Skip to main content

The Commissioners

The Commissioners

There are 3 Royal Commissioners appointed to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. The Royal Commissioners are independent of any government agency.

Their role is to listen, investigate and recommend actions or changes to address systemic issues contributing to suicide and suicidal behaviours by serving and ex-serving Defence members. What the Commissioners can and are required to investigate is set out in the terms of reference.

Royal Commissioners

Nick Kaldas APM (Chair)

Nick Kaldas held two of the most senior roles in the New South Wales Police Force executive (Sydney, NSW), serving as Deputy Commissioner for almost a decade and, prior to that, Assistant Commissioner (Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics). He relieved as Commissioner of Police extensively. His career as a NSW Police Officer spanned almost 35 years, primarily in major and organised crime investigations, and counter-terrorism, with over a decade in homicide investigations. He also served in a number of senior roles within the United Nations system, and led the UN investigation into the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri, and the investigation into the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict. He was a member of numerous Government committees, at State and national levels. From 2016 to 2018 he served as Director of Internal Oversight of the UN Relief and Works Agency, the agency tasked with dealing with all issues of Palestine refugees. He is Egyptian-born, and fluent in Arabic and partially in French.

He is the Chair of the Advisory Board of Multicultural NSW; a member of the Board of Police Bank; a member of the Advisory Board of Holdmark Construction; a member of the Board of the Commission for International Justice and Accountability; and a member of the Independent Steering Committee, Operation Kenova (Scotland Yard re-investigation of a number of murders committed during the troubles in Northern Ireland).

Commissioner Kaldas holds a Masters' Degree in Public Policy and Administration and is a graduate of the FBI's Hostage Negotiation Program, their Leadership in Counter Terrorism Program, and the FBI National Executive Institute, the peak program for law enforcement executives. He has received numerous awards, including the Australian Police Medal, the National Medal, the Overseas Humanitarian Service Medal, and numerous commendations for outstanding performance of duty in Australia and overseas.

He has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Western Sydney University. He is an Industry Professor with University of Technology Sydney. He was a member of the Australian National Counter Terrorism Committee for eight years, the peak policy body dealing with Counter Terrorism in Australia. He is a Senior Fellow with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. His consulting company, Kaldas and Associates, primarily advises on security, governance and related issues.

Commissioner Kaldas will take no part in any inquiry (if there is one) into any of the organisations mentioned above.

Nick Kaldas headshot

The Hon James Douglas KC

James Douglas was a Judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland from 2003 until his retirement in 2020. He holds degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Queensland and a postgraduate Bachelor of Laws (1976) from Cambridge University. In 1972 he served as associate to his father, the Honourable Justice James Douglas, and later to the Right Honourable Sir Harry Gibbs GCMG KBE AC (1973–74).

He was admitted as a barrister of the Supreme Court of Queensland in 1973 and, after completing his studies at Cambridge in 1976, commenced practice at the bar in 1977. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel (now King's Counsel) in 1989. He served as president (1999–2001) of the Bar Association of Queensland. As a member of the Supreme Court he chaired the Rules Committee and the Streamlining Criminal Justice Committee.

Outside the law, Commissioner Douglas has been Chairman of the Queensland Theatre Company (1990–1996); Chairman of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra Advisory Board (1989–1996); president of the Alliance Française de Brisbane Inc (2005–2010); a member of the Senate of the Australian Catholic University (2013 to date); and president of the Order of Malta Australia (2019 to date). He is married with two adult children.

Commissioner Douglas will take no part in any inquiry (if there is one) into the ACU’s Student Veterans Support Program or the Order of Malta’s support for homeless veterans.

James Douglas headshot

Dr Peggy Brown AO

Peggy Brown is a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), a member of the RANZCP Section on Leadership and Management, a member of the RANZCP Military, Veterans’ and Emergency Services Personnel Mental Health Network (MVESPMHN) and also of the RANZCP ADHD Network.

She is currently appointed as a Member of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. She was previously contracted by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in relation to the conduct of two reviews: Review of Trauma Recovery Program, and Review of the Well-Being and Support Program. She was a member of the DVA Chief Health Officer’s Mental Health Expert Advisory Group from February to July 2021, and was engaged by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care to provide strategic support and advice; and to chair the Expert Advisory Group for the Independent Qualitative Review of Past Defence and Veteran Suicides being conducted by the ACSQHC on behalf of the Interim National Commissioner on Defence and Veteran Suicides.

Commissioner Brown was the Chief Executive Officer at the National Mental Health Commission when it conducted the Review of Suicide and Self-Harm Services for Current and Former Members of the Australian Defence Force and their Families in 2016–17. Her husband was a member of the Australian Army from 1976 to 1985, and the ADF Reserves from 1986 to 1987. Neither Commissioner Brown nor her husband receive any ongoing financial or other supports relating to this past employment.

