Member for Canning Andrew Hastie today shared the federal government’s announcement that the federal budget will spend $133 million to provide Department of Veterans Affairs Gold Cards to surviving participants of the British Nuclear Testing program from the 1950s and 60s, and to veterans who served as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF).
The announcement is of particular significance to the ex-servicemen’s group known as the Wills Intake. The Wills Intake comprised 88 West Australian National Servicemen who in 1956 served on the HMAS Fremantle and HMAS Junee at the Monte Bello Islands as part of the British Nuclear Testing program. They worked on the islands with no protective gear less than 4 years after the first nuclear explosions happened, unaware of the dangers to which they were exposed. Many were on deck when a blast occurred only several miles away.
Many of the Wills Intake have suffered or died from cancer. The Gold Card will ensure that the survivors have free access to all the healthcare they require.
Mr Hastie shared the announcement today at the Mandurah War Memorial, surrounded by members of the Wills Intake. For several months Mr Hastie has met with members of the Wills Intake from the Peel region, and has made representations on their behalf to the Minister for Veterans Affairs, the Hon Dan Tehan.
“This announcement is a great outcome for the men of the Wills Intake. It is the result of hard work by many different people, and represents all Australians’ ongoing duty of care for our veterans,” Mr Hastie said.
“These men answered their country’s call during the period of National Service. They served in dangerous and hazardous conditions on the Monte Bello Islands, and have suffered health complications. I’m proud of this decision. I’m proud to represent some of these men as the Member for Canning. I commend them for their determined advocacy, cheerful spirit, and service to their country.”
The announcement comes as part of the federal government’s $350 million package to increase support and care for Australian veterans.