ABOUT THE ROYAL COMMISSION INTO DEFENCE AND VETERAN SUICIDE
Royal Commissions are the highest form of inquiry on issues of public importance. The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide was established in July 2021 to look into the high rates of suicide in Defence and veteran communities and make recommendations to government as well as exploring potential changes that can be made.
RSL Victoria continues to support the work of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide through its Working Group to ensure RSL Victoria’s responses are considered, evidence informed and wide-ranging as possible.
ABOUT THE WORKING GROUP
The key purpose of RSL Victoria’s Royal Commission Working Group over the next 5 months will be to prepare for the Victorian Royal Commission Hearing Block, to be held in August 2023 and to continue to share with the Royal Commission Team issues that are been faced specifically by Victorian veterans and their families. We will continue to do this leading up to the August hearing.
The Working Group is comprised of veterans from both within and outside of the State Branch. It is chaired by Lindsay Guerin, a member of the RSL Victoria State Executive, but features independent members to hear the widest range of veterans' views and experiences possible.
WORKING GROUP UPDATES
- In January 2023, RSL Victoria formally responded to the Royal Commission’s requests to provide information on veteran support services and membership numbers. These have been received and noted by the Royal Commission.
- At the end of February 2023 the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel, The Hon Matt Keogh MP, announced that the Government will be undertaking consultation with the veteran community and other stakeholders about a proposed pathway to simplify the veterans’ legislative framework. The Interim Report of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide found that the complexity of the veterans’ system is adversely affecting the mental health of veterans. The proposal being put forward for consultation by the Government is for a future model where all claims would be considered under the existing Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004, rather than the three legislative schemes as is currently the case. This proposal would effectively implement many of the reforms recommended by the Productivity Commission in its 2019 report A Better Way to Support Veterans, with simpler outcomes.
- The Minister and the Department have been seeking direct consultation with key ex-service organisations around the country.
- Members of RSL Victoria have been meeting with other State representatives to form the outline for the RSLA submission. This meeting took place on 13 March 2023.
- In response, RSL Victoria has sought advice and opinions from the veteran community on the harmonisation of this legislation to ensure that no veteran is left worse off by any potential legislative changes. This advice has informed (and will continue to inform) both our response and our input to RSL Australia’s collaborative submission, created from the advice and findings of representatives from multiple states.
For more information on this matter, please read the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Veteran’s Legislation Reform Consultation Pathway.
- On Friday 28 April, RSL Victoria will be visited by a representative of the Royal Commission to visit our services. We are eager to host members of the Royal Commission team and showcase the work we are doing and the lived experiences that inform our work. It has also been an opportunity to raise Victorian issues in advance of the hearing.
- Recently, we lost two valuable members of the working group, Eamon Hale and Bill Westhead. RSL Victoria sincerely thanks them for their significant contributions to the working group up to this point – their valuable efforts have enabled RSL Victoria to respond with two submissions to date and have contributed significantly to the establishment of the original group.
- The focus of the Royal Commission working Group is to prepare RSL Victoria for attendance at the Melbourne Hearing set down for 28 August 2023.
RSL Victoria believes that the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran suicide is long overdue. We endorse the findings of the Royal Commission Interim Report and remain strongly committed to ensuring that no veteran is left worse off by the harmonisation of legislation.
RSL Victoria is working to help drive reform and looks forward to being an open and collaborative part of the solution when Victoria’s Royal Commission Hearing Block sessions begin in August 2023.