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Labor vows to build $5m veterans hub in Hunter

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“We respect and value our veterans in the community.”

With those words, Paterson federal MP Meryl Swanson announced at East Maitland on Wednesday that a future Labor government would invest $5 million into a new Veteran Wellbeing Centre in the electorate.

Currently, Paterson is home to about 4,900 veterans and families throughout Port Stephens and Maitland, while more than 12,000 veterans and families live in the wider Hunter region, one of the highest concentrations in the country.

Ms Swanson said her party was determined to provide the services the veterans needed – and deserved.

“This commitment from Labor will support veterans and their families across the Hunter, as well as Australian Defence Force (ADF) members posted to RAAF Base Williamtown,” she stated.

“It could also provide support for other groups in the community, like first responders, including police and emergency services personnel.

“The key to the new Veteran Wellbeing Centre would be listening to local residents to design a tailored service that meets their needs.

“If elected, Labor will continue to consult with the ex-service community on how to best assist them and their families with this facility, and to determine an appropriate lead organisation, location and delivery model for the centre.”

Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Shayne Neumann, who joined Ms Swanson for the announcement, said the hub would be a one-stop shop to access a range of services, including transition, wellbeing support, advocacy, employment and housing assistance, and social connection.

“The centre will be a family-friendly space and provide peer-to-peer assistance for younger veterans and their families, bringing together critical services under one roof,” he explained.

“We want to see a facility run by veterans, for veterans, that’s inclusive and easily accessible for all ex-service men and women in the community.

“There has been an increased need for support services in the region as a result of long wait times for veteran claims, the Royal Commission into defence and veteran suicide, and Australia’s withdrawal from the conflict in Afghanistan last year.

“This $5 million commitment is about providing practical support on the ground for our defence personnel and veterans, and their families, who may be doing it tough.

“A number of veterans and ex-service organisations in the area, together with Meryl Swanson, have advocated for this for some time.

“Labor has listened to this feedback and responded with this significant commitment.”

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