Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent upgrading Defence health facilities and retraining doctors to deal with the scourge of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in the military.  Amid growing evidence that mental health issues threaten all personnel, not just those who serve in Afghanistan and other conflicts, the Department of Defence is overhauling health services out of recognition that its duty of care extends from enlistment to discharge and beyond. Almost one in four personnel are believed to be at risk, with researchers finding that “deployment status did not have an impact on mental disorder rates”.

An Australian study recently published in the European Journal of Pyschotraumatology, and based on Defence data, found 22 per cent of personnel would have met the criteria for a mental disorder in the previous 12 months, the most common being anxiety disorders (14.8 per cent), affective disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression (9.5 per cent) and alcohol disorders (5.2 per cent). Defence is undergoing a landmark shift away from the reactionary health model of the past to prevent mental illness where possible and intervene when necessary.

Five years after a landmark overhaul of Defence health services, the multidisciplinary clinics at 10 priority sites will now be upgraded at an estimated cost of more than $200 million. Defence will also re-train its mental health professionals to do more thorough risk assessments, ensuring they are alert not only to the prospect of suicide but also of members harming themselves or others. A Defence spokesman said the department had spent more than $140m since 2009 on mental health services and support, increasing the workforce, improving policy and training, conducting research and surveillance and rolling out better prevention strategies.

In January, The Australian revealed Defence was also reconsidering its opposition to annual mental health screening after experts warned thousands of personnel were being left unchecked for depression, PTSD and suicidal thoughts. The Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health told Defence that existing screening programs focused on personnel returning from deployment, even though there was conclusive evidence that “deployment in itself is not a risk factor for the development of mental disorder”.

“The vast majority of ADF members who deploy do not report any disorder either before or after deployment, and members deployed to the MEAO (Middle East Area of Operations) reported generally better mental health than the ADF as a whole,” the centre wrote in documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws. “Further, the majority of members who suffer from a mental disorder either have never deployed or develop the disorder prior to deployment.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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Victorian students are flocking to Islamic schools in record numbers, with enrolments increasing by almost 70 per cent in the past eight years. Ilim, Al-Taqwa and Minaret colleges have recorded some of the largest student increases in the state as Muslim families settle in Melbourne’s growth corridor suburbs. Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green said families sent their children to Islamic schools because they wanted to honour their culture and beliefs. She said this was more difficult to achieve at state schools.

“There’s a strong wish to educate children and to makes sure they become a part of Australian society.” In 2007 there were seven Islamic schools in Victoria with 5343 students. This increased to 10 Islamic schools with 9040 students in 2014.  When Ilim College opened in Dallas in Melbourne’s north in 1995 it had just 63 students. Now the Islamic school has two campuses, an early learning centre and is attended by 1600 students.  Principal Aynur Simsirel said turning away students was one of the most difficult things about her job.

“We get well over 200 applications for prep and we can only accept 95,” she said. “That’s what I find most difficult, saying no.”  Ms Simsirel said the increasing Muslim population in Melbourne’s northern suburbs was behind the school’s growth. “It’s an answer to an ever-growing population and parents’ desires to send their children to a school that meets their cultural and religious needs.” Victoria’s largest Islamic school, Al-Taqwa College, had 1696 students enrolled last year, 653 more than in 2007. There are 1950 students enrolled at the popular school this year.

The school’s principal Omar Hallak said the Truganina college appealed to so many families because of its unwavering focus on discipline. “Discipline is more important than education, if you have education and no discipline you can’t learn in the classroom,” he said. “If students respect the teachers then that education comes along quickly.” He said 95 per cent of students who graduated from the school went on to study at university. Richmond footballer Bachar Houli is one of Al-Taqwa’s most famous alumni.

Faith is also a big drawcard. The school has a full-time imam and a mosque, which can accommodate 1000 worshippers and has a mezzanine floor for women.  “We teach them to be good Australian Muslims.” Enrolments at Minaret College have surged 67 per cent to 1478 students since 2007. Of the 9040 students enrolled at Islamic schools last year, 5874 were primary school aged and 3166 were secondary school aged. The schools cater to 352 more girls than boys.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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An Australian branch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) has been launched in Melbourne, at the Anglican Future Conference. The conference brought together 460 leaders, to consider ways to strengthen what the organisers describe as “positive contemporary orthodoxy” in the Anglican Church. Archbishop Wabukala from Kenya who spoke at the launch said “Faithful, persevering and gospel-centred Anglicanism has been foundational to the identity of Australia and I believe that the initiative we are taking today will be seen by future generations as a strategic moment for church and society.” the Kenyan leader said.

“I long to see all orthodox Anglicans united in a common commitment to pioneering a new wave of evangelism which will have a deep and lasting impact on this nation.” the Archbishop said. “I take great encouragement from the growth of this movement. It is a sign that God has not abandoned the Anglican Communion. At a time when some of its branches are visibly disintegrating, we are called to be pioneers and partners in the restoration of that part of the Church of God that has been entrusted to us as inheritors of the Anglican Reformers.” the Archbishop said.

Archdeacon Condie, as chairman of FCA Australia, echoed the theme of renewal at the launch event. “The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in Australia is a reform movement within our denomination to enable us to reform ourselves by the Biblical Gospel.” In some parts of the Anglican communion secular pressure to modify teaching had seen the church ‘cave in as key teaching gives way to all kinds of error” the Archdeacon said “It would be foolish to think that the Anglican Church of Australia was immune to these pressures and that we will not also see the biblical faith eroded by the world and end up in a similar place.”

“The Bishops of the Australian Church have served us well in keeping to orthodox teaching and protected our church from doctrinal and moral error. We have much to give thanks for, however, we must be always vigilant for reform.” Archdeacon Condie said. The Archdeacon said he would welcome people who “love and want to submit to the scriptures as the final authority in doctrine and morals, who are not afraid to stand against the world to honour Christ and His word, who are prepared to call out error in the church and press for its reform and who want to be in fellowship with other Anglicans who hold to historic faith” to join the new Fellowship

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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