The health and wellbeing of veterans on the South Coast will receive a much-needed increase in local benefits with the new Veteran Wellbeing Centre in Nowra, which opens Monday, May 10.
The first of its kind in the nation, the centre will connect veterans and their families to a range of core services providing support for transition, employment, health, housing and social connection.
Veteran Support Coordinator for RSL LifeCare Kane Hall knows first-hand how important having a "one-stop-shop" service directory is for veterans facing hardship.
"I served in Afghanistan for four and a half years and ended up coming home with PTSD. A few years after I got home, Gracie my support dog was donated to me from the Royal Society of the Blind Australia through their Operation Canine program," said Mr Hall.
"Day to day, she provides companionship and the most important thing is that she's really helped me open up. I was closed up and didn't feel a lot, so over the last couple of years she's really helped with that.
"There are a lot of fractured services out there, they offer great services but veterans aren't aware of them.
"So to bring them into the one spot or even to just have a team of people that can direct them where to go who have the knowledge can help a lot for people who are battling ill mental health, or are going through addiction or other hardship."
While the centre is in a temporary location at 19 Nowra Lane, the process of building the new centre at 124 Wallace Street is underway.
The first occupants of the temporary location will include Open Arms Veterans & Families Counselling, RSL LifeCare Veteran Services and Veteran Sport Australia.
General Manager for Veteran Services Nicki Young said LifeCare consulted with the veteran community about services that would best suit their needs.
"We're responding to what the community wants from the centre. We started with community engagement activities about 15 months ago which is where we came up with the concept of the one-stop shop," she said.
"So we'll have a directory of services for all of the ex-services and community facilities people can access themselves. We'll also have case management roles for people to sit down and help them, especially if they're transitioning, to help them find their feet on the other side."
New South Wales Minister for Veterans Geoff Lee also emphasised the importance of having a centre with a variety of services.
"The NSW government did a big survey with over 2,000 respondents and 16 workshops across the state, and one thing that kept coming up was that people didn't know what services were available," said Mr Lee.
"Having them all in the one place will be extremely beneficial."
The Commonwealth government committed $5 million to the Nowra Veterans Wellbeing Centre, as a part of the $30 million to develop a network of six Veteran Wellbeing Centres across Australia in partnership with ex-service organisations (ESOs) and state and territory Governments.
For more information about the Veteran Wellbeing Centres, visit the DVA website www.dva.gov.au/wellbeing-centres.
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