Vicki and Isabella are Greg, their dedicated husband and father, tragically passed away in 2013 after a battle with melanoma. Greg joined the Australian Army when he was 18 and left 4 years later.
After Greg’s passing, Vicki was devastated and overwhelmed by the thought of being a single mum on her own.
Legacy has provided a lot of assistance to make things a bit easier on the family – helping with Isabella’s school fees, books, and uniforms, as well as her out-of-school activities like swimming and netball. Vicki herself has also been provided with educational support, with Legacy helping her obtain a Certificate III in Education through the Legacy Westpac Education & Development Fund.
Vicki and Isabella are supported by their Legatee, Meredith, who lost her veteran husband and wanted to give back by becoming a volunteer with Legacy. She got involved in 2011 and has since gone on to become Legacy South Australia & Broken Hill’s first female President in 2018/2019.
Meredith knows the struggles these Legacy families may face and wants to make sure that they do not miss out on opportunities just because of their circumstances – even the smallest gesture of support can go a long way.
‘[Vicki] has told me that being able to lean on me when needed takes a great weight off her shoulders,’ says Meredith.
For Vicki it has meant a lot to have Legacy, and Meredith, in her corner.
‘Their support saves lives.’
“I don’t know how I would’ve navigated that whole period without David and Clive.”
Death Street, I.E.D. Alley, Route Irish – the highway linking Bahgdad’s Green Zone with the airport. This expressway was deemed the world’s most dangerous road, with near daily attacks, during the American-led occupation of Iraq. Terese’s partner Trooper Matthew Millhouse survived one of these attacks, after being knocked unconscious it wasn’t until many years later that the severe symptoms began to show.
After Matthew returned home from serving four years in the Australian Army, Terese and their young daughter Eleanor noticed something plaguing on Matthew. It started with a plethora of symptoms, depression, anxiety, mood swings, obsessive behaviours, and alcohol abuse- creating a strain on their marriage. This was only the beginning of the tribulations that Terese and Eleanor would face.
It was around this time that the Millhouse family encountered Legacy. Terese and Eleanor met Legatee David Waddle who guided them through the mountains of paperwork and processes to being supported.
Legacy couldn’t have stepped in at a better time, as it became clear that something sinister was taking place within Matthew. Young Onset Dementia.
“David was incredible in helping us navigate seeking support and acknowledgement from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.”
Over the two following years after Matthew was diagnosed, he declined in health- needing 24-hour specialist care and was moved to a nursing home to ensure he received the care he required.
Throughout this time Legacy played a pivotal role in supporting the Millhouse family. Supporting with general life tasks and getting the family on track as well as providing a financial advisor to assist with money payouts and bills. Not to mention, gaining acknowledgement from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for the severe brain degeneration caused by Matthew’s service in Iraq.
Sadly in August of 2015, Trooper Matthew Millhouse at 36 years, passed away. It was at this time where Terese and Eleanor needed Legacy the most, with aid in organising the widow and dependant payments from Defence and connecting back to the Australian Defence Force to ensure the correct funeral was held to honour Matthew.
It was not long after this, that Legatee Clive Simpson (the father of a close friend of Matthew’s) was brought into the Millhouse family. With Legatee Simpson’s assistance they were able to get Eleanor a Collegiate Scholarship to the local college in Hobart, which meant a weight lifted off the family in not having to worry about school fees, ensuring Eleanor would get the education she deserves.
“It was quite fitting here in Hobart to have him [Clive Simpson] as an ongoing Legatee while David Waddle took a step back after the forms and processes were completed”
To this day, Legacy is still heavily involved in Terese and Eleanor’s lives with ongoing support financially for education and even on holidays where Hobart Legacy hosts Christmas parties for the kids with homemade and donated gifts. Legatee Simpson reaches out on birthdays, holidays and every now and then to ensure both Terese and Eleanor are in good health and supported.
“It’s continued on, they are still a big factor in our lives and always check in on Eleanor’s studies”.
Legacy has always been a part of Kaye Mongan’s life. Legacy supported her grandmother in the 1930s after her grandfather died as a result of injuries sustained at Fromelles in the First World War. Her mother and five siblings became Legacy wards. Legacy assisted with their schooling just as they do now. Later in her mother’s life, Legacy also supported her when Kaye’s father, a Second World War commando, died. As a young girl in Brisbane, Kaye helped raise money for Legacy.
When Kaye’s husband, an RAN veteran, died in 2016, Legacy was there, initially helping to navigate the processes of locating documents and records needed from several government departments. Kaye said “I began to relax – I had this strange feeling that I was not alone and now someone had my back covered. Legacy were walking beside me, lighting the way.”
