THE Department of Veterans Affairs announced this week it will open an office in Nowra in June.
A Veterans Information Service will be one of nine established in NSW and Victoria.
While local veterans welcomed the service to the area the proposed location has received criticism.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Michael Ronaldson made the announcement on Monday the Wollongong DVA office would close but a Veteran Information Service would be provided by the Department of Human Services in Nowra.
The Department of Human Services will oversee the running of the service from its Nowra Centrelink office, which is also mooted to be the new location for the Nowra Medicare office.
While welcoming a DVA office in Nowra, secretary of the Nowra RSL Sub branch Rick Meehan said the office’s location in the Centrelink building could prove problematic.
“It’s fantastic that veterans could gain access to services locally, but I honestly can’t see proud local veterans, who have fought for their country wanting to go to Centrelink to do it,” he said.
“Centrelink is such a depressing place at the best of times, let alone for a veteran who in most likelihood is already suffering through their own medical issues, including depression.
“Going to a more depressive scene is not going to help.
“It is not a happy environment.
“At the best of times Centrelink is not seen in a great light for numerous reasons.
“Veterans would find it offensive just to walk through those doors and would not want to be seen in the same light.
“These men and women have served their country and deserve a stand-alone service.
“The government complained about the lack of numbers accessing the services in Wollongong I’d say there will be even less in Nowra if it is in the Centrelink building.”
Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis urged local veterans to use the facility once it was open.
“It’s their choice, they have to make a call if they want to access the service or not,” she said.
“If they don’t want face-to-face meetings, they can always access services through Sydney.
“This is for those who really want to sit down and work out solutions to their problems.
“And having other linked services all under the one roof will mean any issues can be dealt with at the one location.”
Mrs Sudmalis said it would offer shortcuts.
She said with nearly 1000 veterans, their partners, war widows and widowers and their families in Gilmore she was determined the community would get the most appropriate levels of service by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
“The government is committed to a stand-alone Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
“These changes will ensure that DVA can continue to offer services to veterans and their families for the long-term.”
She said reviews and discussions about relocating the Nowra Medicare office to the same location were underway but no time had been set for that move.