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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Coffee, chat offer for Vets

They dedicate their lives to protecting ours.

But, once they leave the line of duty, Australian Defence Force veterans and emergency service personnel can often feel lost.

In 2015, a Defence shed pilot program was established in Port Adelaide to offer support and provide a platform for men and women to discuss concerns such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Based on the popular concept of men’s sheds, it also allows members to work on meaningful projects that give purpose and make a positive impact on the community.

Due to its success, negotiations are now under way for sheds to be built in Maitland, Wagga Wagga, Melbourne, and Ipswich.

Hunter Defence Shed secretary Rod Wicks said the self-help group, set-up in late 2018, was operating as a coffee club in the interim.

“We’re assisting veterans, current serving members, first responders – so police, paramedics and firefighters – and all of their families,” he told Newcastle Weekly.

“It’s along the lines of PTSD; they can come and talk to us, often much more easily than psychologists.
“Not taking anything away from psychologists, but we walk the walk and talk the talk.
“We’re not trained counsellors and don’t pretend to be, but we’re there to help in any way we can, and we are very family-orientated.”

Mr Wicks said the group also aimed to find emergency accommodation for those who felt threatened or depressed.

“We want to get them off the street,” he said.

Defence Shed chairman, Ben Parkinson, served six tours of duty, including stints in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said the program in Port Adelaide had helped him talk about his experiences in the air force, which resulted in PTSD.

“I became involved after moving [here] for work and feeling isolated as I had no friends or family nearby,” he said.
“Through the Defence Shed, I have made new friends and found purpose in my life to help others.”

As a registered charity with volunteer fundraisers, the organisation welcomes donations online.

Visit ‘Defence Shed’ on Facebook for more information.

The Hunter Defence Shed meets for coffee every Thursday at the Onyx Espresso Bar, Mayfield, from 10am.

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