Preparation for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has moved into the next phase.
Over the past month I have had discussions with hundreds of veterans, serving members and families across the nation.
The feedback has been extremely positive and constructive and while opinions have been incredibly diverse, we all have one common goal – to prevent suicide within the defence and veteran communities.
More than 1400 pieces of written feedback on the themes that will inform the Terms of Reference have been received by DVA alone.
Some of the common areas of concern identified throughout the consultation process relate to the transition process from defence to civilian life, dealing with DVA in accessing assistance and the complexity of the legislation and the claims process, as well as mental health support, operational tempo and rotations, negative treatment of personnel, and a number of issues that impact families of those who serve.
Publication of the feedback is optional and where consent has been provided, DVA has been progressively making these available on the website.
The consultation phase has now concluded and all feedback provided to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) will be passed to the Attorney-General’s Department, who will draft the Terms of Reference. This is standard practice for a Royal Commission, and as evidenced by the Aged Care and Disability Royal Commissions, the community can have complete confidence in that process.
To be clear, DVA, the Australian Defence Force and the Department of Defence are not involved in the conduct of the Royal Commission itself or the drafting of the Terms of Reference. The Royal Commission itself will be completely independent of government.
We have a world-class system of support for veterans and their families and Australians can be proud of the fact that $11.8 billion in taxpayers’ money is provided every year to allow DVA to do its work.
There’s an enormous amount of help available through DVA, ex-service organisations and community groups which is making a difference every day and it is so important that none of this stops during the course of the Royal Commission.
But the system isn’t perfect and the Royal Commission is an opportunity to identify any weaknesses, listen to the ideas of Australians, and implement changes that can help to save lives.
I would like to thank all those in the community who have provided their feedback.
And for any member of the ADF, veteran or their families who may be struggling as a result of this process, please reach out to Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling on 1800 011 046. Help is available.
Darren Chester, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel.
The Defence all-hours Support Line is a confidential telephone and online service for ADF members and their families 1800 628 036.