Wodonga Veterans' Access Network office lease extended

LEASE RENEWED: Hume Veterans Information Centre chairman Kevyn Williams sits outside the VAN office during the summer consultation over its future in Wodonga.

LEASE RENEWED: Hume Veterans Information Centre chairman Kevyn Williams sits outside the VAN office during the summer consultation over its future in Wodonga.

BORDER veterans remain unsure about the fate of a key service for defence personnel, despite government assurances it is safe for now.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has extended the lease of the Wodonga building that houses the Veterans’ Access Network (VAN) and the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service.

Veterans’ Affairs Minister Dan Tehan confirmed this decision to The Border Mail on Thursday.

“We've secured the lease for the next two years and the services will continue,” Mr Tehan said.

A community consultation between December and February raised concerns the VAN shop front would close and its services be moved into a Centrelink office.

On May 4 the department announced the Toowoomba VAN office, also the subject of a summer review, would close next month, with in-person services shifted to the Department of Human Services.

A spokesman said the department had agreed to maintain Wodonga’s existing arrangements “while we continue to consider the views of stakeholders and finalise a sustainable future service delivery model”.

“DVA will issue further advice of a final decision once it has been made, but it is not expected in the immediate term,” he said.

Hume Veterans Information Centre chairman Kevyn Williams, who is also Wodonga RSL president, hoped the office would still be going in two years’ time.

“Unfortunately with the election coming up and things like that, there's the uncertainty of what might happen,” Mr Williams said.

Albury RSL president Graham Docksey also expressed reservations about the decision.

“It's great to see the service will remain in Albury-Wodonga,” he said. “I think there's more work to be done yet, and I'll be looking forward to seeing what the final resolution happens to be.”

Mr Williams felt the consultation comments helped influence the lease decision.

“I think it was because of the feedback from the local veterans and the groups that utilise the office and understand the importance of having it there,” he said.

“The letter that was written by the Hume Veterans information Centre was actually read out word for word in Parliament by (Indi MP) Cathy McGowan.”

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