With the encouragement of her Legatee Sam Hughes (who had also served in the RAN), she regained the confidence to go out and to meet other widows supported by Legacy, and to enjoy some fabulous Legacy functions – Spring and Christmas Luncheons, ANZAC Concerts, holidaying at the Canberra Legacy cottage by the sea and being involved in North Canberra Laurel Club of which Kaye is now the President, one of several Canberra Legacy groups offering peer support and social connection for people in the same circumstances.
During the series of COVID lockdowns in Canberra, Kaye spent many hours on the phone just to let other widows know they were not alone, and that Legacy will always be there for them. Kaye enjoys working with the widows in Laurel Club pointing them in the right direction towards their Legatee should they need assistance.
Pictured above: Kaye Mongan with Legatee Sam Hughes.
Emily and James lost their father, a serving member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), when they were just 6 and 8 years old. He died at 42 years of age.
Thanks to the generosity of Legacy supporters, Legacy has helped ensure that Emily and James, and thousands of children like them, have not been socially or financially disadvantaged because of a parent’s service.
Children are especially vulnerable following the loss of a parent.
That’s why our Legatees play such an important role in the lives of veterans’ children.
These dedicated volunteers play a vital role as mentors and sounding boards and work one-on one with families to ensure they have access to the right mix of financial, emotional and social support from Legacy.
For James and Emily, it was Legatee Brian Hollins who took on that very special role.
Brian came into the children’s lives not long after they lost their father. As a former Army Officer, Brian understood the children’s pain all too well. He too had lost his ADF father when he was child and he and his brother were cared for by Legacy.
In an incredible twist of fate, Brian had served in the Army alongside James and Emily’s father, Major Michael Wiltshire, who devoted 20 years of his life in service to our nation.
In the 15 years since Brian became James and Emily’s Legatee, he has become a close family friend; encouraging and mentoring the siblings as they have grown into adulthood and supporting their mother Kerrie whenever she needed it.
And it was Legatee Brian who introduced the children to Legacy Camps. As you will read, it is these camps – the friendships they formed and the acceptance they found there – which they credit with changing the course of their adult lives.
That should not be so surprising. The impact of losing a parent is devastating, but connecting with peers who can offer support, acceptance and understanding is immensely beneficial in helping young people overcome the overwhelming grief they are experiencing.
James and Emily are immensely grateful to Brian and Legacy. Both say Legacy’s ongoing support has played a huge role in helping them become who they are today.
James has vivid memories of the first time he was welcomed into the Legacy Family at a Christmas party he attended when he was eight years old.
A few years later, he and his sister attended their first Legacy Youth Camp.
That first Legacy Camp left an indelible imprint on the mind of the then ten-year-old Emily. She was only in Grade One when her father died: and the years that followed were a difficult and bewildering time.
“I remember always feeling different at school…being the kid whose father had died”, she recalls.
“By the end of that first Legacy Camp, I realised that everyone there had lost a parent who had served. From that day on, there was a real sense of finally being understood. At Legacy, I felt ‘normal’.”
Her brother agrees. “Having that shared history of a parent who has served in the Defence Force and passed away or is permanently disabled: you don’t have to explain yourself… you feel like you fit in,” James reflected.
The Legacy Week Appeal has been running since the 1940’s and is a time for all Australians to show their support for the widows and children whose loved ones have served our country. The Legacy Badge is a special emblem of support for our veterans’ families, symbolising our nation’s greatest values of mateship, compassion and fairness.
Legacy started in 1923 to support the families of those who never made it home from war. Today, Legacy has evolved to also support the families of veterans’ who have given their health in service to Australia.
Heidi and her boys are one of those families. Heidi is a navy veteran and single mum to Finn (12), Will (9), Hendrix (5) and Quade (4) – with her oldest two boys on the Autism spectrum. Before Legacy, she and her boys were doing it tough. Heidi had many sleepless nights worrying about how she could best provide for her family and their growing needs.
“The stresses of being a Mum, doing it alone, the special needs, and then being behind in bills. It’s probably the worst feeling,” says Heidi.
After being told about Legacy, Heidi contacted her local Club and found out that they could support her family – something that came as a massive relief.
Legacy has helped Heidi and her boys by assisting with bills, school fees and uniforms and even speech therapy lessons for Finn and Will. Legacy has also been able to provide the kids with a trampoline and specialised bikes so they can relax and have fun as a family. As a bonus, Heidi’s family has also found friendship and support with the Legacy volunteers and Legatees they interact with.
