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Royal Commission Research Program

Every death by suicide is a tragic event. The objective of the Royal Commission Research Program is to identify and examine systemic, structural and cultural issues related to serving and ex-serving Defence member suicide.

The research program aims to provide context and background information, fill critical knowledge and evidence gaps, and summarise existing findings about serving and ex-serving Defence members who have died by suicide or have lived experience of suicide behaviour. The research program will also identify risk factors and practices to prevent future deaths by suicide.

The findings of the research program will inform the Commissioners' final report and recommendations. The research findings will also increase transparency and accountability, and enhance future research, program and policy developments. The findings will also contribute to a research legacy that will be built on beyond the life of the Royal Commission.

There may be opportunities for serving members, veterans, and their families to be involved in research projects. The research will be conducted by leading research organisations on behalf of the Royal Commission. More information will follow in the coming weeks.

The Lived Experience and Research Advisory Group is currently being established. This group is intended to be an expert advisory body to the Royal Commission's internal research program. The Lived Experience and Research Advisory Group will provide advice in relation to research evidence and help evaluate methodology from both lived experience and academic perspectives.

Academic and research institute professionals with significant expertise in the subject matters and specific lines of inquiry determined by the Commissioners, will conduct bespoke research projects across a range of topics on behalf of the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission has and will continue to engage researchers by closed tender, for projects exploring a variety of topics determined by the Commissioners and relevant to the Royal Commission's investigation.

All projects conducted by external providers will have ethical approval from their relevant institutional Human Research Ethics Committees, in addition to following our own Research Ethics and Quality Assurance Framework.

Research underway

Evaluation of a pilot peer delivered, culturally informed, transdiagnostic, manualised, skills-based Group Emotional and Relationship Skills (GEARS) intervention

Principal Investigator: Dr Jon Lane (Military and Emergency Services Health Australia)

The research will provide primary evaluation data for the effectiveness of the Group Emotional and Relationship Skills (GEARS) Program. Specifically, in regard to impacts of the program on mental health, suicidality, access and usage of health care services, perceptions of physical health, and perceived functioning and wellbeing. This comprehensive questionnaire will also provide valuable epidemiological data for the veteran cohorts in terms of their mental health, pathways to care, service usage, and wellbeing.

Mapping Service and Transition to Self-Harm and Suicidality
Principal Investigator: Associate Professor Ben Wadham (Open Door, Flinders University)

This research will provide information on the risk factors leading to suicide including adverse childhood events, service trauma, and engagement with the Australian Defence Force and veterans' affairs systems, transition, and post service life.

Face-to-face pilot transition skills training program for current serving Australian Defence Force personnel
Principal Investigator: Dr Kerri-Ann Woodbury (Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation)

The aim of this project is to pilot a face-to-face evidence-informed reintegration program. This pilot program has the potential to lessen the substantial burden of mental illness and negative psychosocial outcomes in the veteran community that have been associated with transition difficulties.

Machine learning analysis of risk factors for progression from suicide ideation to action in contemporary Australian Defence Force members.
Principal Investigator: Nicole Sadler (PhD student, Phoenix Australia)

Machine learning techniques will be used on existing cross-sectional and longitudinal data from serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel. Analyses will examine changes in suicidality over time, aiming to identify the factors that distinguish between those who progress from suicide ideation to suicide plans and/or attempts and inform early identification and intervention strategies within this population.

The Royal Commission has a dedicated research team to provide expert qualitative analysis.

The qualitative team's work extends to analysis of submissions made by members of the public to the Royal Commission. The aim of this work is to identify the systemic issues and any common themes raised in the submissions related to serving and ex-serving Defence member deaths by suicide, or serving and ex-serving Defence members who have other lived experience of suicide behaviour or risk factors, and any other common themes raised.

Evidence from submissions made by members of the public may be supplemented with transcripts from roundtables, witness testimony, coronial information and Australian Defence Force documentation to deliver insights not otherwise possible.

External Research

External Research

The following research projects have been commissioned as part of the Royal Commission's investigation. The content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Royal Commission or Commissioners.

Research paper 1

Suicide and self-harm monitoring of the serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force member population – Part 1: The data landscape and short-term opportunities

A new research paper by the University of Melbourne explores the current availability of suicide and self-harm data relevant to serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force members, and identifies opportunities for data development.

Research paper 2

Military Compensation Law in Australia: 2004-2021

A new research paper by Mr Peter Sutherland identifies and explains changes to military compensation law in Australia and highlights the need for substantial legislative reform.