By Arthur Gorrie
Not all the battles have yet been won for Australian war veterans, especially those deprived of access to occupational therapy services.
But one of those therapists Donna Griffin says the efforts of Wide Bay MP Llew O’Brien have done much to encourage her colleagues to return to working with often-neglected veterans.
Veteran Robert (Bluey) Bellis said keeping people like Ms Griffin interested in helping people like him was an urgent priority.
Many veterans have felt abandoned by a lack of OT services, as therapists follow the market to far better paying work with the NDIS.
But Mr O’Brien says the 27 per cent pay rise he recently won for Veterans Affairs Department therapists will not bring them up to parity with the NDIS.
And no-one knows how the NDIS settled on such high pay rates in the first place.
Ms Griffin says her industry group, OT Australia has been fighting for pay parity for those providing veteran services for about five years.
“I realised my equivalents in the NDIS spaced were getting paid a lot more than I was.
“OT Australia has been fighting to increase the fee schedule for veteran services and allied health care,“ Mr O’Brien said.
“The Department of Veteran’s Affairs now has a Cabinet minister and we have made a covenant with the veterans of Australia.
“But there was mounting evidence we were saying one thing for veterans but underpaying the people who are keeping them active, happy and still alive.
““But the NDIS workers are getting paid so highly that everyone wants to work with them.
“IK spoke to everyone, to the Prime Minister, hte Minister for Veterans Affairs, I spoke in the party room.
“No-one can say we’re putting veterans first when we’re paying those who look after them last and worst,“ he said.
One of Ms Griffin’s clients, Vietnam and Malaya veteran Robert (Blue) Bellis sad he could not put a value on what she does for “damaged blokes,“ including him.
“She has to walk into a stranger’s home, by herself, with a person who may be angry and upset.
“She has to be psychiatrist, psychologist and carer.
“Nobody goes with her and they don’t know if this damaged person might be really uptight,“ he said.
Mr Bellis says he is a good example, with the combined PTSD effects of military action and repeated family tragedy.
“But these ocupational therapists are just fantastic.
“Donna will ring and ask if she can pop around for a cuppa. If they hadn’t been there I wouldn’t be here,“ he said.
The 27 per cent rise will come into effect over the next few years, but even that will not give her parity with her NDIS colleagues.