A message from RSL Victoria State President, Dr Robert Webster OAM
The tragedy of veteran suicide and the impact this has on families, friends, and the community has been a dominant issue within the ex-service community for years. The calling of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide in 2021 was the opportunity for the voices of Veterans and their families to be finally heard.
Thursday, 11 August, saw the release of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide Interim Report, less than a year after the first hearing block in Brisbane began. This report documents the first 13 recommendations from the Royal Commission. RSL Victoria notes the Government's immediate acceptance of the recommendations.
"So far more than 1900 submissions have been received as part of the Royal Commission, and 194 witnesses have come forward. This is an opportunity for our community to tell their story, and the courage and bravery of those who have come forward and spoken from the heart cannot be understated. Their lived experiences are an important record of the challenges faced by generations of veterans and their families. We acknowledge and thank them for their brave testimony."
The recommendations and observations made within the interim report highlight the challenges Veterans and their families have faced for too long. Recommendations around structural changes to the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA), to resource and change the slow and bureaucratic system that exists will need political will but it can and must be done. For too long veterans have waited unacceptable times for their claims to be processed and the stress that it places on the Veteran and their families is unacceptable. We urge Federal and State Governments to work together to provide the full range of services needed by Veterans and their families.
Whilst the Interim Report largely focuses on the operations of the Department of Veteran Affairs The RSL recognises that there are steps that need to be taken by the Ex Service Organisations (ESO) community to better support Veterans and their families. These include developing and fostering closer partnerships across across the ESO Community so we can put veterans and families first, reducing complexity and making it easier to access the support they need when they need it. We need to have a clear understanding of what the needs and priorities of veterans and their families are either by leveraging existing studies and investing into new research or just by listening.
"The RSL in Victoria believes that the Royal Commission needs to be the catalyst for change. We welcome the interim report and the implementation of all its recommendations. We will continue to support the ongoing work of the Royal Commission."
Public hearings for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide will resume in Darwin from 17 October and then move to Wagga Wagga from 28 November. We will welcome the opportunity to give evidence when the Royal Commission comes to Victoria in 2023.
Visit RSL Victoria’s Royal Commission webpage for news and updates on the progress of the Royal Commission.