Concerns over veterans' privacy

VIETNAM veterans are urging the government to learn from the past, following changes to the way veteran counselling services are accessed.

Launceston's Veterans' and Veterans' Family Counselling Service was moved from a dedicated Newstead office to an inner-city business centre on the corner of George and Cameron streets earlier this year.

No funding was removed and the service still offers one full- time counsellor. Another counsellor operates from Devonport.

Vietnam veteran Bob Fitz said returned soldiers who were hesitant to access the service were now less likely to try.

The Riverside man, who is heavily involved in the veteran community, said it was unfortunate veterans often had to talk to a general receptionist before reaching the counselling service.

"People are having experiences in the ADF which are as bad as being in a war zone," Mr Fitz said.

"They're at risk of suicide, parental abuse, domestic violence and drugs, as some Vietnam veterans went through."

Vietnam Veterans' Association state president Brian Harper said the organisation had little contact with the Department of Veterans' Affairs before the move and learned of final changes via a media release.

"When they moved they downgraded everything, they changed the ethos of the place," he said.

"We haven't tested the water yet but we are very concerned it's not as private as it used to be.

"We have quite a few veterans who are not well at all and that's why we need to communicate with each other."

Bass MHR Andrew Nikolic said he was confident the service was performing at the same standard and was just as well-utilised.

He said he had several discussions with veterans before the changes.

"These sensitivities are absolutely front of mind ... As a veteran myself I thought I absolutely had to be sensitive to those needs."

•VVCS and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling by calling 1800011046.


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