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February 01, 2021

Julie and Colin

Colin served in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) from the age of 16, keen to get stuck in and serve his country. 40 years later, alcohol abuse and depression left Colin and his wife Julie on the brink of giving up.

During his time in the RAAF, Colin became a member of the Safety Tiger Team, a specialist group of only five members who worked with Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston. He was also on the first plane out of Australia after the September 11 terrorist attacks to Diego Garcia. For this tour of duty Colin had to leave his two young children with his parents – a separation he really struggled with.

In the later years of his career, and after he had left full-time service, alcoholism, PTSD and severe depression took hold of Colin’s life. The struggle between his duty to his country and the impact war had on him both physically and mentally, led Colin to excessive drinking. In 2002, Colin met Julie and in 2005 they were married. Julie, with a career in social work, became Colin’s support net.

Unfortunately, his dependence on alcohol continued to grow and Colin’s health deteriorated. Unlike those around him, Colin couldn’t see his mental health failing; what he did notice was that jobs he was qualified to do ”blind-folded” in earlier years, he was now no longer capable of. This loss of purpose drove him further into depression.

Colin and Julie filed claims with DVA to increase his pension, but they were initially rejected. At the same time, Colin’s companion animal, which he relied on for comfort and support, became very ill. With bills piling up and Colin’s health worsening, he and Julie were running out of options and were referred to RSL DefenceCare. RSL DefenceCare’s Advocacy team worked on an appeal to the Veteran’s Review Board (VRB) and the Wellbeing team helped alleviate some financial burdens.

The appeal was successful, providing a reassessment of Colin’s pension at the special rate, allowing more financial and medical support for him and Julie. Julie was especially thankful for how supportive the RSL DefenceCare team were.

“James and Dean were my heroes; they were so respectful and so proud of me; without them we wouldn’t be where we are now.” As Julie was supporting Colin on her own, the encouragement she received from James and Dean made a huge difference. “It was on some of my worst days that they would call to check how I was feeling; they got it when nobody else did.”

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