The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide delivered its interim report on Thursday, 11 August 2022 with 13 urgent recommendations for the Australian Government to action.
The Royal Commission was established in July 2021 to investigate the high rates of suicide among serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel.
Up until 31 July 2022, 1,912 submissions had been received by the Commission and evidence heard from 179 witnesses including serving and ex-serving ADF members and their families, representatives from veteran organisations, researchers, general practitioners and psychologists.
The Commissioners commented in the report that they were ‘deeply moved by the powerful accounts of suicide and suicidality’ among serving and ex-serving ADF members and the long-lasting impact this has had on their lives and loved ones. They thanked serving and ex-serving ADF members for their courage in coming forward to engage with the Royal Commission.
The report makes some preliminary observations based on the submissions and witness accounts. These include a range of cultural issues within the ADF that may have negative impacts on mental health, as well as the period of transition from service to civilian life being a critical time of readjustment and can be associated with an increased risk of suicidality. Further, the report notes the impact of mental health and suicidality of serving and ex-serving ADF members on their families, which raises issues of what obligations Defence and the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) have to families.
The recommendations include improving the process for ex-serving ADF personnel and their families in claiming support from DVA and Defence, including processing claims quickly and with respect. The Commission has found that the claims process is contributing to the high suicide rates of ADF personnel and veterans. There are also five recommendations around additional legal protections for those who wish to engage with the Royal Commission but may have sensitive information to share due to their role in the Defence Force.
Public hearings are set to resume in Darwin from October 2022. The final report is due by 17 June 2024.