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Frequently Asked Questions

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General

A Royal Commission is a public inquiry. In Australia, Royal Commissions are the highest form of inquiry on matters of public importance.

A Royal Commission has broad powers to gather information to assist with its inquiry. The Royal Commission has the power to summons witnesses to appear before it and the power to request individuals or organisations produce documents as evidence.

The terms of reference sets out the key areas of investigation for the Royal Commission.

As the highest form of public inquiry, the Royal Commission will focus its inquiry on systemic issues that may be contributing to defence and veteran suicide.

The Commission will be able to make recommendations about any policy, legislative, administrative or structural reforms.

The Royal Commission will be informed by individual stories and experiences but it cannot resolve individual disputes. It cannot fix or award compensation or make orders requiring a party to a dispute to take or not take any action.

There is a legal advice service for people wishing to engage with the Royal Commission.

The Royal Commission is committed to having a clear and transparent feedback and complaint process. Find out more on our feedback and complaints page.

Submissions

A submission is a statement to the Royal Commission which assists the Commission in its collection of information that is relevant to the inquiry as set out in the terms of reference.

Yes, you are free to publish and share your own submission once you have sent it to the Royal Commission.

The Royal Commission intends to publish a number of ‘registered for publication’ submissions over the life of the Commission. A submission will only be made public where the person making the submission has indicated that they agree to its publication. However, the Royal Commission reserves the right not to publish certain submissions or to redact information within a submission. This includes circumstances where the information in a submission is not relevant to the Royal Commission’s terms of reference, where matters are subject to a non-publication order, or where there are privacy concerns about the information.

A submission and a private session each serve separate functions in the Royal Commission. 

Submissions are formal statements to the Royal Commission. Anyone can make a submission. All submissions are recorded and reviewed by the Royal Commission team. There is no guarantee that if you make a submission you will be asked to appear and give evidence at a public hearing.

Private sessions are not submissions. Each is a confidential meeting with a Commissioner or Commissioners for the participant to tell their story. This meeting is private and therefore will not be used as evidence or published. If you are a Defence member, veteran, or family member with lived experience of mental health, you can apply for a private session.

Accessing information

If you require copies of official records to support your submission or your appearance as a witness, these can be requested from the Department of Defence or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The Defence and Veterans Legal Service (DAVLS) can also provide advice and support in accessing these records.

Depending on the types of records you are requesting, the Department of Defence and/or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will provide documents in accordance with relevant processes, legislative provisions and the Freedom of Information Act. Please allow 30 days for all requests.

You can request copies of official records from the Department of Defence or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

If you require copies of official records about a family member or loved one to support your submission or your appearance as a witness, these can be requested from the Department of Defence or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The Defence and Veterans Legal Service (DAVLS) can also provide advice and support in accessing these records, including for family members and loved ones.

Depending on the types of records you are requesting, the Department of Defence and/or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will provide documents in accordance with relevant processes, legislative provisions and the Freedom of Information Act. Please allow 30 days for all requests.

You can request copies of official records about a family member or loved one from the Department of Defence or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

The information you provide to the Royal Commission helps inform the Commissioner’s inquiries. Information that you share with the Commission will be used to help us make findings and recommendations to help reduce Defence and veteran suicide and suicidal behaviour. Although the Royal Commission is not regulated by Australian privacy laws, the protection of your privacy is important to us. For this reason, we ensure that the handling, security and disclosure of any personal information you provide to us is guided by privacy laws.

If you include your name and contact details in your submission, we are able to follow up and check whether you need any further support.

In limited circumstances, the Royal Commission may be required to share personal information held by the Commission. This can include in situations where there may be serious and/or imminent risk, or where the Commission is obliged under law (for example, where information relates to an Australian law being broken). 

Private sessions

A private session is a confidential meeting with a Commissioner/s where you tell them about your personal experience. You decide what you say and what you do not want to share. Private sessions can happen by telephone, video link or in person.

Family members of defence members and veterans who have died by suicide or who have supported a defence member or veteran with lived experience of suicide behaviour or risk factors are eligible to request a private session.

Defence members and veterans who have lived experience of suicide behaviour or risk factors (including attempted or contemplated suicide, feelings of suicide or poor mental health outcomes) are eligible to request a private session.

If you are a professional and/or have worked with and supported people with lived experience you are not eligible for a private session however you are encouraged to put in a submission.

If you are an advocate and wish to inform the Commission of your client’s experience you are not eligible for a private session but you are encouraged to put in a submission.

A guide to your private session is available for more detailed information

When you have submitted your request, the Royal Commission staff make an immediate assessment to ensure you are eligible for a private session. If you do not meet the criteria, you are notified within 5 working days of making the request.

If you do meet the eligibility requirements, Royal Commission staff will continue to progress your request and will notify you as appropriate.

