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Canberra hearing to focus on Defence culture and complaint handling

A public hearing of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide that opened in Canberra today will focus on issues around Defence culture and claims processing by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

The Commission Chair Nick Kaldas said the inquiry has heard lengthy claims processes have contributed to a significant decline in ex-service members' mental health.

"These issues must be addressed as soon as possible," Commissioner Kaldas said.

"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the lives of current and former Defence members. There is a sense of urgency as we strive to prevent deaths by suicide."

The Royal Commission has so far received:

  • More than 1,300 submissions, and
  • The Commissioners have held around 80 private sessions, where people share their experiences in a confidential setting.

In his opening address, Counsel Assisting the Commission, Kevin Connor SC said the fourth public hearing will also investigate the impact of Defence life on families and the support available during and after service.

"We will deepen our focus on the importance and significance of families, the impacts of service upon them, how they might be better supported, and how this support may be relevant to suicide prevention."

The Royal Commission's interim report is due in August. The Canberra hearing will run until 14 April at the Rex Hotel.