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Veterans shun world-first study

A university study that will influence the way governments treat military people and their families for generations to come is in danger of failing to get off the ground.

Ten thousand veterans of the Vietnam war have been asked to participate, but most have ignored the request.

Another 10,000 national service people who didn’t leave Australia have largely failed to respond.

The study, the first of its kind in the world, needs at least 3000 people from each group to participate. On top of that it needs each group’s children to volunteer. Only the children of the Viet nam veterans have so far shown a willingness to do so.

Three returned soldiers have teamed up to make a plea to ex-service men and women to participate in the Inter Generational Health Effects of Service in the Military, also known as Family Health Study.

Two of the men are on the consultative forum advising the study.

Geoff Parker, a conscripted soldier of the 5th battalion, was in Vietnam for 12 months in 1969, and Dr Roderick Bain did three tours of duty.

Dr Bain said it was understandable and typical of veterans not to want to have anything much to do with the Department of Veterans Affairs, but he begged people to put those feelings aside.

The study applies to veterans who served overseas during the 1960s and ’70s as well as those in the military who remained in Australia.

Dr Bain said both groups were needed to prove that a soldier’s overseas service could contribute to that soldier’s family difficulties – be they his own, his wife’s, or his children’s or grandchildren’s.

“Much time and effort has been spent designing this study and to have it fail through lack of numbers will be a tragedy that reverberates throughout the whole country for many generations to come,’’ he said.

The study is being done by a university, not the department. Veterans Affairs sent out letters in May but the consultative forum was not formed until September.

“There are 10 of us on the forum determined to gain a useful result for those sons and daughters of military people, but we can do it only with the support of all those soldiers requested to be part of the study,’’ Dr Bain said.

“This invitation does not mean only those with some lasting difficulties. We need everyone to take part.’’

Geoff Parker said the study needed large numbers of participants to establish valid, reliable information on a range of conditions. “Your registration to participate is vital to understanding the intergenerational health affects of military service,’’ he said.

Children of Vietnam Veterans Study Inc president, David Mathieson, said the way forward was to work with the various research groups and the department to achieve the best outcome possible.

“To refuse, if requested, to even participate in the study is un worthy of any military person,’’ he said.

“Many have been through DVA studies and have felt uncomfortable about the outcomes. Please put those aside.

“This study is not just about us but the families of all future military families.’’ Details on 1800-502-302 or visit www.dva.gov.au/vvfs
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Rudd's Plan Stall's Rally Plan's

The one-off bonus for pensioners looks set to derail a rally planned for Sydney this month.

Organisers of the Fair Go for Pensioners Coalition in NSW admitted the Federal Government had taken the wind out of their sails with the announcement of an interim payment to pensioners before Christmas.

They were due to meet soon to decide whether to go ahead with a rally. They were realistic enough to realise grateful pensioners had quietened down, but concerned they would miss out on long term payments if they were fobbed off by the interim payment. Coalition members said the fight was not over.

Maurie Mifsud, spokesman for one of the many groups involved in the coalition, urged people not to lose their passion for the campaign for fundamental change to the base rate of the pension.

He said the $1400 interim payment would soon go and the underlying problems would remain. Victoria will go ahead with a rally in Melbourne on November 24, while a meeting will be held in Brisbane on November 26.

Organisers of the South Australian rally held soon after the interim bonus was announced said attendance was down on original expectations.

Rally speaker Patricia Reeve – who sits on the pension review reference group – urged pensioners to continue to campaign because the $30 to $35 being bandied about was not enough. She encouraged people to contact their local federal Member of Parliament and promote the Fair Go coalition.

Ms Reeve was one of the coalition members who were in Canberra lobbying for pension reform when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the pension bonuses.

The interim payment had been one of the coalition’s demands. Long term, it wants the base rate of the pension increased from 25 per cent to 35 per cent of the average male weekly wage.

Ms Reeve said it was ironic that it took a global financial crisis to get the bonus, but even more importantly the government for the first time had committed to a timetable for the long term solution.

Mr Rudd had said the long term solutions would be implemented in July of next year.
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Unsung Heroes Play vital part in youngsters lives

New research has confirmed what many Australian families already know and what many groups have long fought for – grandparents are unsung heroes and play an influential role in their grandchildren’s development. Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Aust ralian Children, commissioned by the Federal Government, measures children’s physical, learning and cognitive development as well as social and emotional functioning.

Its findings, released in late September, show that children between three and 19 months who are cared for by family and friends as well as their parents, have higher learning scores than those who receive care only from primary guardians.

Much of this extra care is provided by grandmothers and grandfathers. The research emphasised that grandparents are a strong support base for many families and that spending time with grandchildren, reading to them, cooking together, and taking them shopping are simple, everyday interactions that can make a big difference to children growing up.

More than 10,000 families with children took part in the study, which began in 2004 and involv ed inter views with each child and their family every two years. While many grandparents spend valuable time with their grandchildren, some are unable to do so.

Grandparents denied access to their grandchildren often face ongoing battles. The Council of Grand parents (COGS) and its chair Tracey Douglas have been working to put the spotlight on grandparents and the important role they play. She believes the study and its findings are very positive and a step in the right direction.

“These kind of studies are really important in backing up the work we’re doing,” Ms Douglas said.

“It’s a very good thing to have research, statistics and hard proof that grandparents are making a difference in the lives of their grandchildren.”

Ms Douglas said that, especially in light of the present economic situation, grandparents would play an even more crucial role in caring for their grandchildren, and needed to be involved in the decision-making process.

The Federal Government will use the research to help deliver policies deemed in the best interests of children.

To view the report visit www.fahcsia.gov.au/research/prp36/
To contact COGS, phone (07) 5596-5523.
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Mini Budget Must Not Slug Pensioners

The Council on the Ageing NSW has called for state relief for pensioners as part of the NSW mini-budget. It said pensioners did not need to be slugged again by new state charges or taxes.

Executive director Jon Bisset called on the government to reassure recipients of the federally-funded bonus that they wouldn’t lose it all in increased state costs. He said he supported the Opposition’s call for the State Government to prepare a statement of the economic impact on seniors of its mini-budget.

Opposition spokesman on ageing, Andrew Con stance, said the average state tax bill each year stood at about $2600 per person and seniors in particular could not keep pace with the costs involved. “The upcoming NSW mini-budget must be tested for its im pact on seniors,’’ he said.

“The State Labor Gov ern ment must tread very carefully before applying additional charges to essential services such as transport, insurance, water, electricity and motor vehicle registration, and increasing taxes such as the Country Link pensioner book ing fee and stamp duty on general insurance.

“The social and economic consequences are profound for seniors should the State Government apply broad-based tax hikes without assessing the consequences.”

Mr Bisset said it was time for the whole community to consider the plight of pensioners and to provide relief wherever possible and in a holistic way. “Increasing charges and costs ultimately fall on consumers,” he said.

“State government and local councils are no exception, but we now have to band together as a community and provide relief to the most vulnerable, otherwise a vicious cycle of passing the buck ensues, to the detriment of pensioners.

“We welcome call by the Liberal-National party to the NSW Govern ment to assess the social and economic im pacts of any increases in state taxes and charges on the state’s most vulnerable residents.

“We would hope that in fact the mini-budget will offer greater concessions for pensioners and self-funded retirees so that the pensioner bonus can be used to improve their standard of living, which is what it was meant to do in the first place.”
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