Appendix C

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Rural Fire Service model—Paul Patti, veteran advocate

The following proposal was put together by Paul Patti, a retired senior Army Officer and now Canberra-based veteran advocate and business owner. His proposal is that the Rural Fire Service be used to provide a sense of community and mental health support to ex-serving personnel.

The ADF community is culturally diverse and physiologically profiled as a group that needs firm, confident tribe and family leadership towards treatment. The ADF community is a service-oriented structure and former members comment on the significant personal security they derive from this. My working hypothesis therefore is that mental health support could most effectively be delivered by an organisation that is compatible with this service orientation. The Australian Rural Fire Service (RFS) is a nationally-based service-oriented structure that has credibility akin to the ADF and surety of ongoing relevance in the Australian community. The RFS has a depth of membership roles mirroring the ADF, is mentored, and lead by a mature, effective and action-oriented leadership. The RFS has an embedded mental health support and counselling action plan in place which has been tested and shown to be successful, has funding in place, and is regionally delivered. All the elements of a compatible culture are present, including the service orientation of the RFS, its real world community mission, and pre-existing mental health action plan.

As veterans recover, they could be invited to join their local RFS unit in a capacity that serves their community. There are obvious benefits for both parties within this proposal. The RFS gains a highly-skilled, motivated and loyal membership, while veterans gain an accessible treatment source, membership of a new tribe with a real world focus and mission. Additional benefits include:

  • budget neutral
  • not just a health solution—a whole-of-community solution
  • fast-acting
  • long-term
  • nationally effective and
  • potential for bi-partisan support.