First report on Defense and veteran suicides calls for “urgent” action



Australian Veterans Affairs Minister Andrew Gee said the federal government would not wait to rconclusions of the Royal Commission on Suicides before proceeding with reforms, following a report calling for action.

Dr Bernadette Boss, the National Commissioner for the Defense and Prevention of Veterans Suicide, published a first report this week with 41 recommendations.

“To save lives, the Australian government must act urgently,” Boss said. “The action cannot be delayed until the conclusion of the royal commission.”

Recommendations include that Defense should employ uniformed clinical psychologists at all ADF bases and headquarters, potentially also at the unit level, and make transition courses mandatory for all departing members.

Australian Institute of Health and Wellness confirmed this week veterans have committed suicide in greater numbers than the general population bu found staff on duty had lower than average suicide rates.

Between 2001 and 2019, there were 1,273 suicides among those who served in the ADF, with rates among serving former members 24% higher for men than in the general population and 102% higher for women.

The boss, who also oversaw the AIHW study, found veterans’ experiences of the Department of Veterans Affairs compensation system “unbearably complex” and causing “more harm” during times of distress.

“The system must move away from the disease model and promote the lifelong well-being of veterans,†Boss said in the report, suggesting that NDIS has provided a blueprint.

In response to the report, Gee said he asked the ministry to “overhaul and speed up »its claims handling system and unify complex compensation legislation.

“We will not wait for the conclusion of the royal commission to launch the reform,” he said.

Boss’s report also supports previous findings that the risk of suicide is higher during times when a service member leaves the forces and after, and recommends that more be done to help at this time.

Recommendations include Defense supporting members from their first day of service to prepare for the transition, assisting them in their post-military careers, and providing peer helpers for one-on-one mentorship.

Glee said he asked the ministry to assess Boss’s recommendations for mandatory bridging courses and how they might fit into existing programs.

“I believe the report will make a significant contribution to current and future work undertaken to improve services for veterans,” he said.

“I have no doubt that the Royal Commission will also find it extremely useful and useful.”

The royal commission was announced in July and will provide an interim report in August 2022 and a final report in mid-2023.

Boss’s report followed 36 private meetings with individual families, defense members and veterans, and 29 roundtables with more than 150 veterans and support organizations.

She acknowledged that the ministry and others provided information, but said that without mandatory credentials for her position, she relied on information provided by individuals and groups.

“Even with the best of intentions, without legislation, organizations were limited in the information they could legally provide me,†Boss said.

“For this important work to be effective, it is imperative that the powers contemplated by the bill be available. “

If you, or someone you know, needs help, you can contact:

  • Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14
  • Suicide Reminder Service – 1300 659 467
  • Open Arms (current and former ADF staff and their families can request this free and confidential support) – 1 800 011 046
  • ADF permanent mental health helpline (for current ADF staff and their families) – 1 800 628 036.
  • Safe Zone Support (for current and former ADF staff and their families) – 1800 142 072. When calling Safe Zone Support, you do not need to identify yourself if you do not want to.
  • Beyond the Blue – 1300 22 4636


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