Fears Ballarat's Department of Veterans' Affairs service in Dawson Street to close

SUPPORT groups fear the federal government is poised to close an office established to help disadvantaged Ballarat veterans and their families.

Veterans’ Affairs minister Michael Ronaldson said a “consultation process” would be held into the future of Ballarat’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) service in Dawson Street due to the changing needs of the veteran community.

Mr Ronaldson said visits to DVA shop fronts were declining and the veteran community was increasingly choosing the telephone and internet to make contact.

Other Victorian branches impacted are Bairnsdale, Morwell, Frankston, Bendigo, Mildura and Warrnambool.

Ballarat veterans’ groups have united in opposition to the move, describing it as a “cost-cutting” exercise at the expense of vulnerable veterans.

Ballarat RSL sub-branch president Alexandra Tascas said the office’s closure would disadvantage the veteran community at a time when a large number of young veterans were returning home from overseas deployments.

“They play an important role in engaging with younger veterans who are almost invisible when they come back,” she said.

“With their state of health and mind they wouldn’t even think about picking up a phone.

“It’s a total disregard of the veteran community to do this.”

The president of the Ballarat branch of the Royal Australian Air Force Association, Tom Roberts, said he believed the government wanted to centralise services to Geelong and Wodonga.

“If you’re 87 and have a fractured hip you’re not going to be keen on undertaking any of those opportunities,” he said.

“A number of people are somewhat older and generally speaking less computer literate and like a face to deal with.

“We’ll lose our community representatives who have been extremely helpful to people over the years.”

He said the local branch provided services not only to Ballarat but right across the Western District and made meeting room facilities available to a number of veterans’ group.

“If you’ve got a problem with health or it’s money-related you take that to the local people,” he said.

Mr Ronaldson said the consultation process, which would conclude on March 26, would guide the DVA in deciding the future provision of services.

A spokesman for Mr Ronaldson yesterday said no decision had been made.

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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