Interim National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention appointed and more comprehensive data and evidence available from this week

Posted 2nd October 2020 in Updates from the Prime Minister's National Suicide Prevention Adviser

It has been a significant week for suicide prevention in Australia, with the announcement of an interim National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention, the public website for the National Suicide and Self-Harm Monitoring System launched and a range of other significant reports released.

Interim Commissioner a welcomed announcement

On Wednesday, the Attorney-General announced the appointment of Dr Bernadette Boss, CSC, as the interim National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention. 

While my role as the Prime Minister’s Suicide Prevention Adviser will stay focused on developing options to improve the whole of government coordination and delivery of suicide prevention activities across portfolios, the specific focus on defence personnel, veterans and their families is welcomed.

The appointment of an interim Commissioner can only strengthen our national approach to suicide prevention.

Subject to passage of legislation currently before the Parliament, Dr Boss’ role will be formalised as the National Commissioner with powers broadly equivalent to a Royal Commission to:

  • Inquire into the circumstances of past and future ADF member and veteran deaths by suicide, including suspected deaths by suicide
  • Hear about the impact of ADF member and veteran deaths by suicide on families and others who are affected
  • Make findings and recommendations to the Australian Government
  • Promote the understanding of suicide risks for ADF members and veterans, and factors that can improve the wellbeing of ADF members and veterans.

I look forward to working with Dr Bernadette Boss, CSC, to ensure that our broader review and advice can inform and support the work of the Commissioner going forward, meaning that Australians get the right support at the right time. 

More information about the Commissioner’s work and Terms of Reference are available at: 

Improved and timely data now available 

On Tuesday, I joined Matthew James, Deputy CEO of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to launch the public website of the National Suicide and Self-Harm Monitoring System.  

The system brings together for the first time, suicide and self-harm data into a single platform with the data sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, government health departments, coronial offices, emergency services as well as research studies and national survey data.  

Having reliable and timely data to draw on is critical to our national suicide prevention work so that governments and services can be agile in their response to emerging issues and make investments where it will have the greatest benefit. This is important for our long-term planning but also as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The website is only one part of the overall project. Data improvement and enhanced data sharing is also a key part of the system. A key goal of the National Suicide and Self-Harm Monitoring System is to establish suicide registers in all jurisdictions. Registers currently exist in Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia with plans to establish a register in New South Wales by October 2020. The AIHW is working with South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory to help establish registers in these jurisdictions. The monitoring system is also supporting the establishment of the National Ambulance Surveillance System (NASS), a world-first public health monitoring system that will provide timely and comprehensive data on ambulance attendances for suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, self-injury, and mental health.

To access the site, visit:

Sector reports reinforce the need for a whole of government approach

This week, Black Dog Institute released a Suicide Prevention White Paper and recently Suicide Prevention Australia released their State of the Nation in Suicide Prevention report.  

Both of these are worth a read, and support the need for a more comprehensive, more compassionate and more coordinated response to suicide prevention in Australia. What I have witnessed this year is a genuine commitment and goodwill across government portfolios and across our organisations and communities to work together.

It is only through this shared commitment, drawing on knowledge and expertise from those with a lived experience of suicide, that lasting impacts can be achieved for individuals and communities.

I am sure these reports, and others released this year, will contribute to further robust discussions that are needed in suicide prevention.