Vet not easily forgotten

His own health concerns spurred Derek Phillips to champion the cause of better support for returned soldiers. Picture: Jon Hewson www.communitypix.com.au d420966
His own health concerns spurred Derek Phillips to champion the cause of better support for returned soldiers. Picture: Jon Hewson www.communitypix.com.au d420966

It is statistics like this that spur Erskine resident Derek Phillips to do all he can to prevent more deaths.

‘The blokes come back from war, they work like hell and drink more than they should with all the pressure,’ he said. ‘Soon it all collapses.’

A RAAFA Estate resident, Mr Phillips has spent the past decade championing the cause of incapacitated veterans and their families.

With persistence and dedication to his cause, Mr Phillips has been instrumental in getting programs to help veterans expanded to a national level and receiving federal funding.

As part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Mr Phillips has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to veterans and their families.

‘I am pretty chuffed,’ Mr Phillips said.

‘I don’t know who nominated me and it came as a surprise.’

Mr Phillips was in the Navy and served in the Malayan Campaign (1957-58), Vietnam (1963), New Guinea (1956-57) and the Far East Strategic Reserve (1960-64).

A self-confessed workaholic, Mr Phillips said he used to go ‘100 miles an hour’.

But Mr Phillips ‘stopped dead in his tracks’ when he suffered mental health issues.

‘It was then that I joined the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex-Service Men and Women,’ he said.

He found the group beneficial and went on to become the president from 2002 to 2005.

‘The main thing I worked with was suicide prevention programs,’ he said.

‘These training programs helped the families of ex-servicemen to identify those at risk of suicide.

‘We trained 200 people with no funding; by 2007, the Labor Party committed $1 million in support for the program.’

Mr Phillips was also involved in Operation Life, which provides counselling for veterans’ families.

He was involved in men’s health peer education programs and is a Justice of the Peace.

Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove said the OAM award recognises the recipient’s contribution to the community.

‘These awards draw attention to the personal efforts of individuals, made willingly, without thought of recognition or recompense,’ he said.