Warrnambool’s RSL has been overwhelmed by the generosity towards its annual Anzac Day appeal, but it says they need to raise at least another $40,000 to help the growing number of veterans in crisis.
RSL president John Miles said the $32,900 raised in April, along with almost $30,000 from their annual Remembrance Day appeal was about $40,000 shy of the $100,000 he estimated they need.
RSL services support coordinator Deidre Bidmade said since the veteran support service opened at the Warrnambool RSL in 2016, there had been an increasingly high level of demand for services.
Between February and April this year, the centre received 470 inquiries from veterans which included both phone calls and people walking through the door.
In just over two years, the number of recently serving veterans – such as those who served in Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq – accessing the service and jumped from just four or five to 110, she said.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 766 veterans as well as 882 dependents, in the Wannon electorate who were eligible for compensation, income support or treatment.
Mr Miles said the RSL was very happy with the amount raised during the Anzac Day appeal where volunteers were stationed on Koroit Street and at Gateway Plaza.
“The support we get from our members and the general public for our RSL appeals, it’s just overwhelming,” he said.
There’s so much suffering out there in these veterans. They come back and people see physical injuries but they can’t see the mental injuries and that’s the big one.
RSL president John Miles
He said many of those who purchased badges would also simply hand over $50 notes as a donation.
“All that money raised goes to assist veterans and their dependents,” Mr Miles said.
“All that money is spent here in Warrnambool.”
Mr Miles said the funds helped pay the utility bills or provide food and petrol vouchers for veterans who get into financial trouble.
“Someone could be behind on their rent, we can help them with that. There’s a wide variety of things that we do with that money,” he said.
“If we run out of money in our welfare account, all we have to do is ring Anzac House in Melbourne and they’ll top us up out of the general fund.”
Mr Miles said more and more younger veterans were accessing the veteran’s support centre.
“It’s really kicked off in the last 12 to 18 months,” he said.
“It’s far exceeded the expectations that I had with the amount of people coming in looking for help.
A lot of them are in awful sort of trouble. They’ve seen some pretty horrific things.
“A lot of them are in awful sort of trouble. They’ve seen some pretty horrific things.
“Some of them are just coming in looking for a chat. That’s what we’re there for.”
Mr Miles said the commercial side of the RSL helped run the veteran’s support service, but the money raised from their appeals goes directly to the veterans.
“Without the commercial side of the business, the support centre just wouldn’t operate,” he said.
Mr Miles said veterans from Camperdown through to Portland were accessing the support services in Warrnambool.
He said many veterans returning from conflict zones were often forgotten.
“We can’t forget them. We’ve got to remember them,” he said.
“People forget about it, but the ones that were there don’t.
“There’s so much suffering out there in these veterans.
“They come back and people see physical injuries but they can’t see the mental injuries and that’s the big one.
“I’ve been through it myself. I understand what these veterans are going through.”
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