Giving the gift of gratitude as respite for veterans

Albany At Ease’s Veronique Derschow © Serena Kirby

There’s no doubt that a career in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) can be a rewarding one, but ADF personnel are often exposed to traumatic events during their time in the services. 

Research shows that this is resulting in high rates of mental health issues and physical injury amongst ADF personnel.

To help provide support for these veterans, a new respite program has been set up in WA’s Great Southern.

Called Albany At Ease the program’s coordinator, Veronique Derschow, says the program is modelled on a respite initiative originally established in Robe, South Australia.

“The program offers complimentary vacation respite packages to ADF veterans, members and families who are experiencing challenges as a result of their service,” Veronique says.

“We have just hosted our eighth family and the feedback from all participants has been humbling and poignant. One recent ADF veteran said: ‘it’s people like this community who make the dark days brighter’.”

The respite recipients are only those experiencing mental and physical health challenges and they’re referred to Albany At Ease by various veteran and veteran family support groups.

As there’s no shortage of veterans eligible for this type of program, Veronique is hoping businesses in the Great Southern will get behind it by donating vouchers and funds.

“Maybe someone has holiday accommodation they could offer up for a week or offer it to us at a discounted price as we’ve been given some funds from a number of generous organisations.”

And while the Albany At Ease program provides time for veterans and their families to switch off from these sorts of pressures and day-to-day life, it also provides the equally important gift of gratitude which links in with initial findings from the 2021 Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. 

The Commission’s final report isn’t due until later this year but it’s already identified ‘recognition of service and the unique nature of military service and its impacts’ as important factors. 

With that in mind Veronique says we: “should be thanking our veterans for their service and this project is a way of doing that.

“These people have sacrificed a lot to defend us and keep us safe. The least we can do is invite them down to Albany to thank them for their service.”

To support Albany At Ease contact Veronique on 0410 503 682.