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Six months until submissions close, Adelaide and Melbourne hearing dates announced

Current and former members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) have six months left to make a submission to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

It comes as the inquiry announces dates for its public hearings in Adelaide, from 17 July 2023, and Melbourne, from 28 August 2023.

Commission Chair Nick Kaldas said people have until 13 October this year to make a submission to the Royal Commission and help make a difference.

“Now is your chance to help fix this national tragedy – we’re not going to get another crack at this in our lifetime,” Commissioner Kaldas said.

“Every story is a vital piece of the puzzle that will help us improve the lives of serving and ex-serving ADF members and their families.”

The Royal Commission was established in mid-2021 to look into the high rates of suicide and suicidality in Australia’s military community. Since 1997, 1600 serving and ex-serving ADF members have taken their own lives – that’s about 20 times the number killed in active duty over roughly the same period.

So far, the Royal Commission has received more than 3,350 submissions from serving and ex-serving ADF members, family and friends with lived experience, advocacy groups and experts.

Of the total submissions received:

  • 54% identified as ex-serving ADF members, while 19% identified as current serving members
  • Most came from QLD (32%), then NSW (23%), VIC (12%), WA (9%), ACT (8%), SA (6%), TAS (4%), and NT (3%), overseas (1%) Around 2% did not disclose location
  • 47% came from regional, rural or remote areas of Australia
  • 58 submissions, or 1.73%, of submissions were made on behalf of a deceased person

Common themes to emerge from the submissions received to date, include ADF leadership and culture, including incidents of inappropriate behaviour, such as abuse, bullying, harassment, and physical and sexual assaults; stigma relating to mental health issues and the reporting of physical injuries; difficulties around transitioning from Defence to civilian life; lack of continuity of health care services MEDIA RELEASE after service; and complaints about the Department of Veterans’ Affairs claims process, including negative interactions with staff.

The Commission encourages written, audio and video submissions about all aspects of military life: recruitment, training, deployment, culture, injury management, transition into civilian life and the DVA claims process.

“We want to know the good and the bad – and any suggestions you have for change,” Commissioner Kaldas said.

“By gaining a full picture of service life, we can identify the risk and mitigating factors for suicide and make recommendations that will result in happier, healthier servicemen and women – and ultimately, a stronger and more resilient Defence force.”

New legislation has recently passed Federal Parliament, which will ensure serving members can share their stories without fear of reprisals. The legislative changes, which provide stronger confidentiality protections, were a key recommendation of the Royal Commission’s interim report released last August.

Counselling and other support services are available to anyone wishing to engage with the Royal Commission.

Meanwhile, the Royal Commission will hold its next public hearing in Perth from Tuesday 16 May 2023. It has now also locked in dates for its public hearing blocks in Adelaide and Melbourne.

Commissioner Kaldas said these public hearings would be important to the inquiry, with significant numbers of current and former Defence personnel located in Western Australia (62,000), South Australia (48,000) and Victoria (105,000).