7 July 2023

Rallying the funding troops: Pro Patria Centre $400,000 short of treatment site purchase price

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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former monastery converted to wellbeing treatment site

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

The Pro Patria Property Trust needs to raise $400,000 by the end of August to buy Wagga Wagga’s Carmelite Monastery outright to help veterans and first responders.

The trust is transforming the monastery into a clinical treatment support site for veterans and defence and emergency support personnel.

The Pro Patria Centre (PPC) will serve as an innovative multidisciplinary facility that provides sorely needed holistic health treatments to veterans and first responders.

Veterans and first responders in the region would have to travel to Sydney, Melbourne or Canberra for treatment if not for the Pro Patria Centre (PPC).

Last year, PPC set out to raise $1.5 million within six months to continue to operate under community ownership.

PPC board director Jacqui Van de Velde said the veterans’ wellness centre still needed to find $400,000 in the next few weeks despite the generous donations by local people and organisations.

“We are most grateful for the amazing generosity shown to date, but if we are to continue operating and providing these essential services to our veterans, we need to find additional funding,” Ms Van de Velde said.

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Afghanistan veteran and PPC board director Jason Frost was medically discharged in 2015. He said he owed his life to the medicinal cannabis and ketamine infusion therapies he received thanks to the centre.

“I was diagnosed with a chronic spine injury, PTSD and adjustment disorder, then later traumatic brain injuries and a major depressive disorder. I spent years on strong combinations of pharmaceutical drugs, which had catastrophic side effects,” Mr Frost said.

“My lived experience and that of many other veterans is that current treatments lead to isolation, addictions and suicide.

“What we are developing here is a centre of excellence for coordinated medical, holistic health care and wellbeing for veterans, first responders and their families.”

Royal Commission into Veterans Suicide Chair Nick Kaldas, Commissioner Dr Peggy Brown, Defence Shed Wagga Treasurer Bradley Maynard, Commissioner James Douglas and Pro Patria Centre board member Jason Frost

Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide chair Nick Kaldas, Commissioner Dr Peggy Brown, Defence Shed Wagga treasurer Bradley Maynard, Commissioner James Douglas and Pro Patria Centre board member Jason Frost at the Pro Patria Centre. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

The Afghanistan veteran said the next phase of on-site services at the Carmelite Monastery included the addition of meeting rooms for financial counselling, psychologists, addiction specialists, NDIS and social work appointments and Open Arms peer workers.

PPC director and doctor James Read said because the centre was established by veterans, it understood the unique needs of those on the front line.

“The current services provided by the Government – despite the hard work and best intentions of the people behind it – are just not working,” Dr Read said.

“Our centre provides a place of connection, catering holistically to the unique needs of veterans and also first responders who are exposed to trauma on a daily basis – and in a regional area like this, they [responders] often come face-to-face with tragedies where they might know the person.”

The previous government had plans to invest $5 million in a veterans’ wellbeing centre for the region, but the current Government has scrapped the funding plans.

Federal Member for Riverina Michael McCormack has been critical of the Government’s decision.

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Pro Patria Property Trust, Wagga Wagga.TV, Australian actor John Wood and Riverina Bluebell joined forces to raise $1.5 million for the Pro Patria Centre and produced a 20-minute documentary – A Call to Action: Your Defence, Our Battle.

The documentary sheds light on the PPC’s breakthrough and calls for people to donate money to secure the monastery.

The trust will have to make its settlement on 31 August to secure the property. Click here to donate by the settlement date.

If this story has raised any issues for you, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, the 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 on 1300 620 380.

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