Talking about war, returning soldiers and the veteran experience: A Morning Conversation with David Elliott, Minister for Veteran Affairs

On Tuesday 7 November, Affinity Intercultural Foundation continued their popular Morning Conversation lecture series, with a conversation between David Elliott MP, Minister for Counter Terrorism, Emergency Services and Veteran Affairs and Catalina Florez, Senior Journalist from Channel Ten.

The morning kicked off with a special ney performance from Furkan Cicek before David and Catalina delved into the topic of Veteran Affairs. The Minister shared how growing up in a working-class family in Bankstown helped shaped his career – from a young age, he was fascinated by war museums and memorials, which led him to begin a career in the army.

“I thought my mum was an enlightened woman – she is an enlightened woman – for taking me to all these museums and art galleries, but it turns out she took me because they were free to visit!” Minister Elliott laughed.

The Minister described this firsthand experience serving in the Australian army as the “perfect apprenticeship” for his current role as the Minister for Veteran Affairs.

He believes this experience allows him to understand the needs and support structures that are necessary for modern Australian soldiers.

“For soldiers, moral depends on how much support they receive from home.” he said.

In regards to supporting veterans and returning soldiers, the Minister highlighted the government’s employment programs, which have helped returning soldiers transition back into civilian life.

‘The government has implemented veteran employment programs that have placed returning soldiers back into employment,” he said.

“The vast majority of soldiers return to a military post, and there have been occasions when post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) does occur…but it’s hard to tell the exact rate at which soldiers experience PTSD, as it may take years for soldiers to share their experience.”

The Minister also highlighted the importance of diversity within the armed services, stating that, “the modern army of today is becoming reflective of Australian society…when you join the military, all your differences are broken down; existing prejudices gradually break away.”

He further added that, “the ANZAC spirit of courage, conviction, discipline, education and tolerance is important in the modern Australian army.”

The Minister concluded his insightful talk by sharing fond memories of his most recent trip to commemorate the Centenary of the Battle of Beersheba in Israel.