No Duff is a term used by military personnel to indicate an emergency situation and now it is also the name of an agency set up to help defence force veterans.

Marton artist Tim Wilson is one of its founders and he knows what it is like to cope with the after-effects of military service.

"I joined the army when I was pretty much straight out of school and later I joined the airforce.

"I served in East Timor as an 18-year-old and it was tough," he says.

Advertisement

When Mr Wilson and a group of other veterans learned through social media that a former soldier was in trouble in Auckland, they mobilised to help him.

"Someone had contacted Auckland police to say this guy was in trouble.

"He had Post-Traumatic-Stress Injury and he was living in a park under a tarpaulin but the police said they were too busy to help."

The incident led to the formation of a network of veterans helping others and No Duff became a Non Government Organisation (NGO) in February last year and is now a registered charitable trust.

Since its formation, No Duff has received 83 requests for help from defence force personnel, veterans and spouses.

They have built a team of 300 volunteers and clocked up 629 hours of support work.

No Duff has also assisted veterans to form better links with Veterans Affairs New Zealand and the Returned Services Association.

"There was a lack of information for vets about how to get the help they needed and the communication was not good," says Mr Wilson.

"Post-Traumatic-Stress Injury is an illness and it needs to be treated as such.
"There is a harden up kind of attitude and that is so unrealistic."

No Duff are able to provide a conduit between veterans and the help they need because of their empathetic approach and first-hand knowledge of problems faced by defence force veterans.

"The service is completely confidential and we will not disclose any information unless it might help save someone's life," says Mr Wilson.

"We can also match the person seeking help to the right volunteer.

"Someone who has similar experience."

Mr Wilson served 16 years in the defence forces and then made a complete change and studied art at UCOL Whanganui for a year.

Some of his art work has now become part of the No Duff story with an exhibition Soldiers Five: A Veteran's Journey currently showing at Bowen House in Wellington.

Mr Wilson has collaborated with fellow artists and veterans Matt Gauldie and Trevor Mills to illustrate their personal perspectives of military service.

Matt Gauldie's work in the exhibition includes a portrait of Mr Wilson and one of his partner Bonnie Howes who has served as an engineer in the NZ Army.

The work in the exhibition encompasses themes of transition, isolation, determination and hope that many veterans face after their service has ended.

Proceeds from the sale of Mr Wilson and Mr Mills' work will go to support No Duff and Mr Wilson said he is delighted that Veterans Affairs Minister David Bennett bought one of his art works.

"He is fairly new to the role and he is very open to listening and learning which is really encouraging," Mr Wilson said.

"There are 61,000 veterans in New Zealand and it is really important to make sure that they have access to the support they need."

The Soldiers Five exhibition is open every Wednesday to Friday from 10am to 3pm at Bowen House, Wellington until May 26.

To learn more visit the No Duff, website and there is a No Duff Charitable Trust Facebook page.