/ 20 April 2021

Campaigners secure Royal Commission

PM Scott Morrison yesterday announced a Royal Commission into veteran and serving defence personnel suicide after a long-running campaign from the defence community, affected families, and pressure from MPs and Senators. He said he’s listened to the calls and will recommend the inquiry focuses on “the systemic issues faced by Australian Defence Force members and veterans that too often results in their loss of life to suicide.” While Labor’s Veterans’ spokesman Brendan O’Connor welcomed the inquiry’s launch, he said it had been done “begrudgingly, belatedly and because of the pressure”.

In short, the number of serving and ex-servicemen and women taking their own lives is climbing. From 2001-18, 465 suicide deaths among serving, reserve and ex-serving personnel were recorded, and reports say numbers have soared over the past year. Many campaigners point out that 41 Australian defence personnel died during the almost 20-year-long conflict in Afghanistan, and say there are serious issues going unaddressed to help those who serve overseas when they come home. Last year, Morrison proposed an independent commissioner to investigate the suicides, but the legislation failed to receive support in the Senate where crossbenchers, including former soldier Jacqui Lambie, demanded a Royal Commission. So here we go.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the inquiry will help to understand the issues further and to build “trust and hope” for current and future veterans and their families that they will be supported. That includes assistance with transitioning out of service, mental health support and securing housing and employment. “As a government, we have committed to help them with any mental or physical issues that are a result of that service,” Chester said. Consultations and the process to appoint 3 commissioners to lead the inquiry are underway. The inquiry could take between 18 months to 2 years to be completed.

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