whatever programs are put in place – and there are many – is buy-in from the veterans.  It is crucial.

However, it seems to me that the Department of Veterans Affairs goes out of its way to alienate that client base.  A recent communication which signed off with coda reproduced below certainly offended me.

 Just to save you the trouble of looking it up, the last flag on the right is the ‘trans pride’ flag.  It’s hard to think of a woke meme these bureaucrats have overlooked.  All that is lacking is the writer’s pronouns. 

I have a suggestion for the Department for something more appropriate:

Those responsible for the current travesty would do well to study long and hard the last photo on the right. Here’s a closeup for their further study:


27 thoughts on “The Oh-So-Woke Department of Veterans Affairs

  • Daffy says:

    I can understand fringe NGOs acknowledging Aboriginal Australians (just); but government agencies should be completely removed from these puerile, anachronistic social gestures. In fact, the suggested e-mail footer should be on all government emails on Anzac day and Armistice day. I’ll put it on mine, too.

    On other days, they might pay their respects to the long exploited taxpayer who funds their empty frolics.

  • DougD says:

    I think Defence Minister Dutton banned rainbow cup cake morning teas on diversity celebration days at military barracks. But dealing with our defence bureaucrats requires eternal vigilance.

  • March says:

    I’m demanding a white flag be added to give notice of our pre-emptive surrender to any incoming force.

  • lbloveday says:

    Am I the only reader who did not know the middle flag?

  • restt says:

    This rubbish has to stop. Respect elders “past” for a brutal misogynistic culture which involves woman slavery, infanticide and senicide. How is that possible in the free modern world we would respect a Stone Age primitive irrelevant culture that is best lost in the darkness of time.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    I also am a client of Veterans Affairs, and my experience of years pursuing TPI status for an undeniably Service-caused disability would fill a thick book. My own file is more than 10 cms thick. In the end, I appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal where, after a hearing of no more than 10 minutes, the Tribunal ordered DVA to grant my application.
    I was a very experienced senior RAAF personnel staff officer well capable of navigating complex bureaucratic mazes in the Defence Department. We Service personnel have all experienced varying degrees of administrative FUBARS in our own Service, particularly at base level where inexperienced people struggle with complex regulations and Orders. The old saying about orders being for the guidance of the wise and the blind obedience of fools is particularly apt.
    But never in my time in Defence had I ever experienced anything approaching the sheer bloody-minded obstructionist incompetence that I encountered in DVA. It does not surprise me in the least that veterans have been driven to taking their own lives in frustration. It also doesn’t surprise me that woke nonsense is given priority at DVA.

  • ChrisPer says:

    The middle flag is apparently TI. When I saw it, I concluded it was a browneye at the rest of Australia.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    That is always what it makes me think of too. I thought it was just me. Thank God I’m not a sicko – unless we both are?

  • Sindri says:

    Wonderful that they “also” acknowledge the veterans . . .

  • Macbeth says:

    DVA has ben very helpful to me. I’m a WW2 veteran and about to enter (with a little bit of luck) my 100th year.
    In the last few years have had a number of health setbacks and needed surgery and after care. A DVA rep regularly calls me to ask if I am OK. I haven’t experienced any difficulty in receiving medical or therapy services.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    Macbeth, congratulations on your advanced age, 99 not out is a great achievement.
    Since my TPI status was approved, DVA have been faultless. The problem is not with the service providers. They are excellent. The problem lies with the bureaucracy that processes eligibility applications. They are indescribably hopeless.
    Just one example to demonstrate the problem. I am profoundly deaf from jet aircraft noise. I could not then use a telephone, an essential tool in my job as an air traffic controller and, later, as an administrator.
    While processing my application, a DVA clerk telephoned to clarify some point. My wife answered the phone and explained the hearing problem to the woman and asked her to put the questions in writing and either mail them to me or email them. She also asked that my file be clearly marked that I must not be contacted by telephone.
    So, in due course I received a letter. I replied with the requested information, reiterating that I should not be contacted by telephone. A few days later, the same clerk telephoned with more questions. Rinse and repeat – several times.
    In due course, my application was not approved.
    I won’t bore people with the several futile appeals within the system, but the process took many months. That the AAT could overturn the decision in barely 10 minutes says it all.
    But the service providers are excellent, clearly a whole other part of the organisation.
    I might add here, as an experienced bureaucrat myself, the telephone is not your friend when dealing with any bureaucracy. Insist that everything be put into writing and always respond in writing, keeping copies of everything, and keep careful diary notes of personal discussions.

  • pgang says:

    I suggest that the general lack of interest or care from the public about what our servivemen are doing might also feed into a sense of isolation for these people. Australia is completely detached from reality and nobody cares about what our
    armed services are doing.

  • PeterS says:

    I have found DVA in Victoria very helpful. The only time things get complex is when certain issues are dealt with on a decentralised basis so I’ve had dealings in Brisbane and Adelaide. As for your complaint Peter I too am appalled. None of these issues were even relevant when I served and when the majority of veterans served. Does the department not realise what it’s constituency is? It’s probably the overwhelmingly most conservative constituency in Australia. It’s all very well to keep up with the woke population I suggest that Veterans are not part of that population and all sub texts like that which you mention would be anathema to the vast majority of us.

  • Salvatore Babones says:

    Thanks for your article — and for your service.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Thank you Salvatore

  • Blair says:

    How can Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders born in the last 100 years be First Peoples? Their ancestors perhaps. And what part of Australia are they currently “taking care of or protecting”?

