New data from a specialist legal service shows more than 200 people have come forward to seek help telling their story to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide in the first two months since public hearings began.
The Defence and Veterans Legal Service (DAVLS) is a free national service established to support people affected by high suicide rates within the Australian Defence Force community.
Staffed by dedicated lawyers, DAVLS provides independent information and legal advice about taking part in the royal commission, which is set to launch public hearings in Sydney on Monday, February 14.
“We have seen an immediate and strong response from veterans and serving ADF members who have lost a loved one to suicide, or have experienced suicidal ideation themselves, and want to see change,” DAVLS Director and former defence member Jasmine Stanton said.
“Many people are telling us the royal commission is bringing up memories they have never shared before. Others have reported feelings of deep shame.
“If you have experiences to share with the royal commission, there are lots of ways we can help you protect your privacy, including by supporting you to tell your story in a private session.
“Legal support can keep you in control and help your story lead to lasting change for the next generation of Defence personnel, their families and supporters.”
Anyone considering sharing their experiences with the royal commission is encouraged to call the free DAVLS infoline on 1800 33 1800.
“We can help you understand your legal rights and options for sharing your experiences with the royal commission. We can also connect you with other services, including counselling,” Ms Stanton said.
“Our legal support is free, confidential and available to anyone who needs it – there is no income or assets test, or other eligibility criteria for assistance, and speaking with one of our lawyers does not commit you to giving evidence or making a submission.”
DAVLS is independent of the royal commission and has been established to support ADF personnel and veterans, as well as their families, carers and supporters, to safely engage with the royal commission and to get follow up support if they need it.
An initiative of National Legal Aid, DAVLS is being delivered by legal aid commissions in each state and territory.
The service is funded by the Australian government for the duration of the royal commission.