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New laws boost protections for people to engage with Royal Commission

New laws further strengthen protections for serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) members who wish to safely share their stories with the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

The Royal Commissions Amendment (Enhancing Engagement) Bill 2023, which passed Federal Parliament late last month and was enacted today, ensures any sensitive, personal or confidential information disclosed to the Commission, can be protected during and after the life of the inquiry.

The legislative changes were made in response to a key recommendation of the Royal Commission’s interim report released last August. The improved protections will also apply to information already shared with the Royal Commission.

Commission Chair Nick Kaldas said he hoped the stronger protections would empower people to more confidently share their stories relating to Defence and veteran-related suicide.

“The more information people are able to share, the better informed we are to make recommendations that will improve the lives and wellbeing of our current and former ADF personnel and their families,” Commissioner Kaldas said.

The new confidentiality protections ensure sensitive information provided to the Royal Commission – such as confidential written statements, verbal accounts or information shared with a Royal Commission staff member – is treated in the same way as information disclosed during private sessions.

For example, information covered by these protections: won’t be admissible in civil or criminal proceedings against a person; the unauthorised disclosure of sensitive information will be a criminal offence; and all information will be kept confidential for 99 years after it is provided; and prohibitions extend to Freedom of Information requests and subpoenas for information.

Anyone who wishes to make a submission to the Royal Commission can do so until midnight on 13 October this year.