18 April 2023

High-profile visits hope to shine more light on Pro Patria Centre's vital work

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
Start the conversation
woman holding photo

Julie-Ann Finney carries a photo of her late son wherever she goes. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

The Pro Patria Centre (PPC) has had several high-profile visitors and has been praised for its vital work.

The Pro Patria Property Trust is transforming the Carmelite Monastery into a clinical treatment support site for veterans and defence and emergency support personnel.

The centre will serve as an innovative multidisciplinary facility that provides sorely needed holistic health treatments to veterans and first responders.

A late veteran’s mother and the vocal campaigner for the Royal Commission into Veterans and Defence Suicide, Julie-Ann Finney, Assistant Minister for Defence and Veterans’ Affairs Matt Thistlethwaite and former Governor-General and veteran Sir Peter Cosgrove had a tour of the centre and heard from the volunteers.

Mrs Finney said PPC was the first place she had visited that showed no egos and only people who wanted to help veterans.

READ ALSO Launch of Wagga’s new trades program a huge success

“This is the first place where I’ve walked in and thought they could have helped me because nobody has ever helped me,” Mrs Finney said.

“I speak to DVA and politicians and they don’t come to me, they never have … there has never been a form of comfort for me.

“We have to stop thinking all our veterans have mental health problems … they have trauma, brain injuries and physical disabilities.”

Mrs Finney said PPC was the first place where she had been given an answer to all the questions she had asked.

She said it was not about getting more money but having the money redistributed where it works.

three men talking

Member for Riverina Michael McCormack (left), MP Matt Thistlethwaite (centre) and Jason Frost tour the PPC. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

“Stop with Scott’s mates because they’ve still got those voices there … I spent two years getting lied to by Scott himself.

“I’m very proud of what I said to him [Scott Morrison] … I said I didn’t believe him and he said, ‘I’m the Prime Minister, Julie-Ann’ and I said, ‘We’ll, I’m Dave’s mum and I’m still going to be Dave’s mum after the next election.

“I’m one of 2000 mothers who have lost a child and 24 hours a day, I fight for veterans because I want to see these lives saved. You’re only hearing a mother’s love and passion. I’ve got nothing to gain.”

The grieving mother travels everywhere to campaign for veterans and carries the photographs of veterans and defence personnel who took their own lives, sharing their stories.

Mrs Finney said when people searched veteran suicide on Google, they saw her details.

people holding photos

Dianne Pilmore, Jason Frost, Mr Thistlethwaite, Mrs Finney and Raymond Smith with photos of soldiers and veterans. Photo: Supplied.

“I get so many suicide calls … I’m simply a mum, not a psychiatrist,” she said.

“I believe they’ve (PPC) got a solution here … we need to spend money on places like this, not for the RSL to do more schnitzel and pokies.”

Mr Thistlethwaite was impressed by the volunteer work done by PPC for veterans.

“I think it’s a model that has great benefits for the veterans’ community in Australia,” he said.

“Supporting organisations like this, and the outcomes they’re achieving, it’s going to be important in the future.

five people

Mr McCormack, Mr Frost, Lynne Cosgrove, Sir Peter Cosgrove and Raymond Smith. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

“PPC has found a niche, and I’m keen to explore the notion of social connectedness for veterans through promoting a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating … it’s not a traditional way that DVA or welfare organisations have gone in the past.”

Mr Frost said it was great to show the Assistant Minister the progress the centre had made and the services it was bringing to the region.

“Mr Thistlethwaite was supportive and said he’d do his best to see if there are areas we can get more federal support,” Mr Frost said.

Mr Cosgrove visited the centre as a patron of St John of God to see the work being done by the centre.

READ ALSO Young music lovers playing classic tunes: Little Riverina Band are ready for the big time

Mr Cosgrove said grassroots movements like PPC would benefit from greater government involvement.

“These things are always a partnership and they benefit from having that grassroots element to them,” he said.

“[It’s a] typically Australian thing that well-meaning people who see their fellow Australians in need spontaneously come together to do what they can … Pro Patria is an example of that.

“We want to explore whether we can get St John of God, a large medical and research organisation in Australia, to come together and to bring that edge of critical mass here into the Riverina.”

To donate to the centre, head to their website.

If this story has raised any issues for you, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, the Defence All-hours Support Line on 1800 628 036, Open Arms on 1800 011 046 or Soldier On, 1300 620 380.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.