JACQUI LAMBIE
JACQUI LAMBIE

Defence families turned away at Lambie, Katter info session

DEFENCE families have been turned away from a forum dedicated to a veteran suicide crisis and other underlying issues, as Jacqui Lambie's information sessions turn into a fiasco.

The families were shut-out of the meeting at the Townsville RSL and were told there would be other opportunities to meet with Senator Lambie, Federal MP Bob Katter and Voice of Veteran founder Heston Russell.

"The RSL forum was meant to be open to all veterans and families," Mr Russell said.

"I got contacted by a number of veterans that they were 'not allowed' to come to the RSL because the President said it was only those he approved.

"Providing hope and then taking that away is even more destructive.

"It has been disgusting to see how much of a rift there is between the RSL sub branch and residents."

 

 

Former special forces veteran and founder of Voice of a Veteran Heston Russell Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Former special forces veteran and founder of Voice of a Veteran Heston Russell Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Mr Russell, a former special forces officer spoke out against the handling of the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force's (IGADF) long-running investigation recommended 19 current and former soldiers be investigated by police for the murder of 39 civilians and prisoners in Afghanistan and the "cruel treatment" of two others.

The ex-special forces platoon commander has rejected allegations his platoon executed an Afghan prisoner following an ABC interview with US Marine who worked closely with Australian soldiers in Afghanistan said he witnessed the murder of an unarmed civilian in 2012.

 

 

 

Senator Jacqui Lambie with former special forces veteran and founder of Voice of a Veteran Heston Russell about the Brereton Report in Parliament House, Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Senator Jacqui Lambie with former special forces veteran and founder of Voice of a Veteran Heston Russell about the Brereton Report in Parliament House, Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Mr Russell said he wanted to use recent media attention to draw focus on the mental health concerns of veterans and was the purpose of his trip to Townsville alongside Jacqui Lambie.

Townsville RSL President Bill Whitburn confirmed the Monday morning forum was attended by external service organisations (ESO's) only.

Numerous sources told the Bulletin defence families turned up to the event in hope of attending before being told they weren't allowed inside the closed door meeting.

Ensuring privacy and confidentiality was the reason for the decision, Mr Whitburn told the Bulletin.

"I went and spoke to a couple of people and said 'look we're running for about an hour and they would be more than welcome to hang around and talk to Jacqui afterwards', which they did," Mr Whitburn said.

"I know there was a meeting open to families at Bob Katter's office following.

"I'm just hopeful that those people that wanted to talk to Jacqui over the next couple days get the chance to."

Retired Colonel Ray Martin said anyone who was not representing a veterans organisation or association was asked to leave.

Mr Martin is a Project Manager for Operation Compass, a suicide prevention program, "veterans activist", and team member of The Oasis Townsville, a veterans support hub funded by state and federal funding.

"I actually went as a veteran, I went there as Ray Martin," he said.

"I had a person sitting beside me that wasn't an ESO member and they just stayed as I would have also.

"There was a sense of frustration that a lot of these issues have been raised before, there's no doubt about that.

"To me there was no firm agenda, it was two politicians in town trying to get a feel for the voice on the ground, there was collective disappointment around a lack of urgency surrounding veterans issues."

A spokesman for Bob Katter said the event change was due to a "miscommunication".

Senator Lambie was contacted for comment.

 

 

kate.banville@news.com.au

Originally published as Defence families turned away from Lambie, Katter info session


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