Kate Campbell, PerthNow Sunday Times
July 23, 2017
IT was a travesty narrowly avoided — an ex-soldier estranged from his family who had taken his own life almost ending up in a pauper’s grave because no one would pay for his funeral.
That was until Perth-based charity Bravery Trust stepped in to ensure this man — who had served his country, but like many others had returned home broken, damaged and fighting his own internal war — received a proper farewell.
They even bought replica medals for his teenage sons, which they proudly wore to his funeral and promised to wear on Anzac Day.
Even though it was not strictly in Bravery Trust’s charter, when chairman Peter Fitzpatrick heard about how the Government and 12 other military charities had declined to help, his first thought at the prospect of this veteran being buried in a cardboard box was: “Not on our watch.”
“How can you say someone is not in need if they’re going to be put in a pauper’s grave when they’ve served their country?” he said.
Peter Fitzpatrick, chairman of Bravery Trust, a charity that gives urgent financial aid to veterans in crisis. Picture: Daniel Wilkins
Sadly, this man’s demise is not isolated and he’s one of dozens of veterans who have taken their own lives so far this year.
There have been 325 confirmed suicides of people with at least one day of service with the Australian Defence Force between 2001 and 2015.
Mr Fitzpatrick estimated that figure would be more than 400 by now — 10 times the number of soldiers killed in battle over the same period — and more than 40 suicides alone so far this year.
Bravery Trust was one of more than 400 organisations and people to make a submission to a Senate inquiry into suicide by veterans, which was prompted by an investigation by The Sunday Times one year ago. A report on its findings is due next month.
Bravery Trust, which started in Perth in 2012 and is lesser-known than other military charities such as the RSL and Legacy, is an urgent financial safety net for veterans and their families, helping them pay their mortgage or rent, utility bills, children’s school fees, health expenses and providing them with Coles food vouchers.
The charity spends about $100,000 a month — or more than $1.1 million last year — to help struggling families. On top of that, it provides education and training scholarships for veterans and their partners.
Mr Fitzpatrick said it was a sad truth that we seemed to be more focused on honouring the dead than supporting the living.