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Royal Commission hears of unique challenges facing top end serving personnel

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has concluded its Darwin hearing, having gained important insight into the unique challenges of military service in the Top End.

During his closing address, Commission Chair Nick Kaldas said the inquiry’s time in the Northern Territory had shown how factors such as the intense heat and humidity could affect the wellbeing of current ADF members and their families.

“This visit to the Top End has been incredibly valuable,” Commissioner Kaldas said.
“At this time of the year, I must offer my utmost respect to those who serve and train under these difficult conditions.”

The seven-day hearing heard from Defence personnel, lived experience witnesses, and representatives from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Northern Territory Government.

Counsel Assisting the inquiry, Peter Singleton said the Territory was home to a younger-than-average population of serving members, with a “strong community and better-than-average morale”.

But the challenges for personnel could include “isolation, a ‘fishbowl life’ and scarcity of community services – not just for service personnel but also for their families”, Mr Singleton said.

The Commission has received 93 submissions since the start of the Darwin hearing, including 26 from current serving members.

Commissioner Kaldas encouraged current and former serving members to make a submission.

The Royal Commission will conduct its 8th hearing block in Wagga Wagga from 28 November. Further hearings are to be scheduled in Perth in the first half of next year and in Melbourne and Adelaide in the second half of the year. Dates are subject to change and further details will be announced closer to the time.