Push for gold cards for veterans

Push for gold cards for veterans

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Member for Canning Andrew Hastie (centre) speaks with veterans at the Mandurah War Memorial.

Member for Canning Andrew Hastie made an announcement at the Mandurah War Memorial on Sunday concerning funding to provide gold cards to surviving veterans of a British nuclear testing program in the 1950s.

Mr Hastie made the announcement ahead of the federal budget, which was announced on Tuesday.

He said the Federal Government would spend $133 million to provide for the Department of Veterans Affairs gold cards.

“The announcement is of particular significance to the ex-servicemen’s group known as the Wills Intake,” he said.

“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 four years after the first nuclear explosions happened, unaware of the dangers to which they were exposed.”

Mr Hastie said many of them were on deck when a blast occurred only several miles away.

“Many of the Wills Intake have suffered or died from cancer,” he said.

“The Gold Card will ensure that the survivors have free access to all the healthcare they require.”

Former veteran Bevan Pierce who was at the announcement said of the remaining 51 with whom he had contact, 43 per cent were living with some form of cancer.

“With this in mind the announcement to issue gold cards to those of us still living is of major importance and a relief to those of us with very serious cancer,” he said.

“I consider myself very lucky that I am not included with those in such a condition but to those in not so fortunate medical circumstances, the issue of a gold card to assist with their medical requirements is a blessing.”

The gold card announcement comes as part of the federal government’s $350 million package to increase support and care for Australian veterans.