September 30, 2019


A new project funded by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) has found that around 5,800 veterans are homeless in Australia.

The research, released by the Homelessness Amongst Australian Veterans research project, has based its findings on a survey of 4,326 ex-service personnel who left the ADF over a five-year period.

The definitions of homelessness are based on Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) classifications and include those without shelter, those who are couch-surfing, or who are in emergency accommodation or shelters.

Their figure was calculated using a particular methodology which determined that out of a veteran population of 108,825 there were 5,767 homeless veterans within a 12-month period.

These findings indicate that veterans are more likely to become homeless than any other Australians and the rate of those designated so is much higher than previously believed.

Given that the terms of reference for the research project extended no further than extrapolating an overall number of homeless veterans presumably the causes of veteran homelessness are yet to be explored. Or, maybe not.

It is safe to say those who’ve been involved in engagements or demanding missions could well be suffering PTSD. Others may simply be falling on that historical scrapheap reserved for veterans.

This is nothing new. If one thinks about Queen Elizabeth 1 and her navy’s glorious defeat of the Spanish armada it’s perhaps disconcerting to know that history also records those heroic sailors mostly ended up destitute and unwanted.

While we venerate as heroes our servicemen, it’s also a fact that we prefer to honour them out of sight, except on special days of the year, such as Anzac Day.

No political capital exists in arguing for veteran rights, or for services for veterans, which monitor their health and wellbeing once they have served their country.

The horrific disregard for our Vietnam veterans was one case in point, but this seems to be the nature of our profit-driven, liberal-leaning society.

A famous book that escapes this author’s memory contained a scene that wasn’t so easily forgotten. It summed up this callous civilian aversion most existentially. The book is set during World War 2 and during a scene in a London nightclub, the story’s protagonist describes how among the patrons were RAF pilots disfigured from combat, their faces melted in part.

In what can only have been an autobiographical moment the author recounts how one of the civilian women, partying through all of this and repelled by the servicemen’s appearance, can be overheard saying something to the effect that, “They shouldn’t let them out looking like that.”

Alas, for the majority of those homeless veterans, their disfigurement is not without but within.

The narrative is multilayered, since none of our vets since World War 2, returning from New Guinea and the Pacific, sustained their injuries in the service of their country, but rather supporting a system which their country subscribes to. Their wounds, both deep and superficial, have come in service to a foreign power for foreign interests and are usually rewarded with a big fat nothing.

This is the reality of ‘heroism’, which under these conditions, is a jingoistic construct made to appeal to the best so that they may fall for the sake of the least worthy; and for nebulous reasons.


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