Sharon Bird, Federal Member for Cunningham, and Stephen Jones, Federal Member for Throsby, today condemned the decision by the Abbott Government to shut the Wollongong Veterans’ Access Network (VAN) office.
“In his media release the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Michael Ronaldson, has announced that the Wollongong VAN will close and a veteran information service will be provided by Department of Human Services service centres in Nowra,” Sharon Bird said.
“Following our earlier correspondence to the Minister expressing concern about the possible closure, Stephen and I have again written to the Minister today to ask the following questions:
1 – Can the Minister guarantee that no jobs will be lost?
2 – Will our veterans still be able to access face to face services in Wollongong or will they need to travel to Nowra?
3 – Will face to face services be available in Nowra?
4 – Can the Minister guarantee that the current first rate services and expertise will be available to our veterans by properly trained staff who understand the issues and health concerns of veterans?
“Just one month ago Sharon and I expressed our concern that the short consultation process on local VAN offices was not a genuine attempt to get community feedback and that the Department had already made the decision to shut our VAN office down,” Stephen Jones said.
“Sharon and I took our concerns to Shadow Minister Don Farrell who has been pursuing these concerns with the Minister. Our local veterans and their families are entitled to receive quality care after service to our country.
“If the Minister is unable to answer these questions and guarantee that our veterans will be able to access services in Wollongong it will bring into question whether this is a blatant political move to take jobs and services from Wollongong and relocate them to a marginal Liberal seat in Nowra,” Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones concluded.