Member Stories

ANZAC Day: One customer-owned bank’s paw-legged gift


A one-of-its-kind scheme is giving back to veterans and helping rescue dogs at the same time. Here’s how Defence Bank is doing it. 

As we pause on ANZAC Day to recognise the brave Australians and New Zealanders who went to battle for our countries, one customer-owned bank has found a way to help veterans all-year round. 

The Defence Bank Community Dogs program supports serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) members who are living with injuries or illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, ADF members are over-represented in PTSD statistics, with 8.1 per cent of male Defence Force veterans experiencing the debilitating illness, compared with 4.6 per cent of men who haven’t served, an ADF study found1.

The Defence Community Dogs initiative is the only independent program in the country that rescues and trains dogs to support veterans. It offers veterans the opportunity for rehabilitation and reconnection with the community. It’s also a win for the dogs, who get a new home, plenty of love and the chance to provide such a valuable service. 

The feedback from the program has been overwhelmingly good. Veterans report better sleep patterns, reduced stress and fewer anxiety episodes, less reliance on medication, and independence – all thanks to their new canine friend. As a result of the program, some veterans have even been able to return to work. 

Training happens at correctional centres, where dogs are paired with specially selected minimum-security inmates and coached under the guidance of expert dog trainer Steve Austin. 

Through the training, the dogs learn how to help veterans with the conditions they may be experiencing. 

The training of the dogs is a lengthy process, as it’s critical to ensure the canines are able to provide the right level of support to veterans. It generally takes 10 months – or 250 hours – and costs more than $10,000. However, there’s also a handover, follow-up support and monitoring, which means the total investment is closer to $30,000 per dog. 

It’s made possible by Defence Bank, which finds various ways to raise and donate funds to the Defence Bank Foundation. For example, it donates half of its $45 low-rate credit-card fees to the scheme.  

You can read more about the amazing ways customer-owned banks are giving back to communities in the Banking with Purpose book. 

  1. https://www.defence.gov.au/adf-members-families/health-well-being/services-support-fighting-fit/mental-health-online/post-traumatic-stress-disorder#:~:text=In%20particular%2C%20ADF%20males%20report,marker%20of%20risk%20for%20PTSD. ↩︎

Hear it first

Four times a year we’ll send you helpful banking tips and inspiring stories from our members.