(08) 8269 9333 stateoffice@lutherancare.org.au

Army veteran and man’s best friend start afresh in their own home

A selfie of Scott and his dog sitting on the couch together. The Lutheran Care logo appears in the bottom right hand corner.

Army veteran and man’s best friend start afresh in their own home

Scott, 49, has a new best mate in his life: a seven-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer called Boston. 

While Scott struggles with humans sometimes, for many years he has appreciated the loyalty and companionship canines can provide. 

“I have social anxiety – I don’t really fit into the social structure of the world,” the army veteran explains. 

“I find it hard to make friends. It’s a part to do with my psychological conditions and my personality. 

“I don’t have time for fake sh*t and pretend people.” 

Boston is a purebred from New Zealand; a former show and breeding dog with an outstanding pedigree. The Veterans’ Wellbeing Centre at the Daw Park Repatriation Hospital shared an ad seeking someone to adopt Boston and he’s now been living with Scott for less than a week. 

“They brought him right to my door,” Scott says. 

“We’re getting used to each other. He’s protective of me already and just follows me around.” 

Boston has some big paws to fill. Boofa the Kelpie was by Scott’s side for 15 years, including through Scott’s experience of homelessness, which began about five years ago. Sadly, Boofa had to be euthanised in May last year after his back legs went.  

“He was my best mate, which I’ve only had a couple of before,” Scott says. 

“Because we were together so much, he knew what I was thinking and I knew what he was thinking.” 

Scott had a difficult start to life as an orphan at the Goodwood Orphanage. He began primary school in Redwood Park, before he was fostered out to a family up in the Barossa Valley. 

In year three he began his schooling in Kapunda and carried through until Year 12. 

After school, he was at a loss of what to do next.  

“I didn’t want to hang around with the people I was with,” Scott says. 

He enjoyed and was good at cooking, so applied for a couple of jobs in this field, but was unsuccessful. 

Inspired by his grandfather who was in the army, he signed up at the Pirie Street Recruitment Centre. He even appeared on TV news for a story about country kids joining the military. 

“A month later I was on a train to Melbourne, off to Kapooka near Wagga, to do basic training,” Scott shares. 

He went to Puckapunyal Catering School and was posted to 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, stationed at Enoggera in Brisbane’s North West. 

From here he went ‘bush’, to the army training grounds of Shoalwater Bay, Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach. 

Scott was a cook and a driver, and was considered to be versatile and useful. 

“I loved the army, it was great,” he says. 

Unfortunately, he injured his back whilst loading his truck, which restricted the types of jobs he could do and had him largely office bound. 

After four years in the army, he took a medical discharge. 

He travelled through Victoria back to South Australia, then caught a lift with a mate up the NT, and stayed for 18 months at a backpackers’ hostel in Darwin.  

“It was pretty difficult. I joined the military straight out of school and hadn’t lived on my own. 

“The environment’s different to the army.  

“I hit the backpackers and got ripped off left, right and centre. 

“The experience opened my eyes to what the world’s really like I guess.” 

Scott did all sorts of jobs as he explored Australia; he studied a Certificate 4 at TAFE for 18 months to become a catering supervisor. 

“I didn’t like it but the chef who was the instructor didn’t like it either,” he explains. 

The TAFE instructor left to start his own catering business in Stawell, New South Wales, recruiting Scott to help him cater for events including horse racing meets, car racing meets and weddings. Scott even catered for the famous Stawell Gift running race. 

Scott has always suffered from Depression and this started setting in more heavily around this time. 

He went back to the Barossa and got jobs in the wine industry, in the local pub and for a plastics mixer in Nuriootpa, which he says wasn’t too different from cooking; he was still following recipes, although wearing a full chemical suit with breathing apparatus. 

He was in touch with his former foster family but severed ties with them about five years ago. 

“I was always looking to be part of a family I suppose and to be treated the same as they treated their kids.” 

“That’s where I started time on and off with Centrelink and trying to work out the problems – some I was born with, others were from my environment growing up.” 

Scott took a job with a drilling company who realised his skillset and installed him as a camp manager in the Eastern Kimberly. “I was running the camp there with about 20 blokes,” he says. 

