The commission has flagged its landmark inquiry into Australia’s defence force culture will include confronting accounts of life in the service, including bullying, “concerns over the treatment of women”, sexual and physical assaults and ritual hazing of new recruits.
Evidence will also be heard about the challenges of accessing mental health support after deployment and “the loss of identity and community” after transitioning to civilian life.
Chair of the inquiry, commissioner Nick Kaldas, said on Friday he and his two fellow commissioners believe it is a “once in a generation opportunity for lasting, fundamental change” to tackle the suicide crisis.
Source: ROYAL COMMISSION INTO DEFENCE AND VETERAN SUICIDE
Commissioner and psychiatrist Peggy Brown added that “while I don’t believe that any government department … in Australia sets out to fail, or to lack compassion, there can be no doubt that systemic issues are contributing to the suicide deaths of our defence members and veterans”.
“That is something this royal commission must change – absolutely.”
A report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in September revealed more than 1200 serving and former Australian Defence Force died by suicide between 2001 and 2019.
It found male veterans were 24 per cent more likely to die by suicide than the general population and female veterans twice as likely.
The royal commission is due to produce an interim report by August 11 next year and a final report by June 15, 2023.
Readers seeking crisis support can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged up to 25). More information and support with mental health is available at Beyond Blue.org.au and on 1300 22 4636.
Embrace Multicultural Mental Health supports people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.