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Penny's Blog - Legacy’s special legacy

This week, people all over Australia are taking to the streets again to raise money and awareness for Legacy Week.

This is the 70th year that this important charity, which cares for the families of deceased Australian servicemen and women, is running its annual fundraising appeal, and many Australians would have already seen some of the dedicated volunteers on the streets, tirelessly selling badges and collecting funds.

But Legacy's history goes even further back, to 1923, when it was founded by a group of World War I veterans who believed it to be their moral responsibility to care for the families of those who didn't return home after the war.

As the Australian Greens spokesperson for Veterans Affairs, this is something that, almost 90 years later, still rings very true with me. We know that war has wide-ranging consequences and enduring effects, not only for those who serve in conflict zones but also for their families who remain behind at home and for their entire communities.

Legacy does wonderful work minimising these impacts on those whose loved ones have passed away or never returned from conflict zones.

Today, the charity supports more than 100,000 families of deceased Australian servicemen and women. This also includes 1,900 children and dependants with a disability.
The work Legacy does is as diverse as the needs of those it services. It provides financial and legal advice and assistance, helps families navigate the often difficult system for entitlements and arranges medical support. It provides social support for dependants with a disability and helps young families with the cost of school fees, uniforms or books.

In other instances, volunteers, who call themselves Legatees, might come around to the home of a serviceman's widow and do some basic maintenance or minor repairs. Many of these widows are in their 80s or older now so these services can be vital to enable them to stay in their homes, in familiar surroundings.

My own mum was one of the widows who have benefitted greatly from Legacy's caring attention. After my father died, 15 years ago, her Legatee assisted her to apply for a "Gold Card" (related to my father's WW2 service) and then encouraged her to appeal against the initial decision not to grant it. It was only because of the ongoing support and assistance she received from Legacy that she was able to continue with the process and was ultimately successful.

Other widows struggle with social isolation and loneliness and, in these cases, the most important service Legacy provides is someone to drop around regularly for a cuppa and a chat. Many Legatees remain with ‘their' widows for many years and it is this personal investment and commitment to care that makes this charity so truly special.

With thousands of Australians still serving in conflict zones overseas, Legacy is also looking to the future and caring for a ‘new generation' of younger widows and widowers of Australian Defence Force Personnel deployed in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

If, as a nation, we are willing to ask people off to serve on our behalf in conflict zones, it is only right that we look after them properly when they return. If the worst happens, and they don't return, or they suffer debilitating effects from their service, we must provide the support that they, and their families, need.

As a caring, community organization, Legacy has taken on some of this shared responsibility. Legacy assists the families of service personnel to continue with their lives in the face of immense loss - by meeting needs as complex as financial and legal support or as simple as a cup of coffee and a kind face.

So, if you see the Legacy volunteers this week, why not go over and thank them for the important work they are doing in our community - and spend a few dollars on a badge to help them continue building on their impressive legacy of helping those who need it.

 

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