  • Claude James says:

    The public services, Federal, State, Territory, Council level, are minimum 80% staffed and managed by leftists -Big Woke, marxist-inspired. This obviously includes the education and legal systems, and the ABS and SBS.
    The people who formed the Australian Consitution did not imagine it would all come to this-
    -that the place would be dominated/controlled by parasitic anti-Westernists who are fed, housed, clothed, medicated by a fast-declining number of nett wealth-creators and by governments borrowing and printing money.
    But here we are.

  • Lawrie Ayres says:

    I am always impressed by the respect shown in the US to members past and present of the services. Old soldiers are often referred to by their rank on even the most left wing media outlets. By comparison soldiers here are treated with disdain. I believe the difference is that so many Americans have served at some stage of their lives so there is an understanding of the military and a recognition of achievement. Among ex servicemen their is a respect for rank that civilians do not understand. They equate a colonel with the store manager with no appreciation of the effort required to reach the rank and the responsibility that the Army gives a person holding that rank. The same could be said for any NCO particularly senior NCOs. The worst offenders are members of the media who we have seen love to belittle soldiers. I can never picture some of those scurrilous reporters donning an uniform let alone defending our country.

  • whitelaughter says:

    I haven’t looked at more recent reports, but according to the 2018 report, DVA had 1885 staff.
    Doesn’t sound unreasonable, until you look at the breakdown:
    459 executive officers!
    484 level 6 – that’s the level that when I was in the service would head a regional office.
    30 Senior executives.
    but only 3 doctors.

    A severe pruning of the upper levels would solve most problems

  • rlockett says:

    Our family experience in dealing with DVA was a mixed bag.
    My father in law was ex-RAAF serving in RAF bomber command. Entitled to a Gold card along with his spouse. DVA could not have been more responsive – excellent handling of all health related issue for both especially after the wife was widowed.
    My brother – ex-RAAF active flying in Vietnam was not entitled to a Gold card as were all other Viet vets unless there were exceptional circumstances as I understand it.
    However, my brother and one his ex- Army friends (both senior officers in their day) took it upon themselves to represent the aged WWII & Korea vets who possessed neither the resources nor experience to negotiate with the DVA bureaucracy.
    As I recall, my brother would usually open with a question to the thirty-something bureaucrat with a question about the details of the respective theater/battle in which the vet had participated. The response was typically a blank stare or non descriptive mumble. Hardly empathy provokig.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    Lawrie, I was born in 1940, and my father served in the RAAF during WWII. But so did most other people’s fathers and/or older brothers, in one or other of the armed forces. Only those medically unfit or in protected occupations were the exceptions. At that time, few families existed that had not already lost at least one member in the butchery of WWI. Thus, the knowledge and deep understanding of the nature of military service permeated the entire community. This understanding persisted through the Korean War, but had attenuated to some extent by the time of the Malaya Emergency and had dissipated almost entirely by the time of our involvement in the Vietnam War.
    With the leftist colonisation of our education and cultural institutions, the rot has really infested the younger generations, particularly journalists, many if not most of whom hold the ADF and its members in total contempt – a contempt borne of wilful ignorance.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    America certainly has a very different culture when it comes to recognition of military service. Everywhere there are signs offering servicemen and women various privileges and discounts. It is a constant ‘thank you’ and must make many service personnel proud. Nevertheless, there are complaints about American bureaucrats being similarly uncaring and dismissive as those here in Australia.
    Has anyone informed Peter Dutton of this ridiculous posturing at the end of DVA letters, where the replacement suggeested above should immediately be instituted?

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Hello there, Macbeth. You and I have met on another site and it is great to see you heading up to that century and still reading and contributing to Quadrant.

  • Solo says:

    I hate to break to the author, but almost all government agencies have something very similar at the bottom of all email correspondence. The only thing that is missing is in the signature line, the person’s pronouns (he/him etc). Totally ridiculous of course, but this is clown world after all.

  • Macbeth says:

    Thank you Lizzie. I always enjoy your pieces here. I cannot contribute much these days., but that matters little in the scheme of things. Time almost up anyway, I think.

  • Robinoz says:

    I’m also a DVA client, and an ex-Australian Public Servant. I agree with Peter’s commentary entirely.
    Government departments and agencies seem hellbent on picking up and promoting every woke, so-called “progressive” idea that occurs in someone’s imagination. It would be better for all of us if they would simply focus on their various, important core functions and let the rest of us decide if we wish to promote whatever nonsense appears in the media.

  • 1735099 says:

    First of all – the term “woke” originated from across the Pacific, and is irrelevant in this country. Secondly, what the DVA (and any other bureaucracy) puts on their letterhead is of very little consequence.
    What matters is how the agency meets its stated goal. My gold card displays the following motif “for what they have done, this we will do”.
    I have received great support after I received the card, but fighting the battle to get my service related conditions accepted was a five year struggle, won with the assistance of a determined and competent advocate.
    The most amusing aspect of O’Brien’s Spectator article is criticism of a slogan on a letterhead, rather than targeting the whole foundation of the organisation. Given the article’s appearance in this august right wing journal, it is surprising that O’Brien neglects to make any criticism of DVA’s raison d’etre, which is based on a solidly socialist principle – that of supporting a minority (albeit a deserving one) with taxpayer funding. The irony is stark.

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