A GROUP of elderly conscripts say they feel abandoned by their younger comrades who’ve excluded them from a campaign to get extended medical coverage for those who did national service.
Nasho Fair Go is lobbying the Albanese government to issue “gold cards” to cover all the medical needs of those who were conscripted in the 1960s and ‘70s but never saw combat. Under the current system they have to prove ailments are directly related to their army training, which can be difficult given the decades that have passed since their birthday came up in the ballot (“Nashos call for a fair go,” Herald, December 17, 2022).
But when 84-year-old Sid Breeden and a few mates contacted the organisation, he claims they were given the cold shoulder because they were part of an earlier national service scheme from the 1950s.
“The Fair Go campaign shows an insensitive self-importance by completely ignoring Nashos from the first scheme, which was true conscription; call-up for all males over age 18 with compulsory transfer from Nashos into the
[army reserve] with five years’ obligation on the reserve list,” Mr Breeden said.
“Not did it recognise RAAF and navy Nashos who did not serve overseas.”
Mr Breeden said the first scheme ran from 1951-59 and because it was a true call-up and not a ballot, 227,000 young men were forced into rigorous army training – almost four times as many as the later scheme.
“Many of our first scheme veterans have passed away, leaving survivors well into our 80s and 90s, and we would welcome gold card assistance together with help from the younger second scheme Nashos,” he said.
“Always in mind is whether government delay is to save costs by awaiting natural attrition.”
Mr Breeden feels the younger Nashos’ attitude might be because the two groups come from different generations.
“The first consisted of the ‘Silent Generation’ with the second being the ‘Baby Boomers’.
“I can’t recall any of our lot seriously whinging about the years of interruption to our civilian lives, even though hanging over heads for five years was that … if the Korean War rekindled it was likely the [army reserve] would be deployed overseas.”
But Mr Breeden agrees with one of Nasho Fair Go’s main points, that often it’s only as bodies age that injuries sustained during training can develop, while the nature of army life meant they often weren’t recorded anyway.
“Such is life, but a gold card will help alleviate our laissez-faire bravado of those days and ignorance of future health implications.”
Cedric Bell, who’s been a member of the National Servicemen’s Association of Australia (which covers both groups of Nashos) is taking part in the Fair Go campaign.
He says there is a difference between the two groups, as the 60s recruits were called up to bolster the regular army forces going to Vietnam, while they were also expected to be full-time soldiers-in-training.
“The other differences is the ‘50s Nashos could chose between the three forces; army, navy and airforce and although they were held in reserve, Australia was not at war,” Mr Bell said.
“The understanding and advice I received when I contacted the president of the NSAA WA was there was no way Nashos could get a gold card because they did not serve in a theatre of war – which we all understand – and that the FGFN was wasting their time.
“Taking the above into account, that is why [Fair Go For Nashos] was formed to try and get the gold card for those who were conscripted and completed their service ready for deployment for Vietnam and for whatever reason were not deployed to a theatre of war.
“As one can appreciate the training we received was very demanding, as it had to be, as we progressed through basic and core training in readiness for deployment to Vietnam.”
by STEVE GRANT