Legacy helps 43,000 partners and children nationally through their dedicated and caring volunteers – who they call Legatees – who provide personalised support for veterans’ families doing it tough. Depending on a family’s circumstance, it could be anything from helping with paperwork to making a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs, advocating on the family’s behalf, or giving them a person to talk with who has been through similar circumstances.
Finn and Will have also been able to experience Legacy camps, where they interact with other kids just like them. Clubs across Australia hold camps that are designed to make them feel happy and comfortable, while giving them a place where they belong.
Breeanna was in the Air Force Cadets when she was introduced through a mutual friend to Sergeant Brett Till. She immediately thought Brett stood out as an extraordinary man, exhibiting many of the qualities she admired. In 2008, Brett and Bree married in a ceremony near their hometown.
Approaching their first wedding anniversary and only eight weeks pregnant, it was with trepidation that Bree bid Brett farewell to his duties in Afghanistan as a member of the Army’s elite Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit.
“You don’t want your husband to go [on a deployment], yet at the same time you don’t want to be the one who stops them from doing their job,” says Bree. “All soldiers will tell you they are trained to do their job, and that’s what he wanted to do. All I could do is hope he would return home safely.”
One afternoon Bree received a knock on the door from two defence personnel to tell her the devastating news of Brett’s death. Aged only 31, Sgt Brett Till became a casualty of war when an improvised explosive device he was attempting to render safe had exploded.
“She was also coping alone with the stresses of her advancing pregnancy…”
The following months became an unbearable challenge for grieving Bree. The fact Brett had died overseas caused numerous complications and Bree felt overwhelmed by bureaucracy and paperwork. To compound matters, it looked like she would have to move out of her home in a matter of months. She was also coping alone with the stresses of her advancing pregnancy while looking after Brett’s older children, Jacob and Taleah.
“My dedicated Legatee was there for our family at every milestone.”
Bree was in a desperate predicament when Legacy contacted her to offer help from a dedicated volunteer. Within a matter of days an enormous load was lifted from her.
“My Legatee liaised with the various government departments and assisted me in negotiating an extension to stay in my home, which really helped take the pressure off. I was especially grateful for the support from my dedicated Legatee who was there for our family at every milestone. I also appreciated that Legacy provided me with additional welfare information that I may not have otherwise been aware of.”
“They also get a chance to meet other children who have lost a father, and importantly they meet Legatees who are great role models.”
Legacy provided Bree with financial assistance to help pay for school fees, books and uniforms for Brett’s children. The children were also given a chance to experience the guiding hand they could no longer have from their father, attending camps where they met volunteers who act as mentors.
“The Legacy camps help keep the children grounded yet at the same time make them feel special. They also get a chance to meet other children who have lost a father, and importantly they meet Legatees who are great role models.”
“I have witnessed first-hand the difference Legacy can make in people’s lives.”
The Tills have experienced immense suffering and they are still coping with the severe blow of losing a husband and father. But Legacy has been able to provide encouragement and some measure of security.
“I have witnessed first-hand the difference Legacy can make in people’s lives. To have so many people volunteer their time and effort for people they initially don’t know to this day blows me away. It is inspiring to be reminded there are people like that out there. I am especially grateful for it as these are qualities I want to nurture in my children, and they experience it first hand from Legacy. My Legatee seems to thrive from making a difference in people’s lives; he’s been an amazing person to have in our life.”
Annabelle’s husband Josh served our country in the Australian Defence Force, returning from Afghanistan in April 2008. In June 2008, Josh was diagnosed with brain cancer. He fought the aggressive cancer for more than eight years and the couple shared many experiences and made memories which would last a lifetime.
Memories were not the only thing that Annabelle would be left with, as in 2017, the devoted couple found out they were going to have a baby girl. They were elated to start a family. Tragically, Josh lost his battle with brain cancer in November 2017, just months before little Primrose was born.
Thankfully, after her husband died, Annabelle was not alone. As soon as Legacy learned of her circumstances, a support team was mobilised, immediately offering counselling and financial support and helping her through the emotional trauma of losing Josh and the challenges of being a single mother.
Annabelle says she simply couldn’t have coped “…without the love and support of my friends, family and, of course, her Legacy family.”
Thanks to the generosity of donors, Legacy was able to support Annabelle with an education grant to train for a new job and assist with childcare payment for baby Primrose.
Whether it’s by providing emergency financial assistance, advocacy with pensions and other entitlements, education grants for veterans’ children or helping families deal with the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Legacy will ensure that those who are truly in need have the tools to rebuild their lives after shocking loss.
It is only thanks to the generosity of donors that Legacy is able to continue to assist veterans’ families in need.