Expertise an asset for veteran mental health support

The Open Arms National Advisory Committee provides independent advice on veteran issues, and how they can be addressed by Open Arms, to the Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. Its members are some of the most experienced and engaged representatives from the veteran community, and include mental health professionals, Vietnam veterans, veterans of more recent conflicts, and veteran family members.

We are proud to introduce three new members whose unique insight and experience will enrich the workings of the Committee.

Gwen Cherne was appointed as the inaugural Veteran Family Advocate Commissioner on the Repatriation Commission on 6 August 2020. Gwen spent three years in and out of Afghanistan doing stabilisation and reconstruction work, she is a war widow from suicide, the mother of a currently serving member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and a daughter of a Vietnam veteran who suffered posttraumatic stress and moral injury. She has lived experience of military family life, mental health issues and recovery as well as family and domestic violence and intimate partner violence. She is dedicated to promoting hope and healing through co-designed and co-implemented solutions.

Veteran Ben Farinazzo served in the ADF in East Timor, and has battled significant mental and physical issues, including a broken neck and back. Ben worked through these challenges to represent Australia in indoor rowing and powerlifting at the Invictus Games Sydney in 2018, winning two gold medals. Today, Ben uses his lived experience to shine a light of hope on those who are still experiencing times of darkness.

Elizabeth (Libby) Cremen is the Director General of Defence Member and Family Support. Libby boasts an illustrious career spanning community service to leadership roles within the Australian Public Service. With over two decades of experience, Libby's journey reflects a commitment to nurturing families, fortifying communities, and driving effective policies. Her leadership during critical periods, notably during the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrates her dedication to safeguarding vulnerable communities.

To learn more about Open Arms National Advisory Committee and its members, visit the NAC governance page of the Open Arms website.