The Chair of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide says the 12-month extension of the inquiry, announced this week, is vital to thoroughly investigate the complex factors that contribute to deaths by suicide.
Commissioner Nick Kaldas made the comments on the final day of a two-week public hearing at the Rex Hotel in Canberra.
“We requested this extension to give us the opportunity to thoroughly review the complex matters before us – the breadth of which is now more apparent,” Commissioner Kaldas said.
“It affords us adequate time to conduct more hearings and private sessions, to engage with stakeholders and to pursue and analyse data from Defence and DVA that has up to this point, been difficult to obtain.”
Commissioner Kaldas acknowledged serving and ex-serving members and their families may view the extension as “yet another delay”.
However he stressed that the Commission’s interim report would be handed down in August, as scheduled, and include recommendations for immediate action on critical issues.
The Commission may also make other recommendations, as necessary, without waiting for its final report in June 2024, Commissioner Kaldas said.
“This inquiry is urgent. The terrible toll of suicide is always front of mind and we Commissioners are determined to do all we can to improve, and indeed save, lives – as quickly as possible.”
During the eight-day hearing, the inquiry heard from 37 witnesses, including those with lived experience and representatives from Defence and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
The Commission heard evidence about DVA claims processing, including first-hand accounts from those who have navigated the process.
The Canberra hearing also looked at the importance of families in supporting serving and ex-serving ADF members and the challenges of transition to civilian life.
The next public hearing will be held in Townsville from 20 June 2022.
Any current or former ADF members who wish to share their experiences are being encouraged to make a submission.
The Royal Commission has so far received 1,384 submissions. Every contribution is carefully reviewed and will inform both the interim and final reports.