ENTERTAINER Normie Rowe has talked about the need for increased support for modern-day war veterans during a visit to Colac.
Rowe visited Colac’s war memorial and Lone Pine tree this week after performing at a concert at Colac Otway Performing Arts and Cultural Centre.
The Australian pop icon served with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment during the Vietnam War and has become a voice for veterans’ affairs.
Mr Rowe said statistics showed veterans were falling into homelessness and needed more support from the Federal Government.
“The Vietnam veterans have been the squeaky wheel for a long time,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of results but not giving up and grabbing political entities by the throat and making sure they deliver what was promised in the first place.
“The thing is that we’re getting older now and we have contemporary vets from Iraq and Afghanistan, Timor, Namibia, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Bougainville and the list goes on,” Mr Rowe said.
“A lot of those people are not being looked after well, certainly the Department of Veterans Affairs isn’t proactive and it needs to be proactive seeking out people who need help.
“From what I found out, somewhere between five and 10 per cent of returned contemporary diggers are homeless – that’s totally unforgivable in Australia.”
Mr Rowe said he held no official office for veterans but he knew his views had support.
“I’m not in representative office for anybody – the RSL, Vietnam Veterans Association Federation or anything like that and anything I happen to say is personal feelings,” he said.
“But what I’m saying is pretty much what most of the vets are thinking and feeling.
“I have this strange wish I suppose where I don’t think anybody should become Prime Minister unless they’ve done a period of time as Minister for Veterans Affairs.
“Because then before they take the decision of sending people to war, they’ve already had to deal with the results, so they’re decisions are going to be tempered a lot more by the reality.”
Colac Otway Shire Council has fenced off the Lone Pine at Memorial Square to protect the tree from damage and vandals.
Mayor Frank Buchanan said the tree was a significant tribute to Colac district soldiers.
“This Lone Pine was planted behind the Shrine of Remembrance in 1965 in memory of departed comrades,” he said.
“We felt that the tree deserved a bit more prominence and protection in the square, and that the centenary of the Anzac was the ideal time to do it.”