Unfortunately, the company decided to discontinue its exploration in the area, so he returned again to the Barossa, working at a pub in Kapunda. When the pub changed hands the work dried up and he went to another pub, however still dealing with his back injury, he was losing interest in cooking.  

Scott had a relationship and a son with a woman he met locally, however the relationship ended and he is trying to reconnect with his son. 

He was a carer for a while, however this didn’t work out. 

“That was the start of my homelessness,” Scott shares. 

For over a year he lived on his veteran’s pension of $60 a fortnight, which also needed to stretch to cover food for Boofa. 

He and the kelpie lived in a ute travelling around the Barossa, and ended up at the Nuriootpa Train Park. 

A friendly local business owner in the area would buy Scott a coffee and something to eat, and have a chat in the mornings. In return, Scott kept an eye on his compound. 

Lutheran Care assisted him with some food through our Emergency Relief program and he also had some dealings with a social worker employed at the local council. 

When not in the ute, Scott and Boofa stayed in a tent “here and there, on a property they let me stay on”. 

He was trying to secure a spot in a local caravan park but he could only stay for around 10 days at a time because of their tourism focus. 

“This wasn’t working for me,” he says. 

“I was getting more and more depressed.” 

“I lost a lot of weight, got down to my high school weight of 60kg”.  

And for a six-foot tall man, 60kg is not very much at all. 

Scott was diagnosed with Bipolar and has been at crisis point with his mental health, needing hospitalisation. 

He was rediagnosed quite recently with adult ADHD and borderline (complex) personality disorder. 

“I’ve only just started on that journey,” Scott says. 

Sometimes though, the universe throws you a bone. 

Just after he lost his dog, Scott remembers sending a message to the universe that he really needed some help.  

He happened to be friendly with a lady whose friend lived south of Adelaide so he went down there to visit. 

Scott was waiting for his next payment to come through so he could get some petrol, but unfortunately his battery went flat. 

He was parked in a car park, where many people would walk past. He scanned the crowd, wondering who to ask for help and jumper leads. 

A man walked past with a blue heeler dog. As a dog lover, how could Scott not introduce himself? 

Scott and the man got chatting, and the man noticed Scott’s veteran’s affairs card in his wallet. 

It turned out the man was a pastor at the Repatriation Hospital. 

When Anzac Day came around, Scott was at a loss of what to do. He went to the chapel at Daw Park, to see if the man was there. 

The speaker who was there had a profound impact on Scott with his emotive story.  

“It was hard, he had lost a dog and two brothers in Afghanistan. Tears were streaming down. I had to walk out a couple of times but I came back.” 

After the service, he went to enjoy the spread of food provided next door. 

Scott noticed a woman looking at him, and worried that he was doing something wrong, thinking ‘I’d better get out of here before she comes over to me’. 

The next time he looked up though, she was there. 

She was Julie, from the Veteran Wellbeing Centre. It was another pivotal meeting in Scott’s life. 

“They took me off the streets straight away,” Scott says. 

He was placed in a cabin at a caravan park initially, then the Vinnie’s Men’s Shelter for 28 days. Next, he moved into Carrington Cottages for about three weeks. 

“In the meantime, during all of this time, RSL Care  were just waiting for the rotation of veterans through their properties so they could put me up there,” Scott says. 

Scott was housed through Andrew Russell Veteran Living, a subsidiary of RSL Care which is named for Andrew Russell, who was an SAS soldier from South Australia killed in Afghanistan; the first Australian to die in action since the Vietnam War. 

He stayed in the home for six months, also working closely with Housing SA. 

Because of his back and hip problems, Scott needs a ground floor property, and was eventually offered one in Osborne. 

“I’ve been here for two months,” Scott says. 

“It’s not too bad. 

“Transport is very close. There’s a shop just up the road that I can walk to. The beach is 20 minutes away or I catch a train down to Largs and hang out down the beach there and walk back on the beach to here.  

“I can’t complain.” 

In the future, Scott hopes to reconnect with his son, who he hasn’t seen for four years. 

He is also working to connect with mental health professionals who can help him get the diagnosis and support he needs to be able to access disability support and continue to learn to manage his mental illness. 

With a park just 100 metres down the road and plenty of walks in store, his new mate Boston isn’t complaining either. 

Read more real life experiences of homelessness here.

*Special thanks to RSL Care for connecting us with Scott.