New royal commission to shed light on steps to reduce veteran suicide, says A-G
The Morrison government is set to establish a royal commission into the rate of suicide of Australian Defence Force members and veterans, with Attorney-General Michaelia Cash saying reducing lives lost to suicide is a “priority”.
On Monday, 19 April, the federal government announced it will recommend the establishment of a Royal Commission into Defence and Veterans Suicide to Governor-General David Hurley.
In a joint statement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester and Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said that the government intends that the royal commission, and a National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention, will be established together and operate in a complementary way to achieve long-term change.
It is envisaged that the inquiry will have three commissioners. Consultation to appoint suitable candidates is currently underway.
Terms of reference for the royal commission have not yet been released. Mr Chester will lead a public consultation process of said terms, and the Prime Minister will write to first ministers inviting their contributions with the view of a joint Commonwealth-state royal commission.
The national inquiry will examine “past deaths by suicide (including suspected suicides and lived experience of suicide risks) from a systemic point of view, while the National Commissioner will have a forward-looking role, including overseeing the implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations”.
Moreover, the statement continued, the National Commissioner Bill currently before the Parliament “will be amended to ensure their work complements the work of the Royal Commission and examines deaths by suicide in the defence and veteran community that occur after the Royal Commission has handed down their final report”.
The Attorney-General’s Department will provide administrative support to the royal commission.
“Reducing lives lost to suicide is a priority for the Morrison Government,” said Senator Cash (pictured).
“Our aim for this Royal Commission is that it will shed light on the critical steps we need to take so that we can reduce these heartbreaking cases of suicide.”
Prime Minister Morrison said: “In recognising the sacrifices made by our serving and former members and their families on behalf of the nation, we owe it to members, veterans and their families to continue to take action.”
Mr Chester added that the royal commission is “another step” in building confidence, trust and hope for current and future veterans and their families that they will be supported.
“This will provide an opportunity for us all to reset, further increase our understanding of this issue, and unite the Parliament, the ex-service community, and the families who have been affected by suicide,” he argued.
“As a nation we take great pride in the men and women who have served our nation in uniform, and as a Government we have committed to help them with any mental or physical issues that are a result of that service.”