I am honoured to share an inspiring story about a group of volunteers making a massive difference to the lives of our returned service men and women. The Young Diggers Dog Squad helps out by training dogs to become loving and loyal companions to defence personnel who return from service with post-traumatic stress disorder. The results have been inspiring. Lives have been changed for the better. Potential suicides have been averted. The squad deserves a big 10 out of 10 for their compassion, efforts and social impact.
The Young Diggers Dog Squad informs me that a sobering 20 per cent of service men and women return from tours of duty in places like Afghanistan with the some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder. This horrible mental hardship is borne out of those continued and extreme stresses placed on the soldiers as they serve in hostile and unpredictable combat zones many thousands of kilometres from home. They take on this hardship so that the rest of us back here in Australia can live safer lives. Unfortunately, however, these stresses are too heavy a burden for many suffering soldiers, and too many feel that the only way out is to take their own life. The Young Diggers Dog Squad training program and their wonderful dogs are helping treat these troubling wounds and giving these diggers a reason to fight on.
Recently I was fortunate enough to meet with Shane, one of our returned diggers, to learn firsthand the positive impact that one of these dogs, Ed, has had on his life. Shane said that it was profound and life changing.
It has also been rewarding for me to help promote this group’s fundraising efforts. The Young Diggers Dog Squad and the Diggers Military Motorcycle Club, Buderim chapter, set a target recently to raise $2,500 in a 30-day online crowdfunding campaign to pay for the training of a post-traumatic stress disorder dog. In a sign of the respect and support these volunteers were able to foster in our community, the goal was achieved in only two weeks. It means that another young digger suffering the effects of combat will be able to get one of these beautiful dogs to help him through the dark times. Well done to all involved.
There is still more good news to come. The Young Diggers Dog Squad advises that the dogs trained for this role are not the pure breeds you might expect. They do not come from a breeder or a pet store. The dogs used for this important mission are rescued from RSPCA pounds and animal centres. In a beautiful irony, many of these dogs have themselves been through trauma and, by being part of this amazing program, are being saved from a fairly grim future that most likely ends in euthanasia.
As members can see, the whole program is having a positive impact on many lives. I pay my respects to the Young Diggers Dog Squad and the wonderful work they do to support our defence personnel. I encourage everybody in the House to please spread the news to people living in their areas or to put some money towards this program. There are so many returned servicemen taking their lives. We have to do what we can to help.
You can watch video of this speech at bit.ly/1P2apVI.