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Commissioners meet local Defence personnel, veterans' groups ahead of Melbourne hearing

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has arrived in Victoria for meetings with the local military community ahead of a public hearing commencing in Melbourne next week (Monday 28 August).

Commissioners Nick Kaldas, Peggy Brown and James Douglas will today (Monday 21 August) visit Simpson Barracks at Yallambie, north of Melbourne, where they’ll meet Australian Army members to hear about life on base.

They'll also visit the Australian National Veterans' Art Museum to learn how its art therapy programs are aiding veteran wellbeing and view artwork created by ex-service personnel.

And this afternoon, the Commissioners will meet with Victorian ex-service organisations to update them on the inquiry's work and to hear their thoughts about the issues impacting local veterans and their families.

Commissioner Kaldas said understanding the different issues affecting local serving and exserving members and seeing the different support services available to them was critical to the Royal Commission's work.

"We're continuing to listen to the heartbreaking stories behind this national tragedy," Commissioner Kaldas said. "We're now also starting to formulate strong recommendations to address the cultural, structural and systemic issues impacting the mental health and wellbeing of serving and ex-serving members and their families."

While in Melbourne, Commissioners Kaldas, Peggy Brown and James Douglas will also hold 34 private sessions, meeting face-to-face with people with lived experience of suicide and suicidality, to hear their deeply personal stories.

The Commission has received 4115 submissions to date – more than 10% of those from Victoria, highlighting problems with the Department of Veterans' Affairs and poor ADF culture.

The 10-day Melbourne hearing, to be held at the Novotel on Collins, will again focus on leadership and accountability, examining issues relating to the Office of the InspectorGeneral of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF). Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is also expected to give evidence about Commonwealth-State cooperation on veterans' matters.