If you do not hear back from the Royal Commission straight away, do not be concerned, as there are a number of factors that will determine when a private session can be held and that may impact timing for a private session.

The timing of your private session might be impacted by factors such as the hearing timetable, private session locations, your preference for a face to face or video conference session, and other issues such as weather events or COVID-19. These events may also require us to reschedule sessions. There may be longer wait times for those wanting a face to face session.

The Royal Commission plans to go to every state and territory to hold private sessions. We will do our best to accommodate requests for private sessions across the country; however, this may not always be possible.

When you request a private session, you can nominate your preferred way of speaking with the Commissioner/s. You can request the meeting be in person, by video link or by phone. We try to always support people's first preference, but sometimes it is not possible. If we do not have availability for a face to face meeting as your first choice, we will ensure we support your second or third preference i.e. video conference or phone call.

Hearings

The Royal Commission will publicise its public hearings on the website and elsewhere. You can subscribe to our mailing list for emails from the Royal Commission (including details about hearings). For information about hearings after they have been held (including videos and transcripts), check the Hearings page on the website.

At hearings, the Royal Commission will hear from people identified by Counsel Assisting to appear as a witness and give evidence. Not everyone who makes a submission will appear at a hearing.

Throughout the Royal Commission, the Commissioners will hear from a range of witnesses including those with lived experiences.

Individuals identified to appear as a witness at public hearings will be contacted in advance and have the opportunity to discuss this with our counselling and support staff, and Counsel Assisting.

Those that wish to participate in public hearings should contact the Royal Commission to discuss the evidence they wish to share. Although not everyone who contacts the Royal Commission will be able to participate in public hearings due to the constraints of time, all information provided to the Royal Commission will be recorded, reviewed and used to inform the Commission’s work.

Some witnesses with lived experiences will give oral evidence at hearings of the Royal Commission. This is an opportunity for the Commissioners to hear the subjective impressions of those witness drawn from their experiences relating to defence and veteran suicide or suicidality. Lived experience witnesses are generally not cross-examined, and are encouraged to give their oral evidence at hearings in a way that avoids specific allegations against identifiable individuals.

The Commissioners will not make specific findings based on lived experience evidence. However, the evidence of lived experience witnesses is extremely valuable. That evidence throws light on systemic issues that are of concern and need to be inquired into at a general level. The Commissioners will use the lived experience accounts that they hear to inform themselves generally about the need for reforms that they may recommend.

Legal financial assistance is available to individuals and entities to assist with meeting the costs of legal representation and disbursements associated with engaging with the Royal Commission, including as a witness.

Leave to Appear

Leave to Appear applications are typically made by people or organisations who are the subject of evidence before the Royal Commission. This may include individuals, as well as service providers and government agencies, in circumstances where they are not appearing as a witness.

Leave to Appear does not entitle a person or organisation to participate as a witness or give evidence before the Royal Commission. Leave to Appear is different to other forms of engagement with the Royal Commission and will only be granted in limited circumstances where the person or organisation has a direct and substantial interest in the subject matter of the hearing (see Practice Guideline 2).

You do not need to seek Leave to Appear to share your experience with the Royal Commission.

You do not need Leave to Appear to be able to:

  • provide a submission
  • attend in person in the hearing room where the public hearing is conducted, or follow along with the live feed, as a member of the public
  • appear before the Royal Commission to give evidence at a hearing as a witness
  • attend a private session.

For more information about Leave to Appear, please download our Leave to Appear Guidance Note.

Prior to each hearing, the Royal Commission will invite people and organisations who may have a direct and substantial interest in a particular hearing to make an application for Leave to Appear.

If you consider that you have a direct and substantial interest in the subject matter of a particular public hearing and wish to seek Leave to Appear, you should submit an application for Leave to Appear in accordance with Practice Guideline 2 at least 7 days prior to the hearing.

To make an application, you should complete the Application Form on the Royal Commission's website;

  • write a short submission setting out why you have a direct and substantial interest in the subject matter to be considered by the relevant hearing; and
  • send the form and the statement to the Solicitors Assisting the Royal Commission by email at DVSRC.OSA@royalcommission.gov.au.

Everyone who makes an application for Leave to Appear will be notified of the outcome of their application. Leave to Appear will only be granted in limited circumstances where you or your organisation has a direct and substantial interest in the subject matter of the hearing (see Practice Guideline 2).

The Royal Commission may grant a person or organisation Leave to Appear at a public hearing in certain circumstances, including when:

  • a person has been summoned to give evidence as a witness and that person, or the organisation on whose behalf that person is giving evidence, wishes to be legally represented during the hearing;
  • the person or organisation is the subject of the hearing;
  • the person or organisation are likely to have adverse allegations made against them (e.g. an allegation of inappropriate conduct) during the course of the hearing; or
  • the person or organisation has produced documents or other material to the Royal Commission, which the Royal Commission is likely to consider or examine in detail during the hearing.