New National Centre for Veterans’ Healthcare welcomed by servicemen and women
As a finance officer posted to the Australian Headquarters Joint Operations Command near Canberra, Major Andrew Lam would frequently walk past a memorial dedicated to men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. One name stood out: Lieutenant Michael Fussell.
Lieutenant Fussell, a 25-year-old from the Sydney-based 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando), was serving with the Special Operations Task Group when he was killed in action by an Improvised Explosive Device while conducting a dismounted patrol in Uruzgan province in 2008.
The people listed on the memorial lost their lives in across all facets of service in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) whether combat or peacekeeping operations, humanitarian missions or on exercises at home or abroad.
Major Lam (pictured with the Centre’s Chair Colonel Professor Bob Lusby) served in the Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and Iraq. Each deployment was different: some involving peacekeeping missions, others discrete combat operations. Major Lam said he remembers the vast majority of people he has served with and has witnessed the difficulties some have faced when they return to civilian life.
“It is part of serving for your country,” he said. “A mate never forgets a mate, and on deployment, your mate becomes your extended family.”
Major Lam welcomed the new National Centre for Veterans’ Healthcare, which opened at Concord Repatriation General Hospital last month.
“A service like the National Centre for Veterans’ could be a game changer for many of our veterans,” he said.
The new comprehensive care centre for former ADF personnel will be Australia’s first and offers specialist physical and mental healthcare services for returned servicemen and women and their families in one location.
“I know that some people on deployment find it hard to re-adjust to the world back home. Sadly some never do,” Major Lam said.
“Unfortunately some veterans slip through the cracks, others are too proud to seek help. Many recover physically from their injuries, but mentally the scars remain.”
The Centre will combine the skills of specialist health professionals across psychology, psychiatry, drug health, pain and rehabilitation medicine, physiotherapy, exercise physiology, dietetics, occupational therapy, diversional therapy, social work and peer support.
“I count myself as a lucky one, but I too required a period of adjustment with all my returns. I even had to leave home for a while because I couldn’t sleep as it was too quiet compared to where I had been deployed to. Luckily I had accommodation which was closer to a freeway and welcomed the noise of semi-trailers flying past as part of re-integrating back home,” he said.
Concord Hospital has a proud history of looking after our nation’s military and veteran community. The National Centre for Veterans’ Healthcare will move into a dedicated space in the new Clinical Services Building, part of the $341.2 million redevelopment of Concord Hospital.
To ensure veterans and their families from regional and rural areas, and interstate, can access the Centre, the District is building purpose-built residential accommodation, known as Fussell House. This will allow veterans and their families can stay onsite while the veteran accesses the Centre.
Major Lam said it was vital spouses and carers are seen as an important part of care planning and treatment.
“I have a good support network. At the core of it is my wife Stefanie and my family. Family support is essential in all facets of service life whether it is at home or abroad. For an initiative like Fussell House to allow families to be close to any ex-serviceman or woman whilst they are receiving treatment is so important.”
Major Lam is a reservist in the ADF with his primary employment being an investigator with the NSW Police Force.