Diggers ‘may face problems from Iraq, Afghan’

More Australian soldiers are likely to have health problems in the future as a result of being deployed to war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan, Veterans’ Affairs Minister Alan Griffin said Sunday

Griffin said officials were beginning to deal with the relatively new dilemma of mental health issues posed by troops who had served in not only one, but multiple, war zones.

He said one of the problems with psychological illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, was that it tended not to present itself immediately but years down the track.

“So we can look at it now and say, ‘There are x number of veterans who are coming back on a regular basis from Afghanistan. We can look at the figures and say, ‘Well, there aren’t that many at the moment that are presenting with problems,” he said.

“But what we can say with some confidence is that over the coming five to 10 years a lot more of those people will have problems.”

Griffin said that coming home was always difficult for soldiers who had experienced war, but this was now compounded by the fact that many Australians had served on multiple fronts, including in East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands.

“Every conflict brings, sometimes, new issues,” Griffin said.

“One of the things that we are dealing with now, which we’ve never really had to deal with much before, is people who may have come back from two or three different conflicts,” he told Sky News.

“That produces a whole range of questions about multiple deployments and what sort of impacts they actually have on the people we send over.”

Griffin said lessons had been learned from the Vietnam experience, when veterans returned home to hostility and a lack of support, and the efforts of soldiers were now better appreciated.

“What we’ve got to try to do it set up a situation where, when they’ve got problems, they get in touch and they get help quickly,” he said.

“And we’ve got to try and work out what those problems are likely to be.”

About 3,500 Australian Defence Force members are currently deployed overseas.