Soldiers need help, not monuments

Anzac Day is extremely important in the Australian psyche and allows us a chance to remember all of those who gave their lives in the service of our country.

However, a $500-million expansion of the Australian War Memorial has drawn criticism for wasting money that would be better spent on rehabilitating soldiers battling the mental demons they often bring back from war zones.

Commentator Paul Daley, writing for The Guardian, explains that not even Germany or Great Britain have spent as much money as Australia in commemorating World War I.

“From 2014 to 2028, when the (still sketchy) proposed war memorial addition would be funded, Australia will have committed or spent at least $1.1 billon (in today’s terms) on new war commemoration projects, presumably excluding recurrent funding of the memorial itself,” Mr Daley writes in his column.

“This money would surely be far better spent on the living, not least the many hundreds of veterans, their partners and children, whose suffering is compounded by their struggles to win medical acknowledgment of, and government compensation for, service-related injury.”

Earlier this month, the government released the findings of research into how being in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) impacts the lives of military personnel.

It found that people leaving the ADF have much higher rates of mental disorders like anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and drug and alcohol dependence.

Nearly half (46 per cent) of veterans who left the ADF within five years experienced a mental disorder, the report said.

The most common problem is anxiety, with one in three veterans saying they experienced symptoms. The other common illnesses were post-traumatic stress disorder (nearly 18 per cent), panic attacks (17 per cent) and depression (nearly 12 per cent).

One in five veterans had experienced suicidal thoughts, plans or attempts, the report found.

The report also found that nearly 13 per cent of returned service personnel were drinking at dangerous levels.

What do you think? Should the Government spend more money on the health and wellbeing of soldiers and former soldiers, or build more monuments commemorating their sacrifice?

The Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) provides free and confidential counselling and support for current and former ADF members and their families. They can be reached 24/7 on 1800 011 046 or visit the VVCS website for more information.

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Written by Ben

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