Commissioner Brown will not contribute to any submission or appearance (if there is one) before the Royal Commission by the RANZCP or any of its Faculties, Sections or Networks. She will take no part in any inquiry (if there is one) into pharmaceutical products available to current and former members of the Australian Defence Force via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Peggy Brown headshot

Assistant Commissioners

A key priority for the Royal Commission is to hear directly from people with lived experience of suicide and suicidality, including through private sessions. Two Assistant Commissioners were appointed to help conduct private sessions. Private session applications closed on 28 April 2023, and the Royal Commission received over 1000 eligible applications.

Commissioners Kaldas, Douglas, and Brown, in conjunction with the Official Secretary, identified suitably qualified candidates – specifically, individuals with previous experience working in the health or mental health sector, and/or experience working in Royal Commissions.

Robert (Bob) Atkinson AO APM

Robert 'Bob' Atkinson served as Commissioner of the Queensland Police Service for 12 years from 2000 until his retirement in October 2012. During a 44-year career with the Queensland Police Service, Atkinson served throughout Queensland – performing a wide range of operational and senior leadership roles. He oversaw reforms after the Fitzgerald inquiry from 1990, as well as the Public Sector Management Commission Review and Report Recommendations of the Queensland Police Service in 1993.

In 2013, Atkinson was appointed as one of six Commissioners to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The inquiry lasted for nearly five-years, and further supported his understanding of the impact of violence and abuse, and the importance of meaningful, trauma-informed engagement with people with lived experience.

Atkinson chairs the Queensland Government’s Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Taskforce, which was formed in response to the Child Abuse Royal Commission. The Taskforce has conducted community forums throughout Queensland and confidential sessions for those requesting them. This demonstrated the important value of truth telling and listening to the stories of people who wished to share their lived experiences.

In 2018, Atkinson was appointed a special advisor to the Queensland Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women, the Hon Di Farmer MP, which saw him author one primary and two subsequent reports in relation to youth justice issues.

Atkinson was appointed co-Chair of Queensland’s Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Council in 2019.

His lifelong commitment to public service and justice was recognised with a Queensland Great Award that same year.

Bob Atkinson considers it a privilege to be appointed Assistant Commissioner to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide: 'I am very grateful for the opportunity and privilege to be appointed to this role to support the important work of the Royal Commission in addressing the critical issues faced by our Defence and veteran communities'.

Bob Atkinson headshot

Dr Susan Young

Dr Susan Young is a registered nurse and midwife, with extensive clinical, academic and governance experience in the health and education sectors. Dr Young has held both clinical and executive positions in public and private healthcare sectors across a range of settings, including metropolitan, regional and rural areas. 

Her clinical nursing experience in critical care, neurological, and orthopaedic nursing; and her previous role on the Board of the National Injury Insurance Agency (Qld) provides her with a sound knowledge of the impact of trauma on physical and mental health, and contributes to an understanding of the many complex cultural and systemic issues which are contributing to the high rates of suicidality in the Defence and veteran community.

Her commitment to public protection/safety was recognised with an appointment to chair the Queensland Board of the Medical Board Australia for two terms before continuing as a member for a further term. Her contribution to the health and education of Australians was further acknowledged when she was appointed to serve on the Board of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). 

Dr Young chaired the Regulatory Performance Committee of the AHPRA Board and was a member of the AHPRA Accreditation Advisory Committee. and was a member of the Board of the National Injury Insurance Agency (NIISQ), Queensland. 

Her academic background includes professorial positions within the tertiary sector, where she served as a Director of Teaching and Learning and a Program Director in the (then) School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Queensland. She also has international recognition as an accreditation and education expert. 

Dr Young’s expertise in analysing and communicating evidence-based public policy, combined with her diverse clinical health experience, equips her with valuable insights into various Defence communities. Her appointment as an Assistant Commissioner to conduct private sessions is a significant contribution to the Royal Commission’s efforts to listen to participants to understand the complex challenges related to defence and veteran suicide.

Dr Young is honoured to be appointed Assistant Commissioner to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide: “I feel deeply honoured and privileged to take on this important role. This appointment is a unique opportunity for me to contribute meaningfully to the well-being of our Defence and veteran communities. I am excited to work alongside the dedicated Commissioners and Royal Commission staff to create a safe, compassionate space for those who have served, and their families, to share their stories.”

Susan Young headshot

People assisting the Commissioners

Official Secretary to the Royal Commission

  • Tracey Bell

Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission

  • Erin Longbottom KC
  • Peter Singleton
  • Gabriella Rubagotti
  • Fiona Batten
  • Leonid Sheptooha
  • Madeleine Bridgett
  • Sophie Molyneux

Solicitors Assisting the Royal Commission

King & Wood Mallesons

  • Emma Costello
  • Peter Yeldham
  • Emma Lawrence
  • Jasmine Forde