Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Australian Royal Commission on defence and veteran suicide continues its work

In 2021, the Governor-General of Australia created a Royal Commission into Defense and Veteran Suicide. The Commission's user-friendly website can be found here. The latest press release states:

The independent body charged with ensuring a fair and impartial military justice system will come under the spotlight when the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide continues its hearing in Melbourne this week.

The Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF), James Gaynor, and his team will give evidence about the policies and processes that guide their work. Of particular interest to the Royal Commission will be how the Office of the IGADF maintains its independence while operating inside the Defence establishment.

Their evidence will follow that of former serving ADF members who last week gave evidence about their experiences engaging with the Office of the IGADF.

The Royal Commission will hear further evidence about the culture and practices of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA).

Commission Chair Nick Kaldas said the inquiry regularly hears from veterans whose interactions with DVA cause them immense distress.

“Despite signs of change within DVA, we continue to hear evidence the Department operates more like an insurance processing house and its adversarial approach is impacting the mental health and well-being of veterans and their families”, he said.

Former Army medical officer and Afghanistan veteran Daniel Mealey will also give evidence.

Dr Mealey, known for his advocacy for homeless veterans, served in Afghanistan as an Army doctor. In 2019, he produced the documentary Man Down which examined veterans’ struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the difficulties faced when seeking support from DVA.

During the first week of the Melbourne hearing block, the inquiry heard from Julie-Ann Finney, whose son David died by suicide after serving in the Navy. It also heard from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who said DVA behaved more like an insurance company than an agency that exists to support veterans.

The Melbourne hearing will conclude on Friday 8 September 2023.

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