More than 120 members of RAAFA's extended community, including friends, associates, partners and colleagues, gathered in mid-February at the South of Perth Yacht Club for the official launch of the Andrew Russell Veteran's Living (ARVL) Program in Western Australia.
Modelled on a highly successful program established in South Australia in 2016, the ARVL initiative not only provides transitional housing for veterans at risk of homelessness, is also connects them to professional support services, followed by appropriate and affordable permanent housing.
The program itself is named after Sergeant Andrew Russell who served with the Perth-based Special Air Service Regiment in Afghanistan. Tragically, when the long-range patrol vehicle in which he was travelling struck a suspected anti-vehicle mine on 16 February 2002 – exactly 20 years from the launch of the Perth program which bears his name - he became the first ADF member to be killed in action in over 30 years. Andrew was survived by his wife Kylie and daughter Leisa, both of whom are highly supportive of the program, and indeed have been instrumental in its success.
Speaking at the launch event, RAAFA CEO, John Murray, acknowledged that homelessness amongst the WA veteran community had become an increasingly desperate issue that required immediate action.
"We know veterans experiencing homelessness are often facing a suite of complex needs as a result of their service experience and that no one in Western Australia is currently providing a specialist housing response to this group", he said.
"It is our hope that through ARVL we can give veterans somewhere to live, while they get support and find their way back into permanent accommodation."
Statistics are unavailable to establish how many veterans are homeless every night in WA, but what is known is that this cohort experience homelessness at nearly three times the rate of the general population, and are more likely to be homeless for longer.
Clive Robartson, RAAFA State President, added that the issue is one which RAAFA could not walk away from.
"The tragedies facing these service men and women is, in part, our responsibility," he said.
"It is time to give something back and certainly the support in the room from everyone who attended the launch showed us that we are not alone in our commitment to supporting these men and women who have given so much."
More can be learned about the program by going to www.raafawa.org.au/news-events/andrew-russell-veterans-living-program
A donation page has also gone live, which can be accessed at: www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=CXUXNUGPDKYXQ