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Australian Veterans’ Brain Bank launched

Partnership to drive research into impact of brain injury among the nation’s veterans.

SydneyConnect Video: Australian Veterans' Brain Bank launch

Sydney Local Health District is home to a new Australia-first Brain Bank set up to help better understand the impact of head injuries among the nations service men and women.

The Australian Veterans’ Brain Bank, founded by Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s Head of Neuropathology, Associate Professor Michael Buckland, will work in partnership with the National Centre for Veterans’ Healthcare (NCVH) at Concord Hospital.

The NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard and the NSW Veterans Minister David Elliott joined the District’s Chief Executive Dr Teresa Anderson, Associate Professor Buckland, the NCVH’s Medical Director Dr Cameron Korb-Wells and veteran Damien Thomlinson for the official launch of the Brain Bank.

The President of RSL NSW Ray James and members of the Australian War Widows NSW branch also attended the launch.

“The establishment of the Australian Veterans’ Brain Bank is a significant step forward in advancing the understanding of the long-term effects of head trauma among veterans,” Mr Hazzard said.

“This service will be able to provide more accurate diagnoses for loved ones of late veterans who have pledged their brains to research and improve the diagnosis and treatment of brain disease during life.

“It’s absolutely crucial that we get a clearer understanding of what service can do to our service men and women – not just in the physical sense but in the mental sense,” he said.

An Australian first, the NCVH opened in 2019 and provides a comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach to care for veterans' physical and mental health related illnesses.

So far, it’s provided care for more than 300 veterans across the country.

The Australian Veterans’ Brain Bank’s research into the impacts of brain trauma and injury will be driven by those delivering care to veterans.

“This will help health professionals gain better insights into the long-term impacts of brain injury on veterans while also supporting healthcare workers to be better prepared in the future care of our service men and women,” Mr Elliott said.

“Through this Australian-first collaboration, researchers hope to increase awareness of the potential impacts of head injury among veterans, their families and the organisations that support them,” he said.

Associate Professor Buckland said the Australian Veterans’ Brain Bank will seek to understand the long-term impacts of head injury, including any association with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease.

“The focus of the work is looking at understanding more the long term consequences of exposure to brain trauma – be that through blast exposure, though concussion, through other ways that people get hit on the head or have significant force applied to their brain during the course of their training or their service,” Professor Buckland said.

CTE is linked with repetitive head injury diagnosed by examination of the brain at autopsy.

“We would like to encourage veterans to pledge their brains to help us further that research,” Professor Buckland said.

Veteran Damien Thomlinson, who served in the Australian Special Forces for eight years and was severely injured when his unit drove over an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2009, is an Ambassador for the Brain Bank.

“It took me moments to be happy to be signed up to donate my brain so that we can see what the impact of being so close to a large explosion is. And hopefully we can connect the dots in the future and make sure that other people are prepared for the damage that may be caused and we can also isolate ways to treat and prevent injury moving forward,” he said.

The Australian Veterans’ Brain Bank is the sister organisation to the Australian Sports Brain Bank.

The NCVH’s Medical Director Dr Cameron Korb-Wells, said the partnership will inform better health outcomes for veterans.

We work very closely with veterans and veteran organisations to ensure we continue to understand veterans’ healthcare needs and provide the best possible support,” Dr Korb-Wells said.

Donated brains will be stored at the Brain and Mind Centre at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital with research being carried out between there and the NCVH.

For more information or to register for brain donation, please visit www.veteransbrainbank.org.au