THE Federal Government 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.
The Budget funding, announced by Canning MHR Andrew Hastie at the Mandurah War Memorial yesterday , is particularly significant 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 HMAS Fremantle and HMAS Junee at the Monte Bello Islands as part of the British Nuclear Testing program.
The men worked on the islands with no protective gear less than four years after the first nuclear explosions, 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 experienced or died from cancer.
The Gold Card will ensure the survivors have free access to the healthcare they require.
Mr Hastie has met with member of the Wills Intake from the Peel region for several months and approached Veteran Affairs Minister Dan Tehan on their behalf.
He said the announcement was a great outcome for the men of the Wills Intake and the result of hard work by many different people and represented all Australians’ ongoing duty of care for veterans.
“These men answered their country’s call during the period of National Service,’’ he said.
“They served in dangerous and hazardous conditions on the Monte Bello Islands and have suffered health complications.
“I commend them for their determined advocacy, cheerful spirit and service to their country.”
The announcement is part of the Federal Government’s $350 million package to increase support and care for Australian veterans.