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Royal Commission calls for census to capture more data on veterans

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide says additional data, if captured in the next Census, could be used to better support our diggers and their families.

The 2021 Census was the first to ask Australians whether they had ever served in the navy, army or air force – the data revealing more than half a million had served (496,276) or were serving (84,865) in the ADF.

In a submission to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on the 2026 Census, the Commission has called for the current question about military service to be retained – and that ex-serving ADF members also be asked to indicate their most recent year of discharge.

Commissioner Peggy Brown said additional ‘year of discharge’ data could be used to provide key insights into cohorts who served in the ADF at particular points in time.

“Significantly, this data could enable important research into the physical health and wellbeing of ADF members who served at differing time periods and through different deployments,” Commissioner Brown said. “It could also provide a more detailed understanding of veterans who served prior to 1985, which is a key gap in the understanding of veteran suicide.”

The Royal Commission, in its Interim Report released last August, estimated that more than 220,000 living Australians served in the ADF prior to 1985, and noted there is currently limited information on this cohort.

The robust count of the number of serving and ex-serving ADF members from the 2021 Census has allowed key statistical agencies, the ABS and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, to produce fresh insights into the demographics, socio-economic background and health and wellbeing of our military community.

“Census data on those who have previously served in the ADF will hopefully support better policy development, including planning and delivery of targeted and appropriate support programs and services for our veterans and their families,” Commissioner Brown said.

Submissions to phase one of the ABS’ 2026 Census consultation close tomorrow (Friday 28 April 2023).