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Mother who led push for Royal Commission after son’s suicide to appear before inquiry

Julie-Ann Finney, whose 38-year-old son, Royal Australian Navy petty officer David Finney, died by suicide in 2019, petitioned the Morrison Government for the high-level, independent inquiry.

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide was formally established in July 2021 to examine cultural, structural and systemic issues that are failing serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force members, and contributing to high rates of suicide and suicidal behaviour in the military community. 

Ms Finney will share her deeply personal story when the Royal Commission’s 11th public hearing opens in Melbourne tomorrow (Monday 28 August 2023). 

Royal Commission Chair Nick Kaldas said it’s critical the inquiry hears from lived experience witnesses like Ms Finney.

“These personal stories make a valuable contribution to our inquiries. They highlight the key issues and themes we’re focusing on as we develop our final report,” Commissioner Kaldas said. 

The Melbourne hearing, to be held at the Novotel on Collins, will also focus on leadership, accountability and military justice, as well as issues relating to the rehabilitation of veterans and the organisational culture of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA).

The Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) will give evidence about the agency’s role as a key vehicle for accountability. The Royal Commission will examine how the Office of the IGADF maintains its independence while operating inside the Defence establishment.

It will also hear evidence from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews about cooperation between the states and Commonwealth on matters relating to veterans – and from a panel of state government representatives on support available to serving and ex-serving ADF in Victoria.

The Royal Commission has received more than 4100 submissions so far – more than 10% of those from Victoria. Local submissions have highlighted challenges with DVA, ADF culture and, in particular, discrimination against minority groups.

Serving and ex-serving ADF members, their families and friends, and other interested individuals and groups are encouraged to share their story with the Royal Commission ahead of the closing date for submissions on 13 October.

The 10-day Melbourne hearing block will conclude on Friday 8 September 2023.