Newsletter Edition 29 – 8 May 2024

8 May 2024

Commissioner Brown on stage, featuring a PowerPoint slide with the words 'A
catalyst for change' and an image of the three Commissioners on it.
Commissioner Peggy Brown on stage at the National Suicide Prevention Conference.
Commissioner Brown shared Royal Commission analysis at suicide prevention conference On Tuesday 30 April, Commissioner Brown spoke at the National Suicide Prevention Conference in Adelaide, sharing new insights from the Royal Commission. At the conference, Commissioner Brown revealed that Royal Commission analysis of Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data shows there are on average three deaths by suicide of serving or ex-serving Defence members every fortnight across Australia. According to the AIHW, 78 serving members or veterans died by suicide each year between 2011 and 2021, equating to three deaths by suicide every fortnight. Significantly, this data does not take into account those who served before 1985, including Vietnam veterans. 3858603.jpg Commissioner Brown also shared findings of new research that has been conducted by the Royal Commission, showing a higher suicide rate for male serving members of the ADF when compared to the Australian employed male population. This research is the first-time that the suicide rate for permanent serving ADF members has been compared to the employed population. Commissioner Brown said the findings provide a different perspective to previous research that indicated being a serving member lowered a person’s risk of suicide: “Previously, Defence stated that service was a protective factor when it comes to suicide. Our analysis, and comparisons to the employed population, show that risks of military service, whether it is occupational or organisational, suggest service may be a risk factor.

The Royal Commission strongly believes the employed population is a more accurate comparison group than the general population when identifying at-risk groups in the ADF, given that all members of the ADF are employed and the ADF does not generally enlist individuals with pre-existing disorders.”
– Commissioner Peggy Brown The research and methodology of the above data will be part of the Royal Commission’s final report, which is due to the Governor-General by 9 September this year.
What happens next for the Royal Commission
The Royal Commission is now moving from fact-finding to reporting, with our final report to be delivered to the Governor-General by 9 September 2024. The final report will be the culmination of all the evidence gathered in hearings, the stories shared in submissions and private sessions, internal and external research commissioned by the Royal Commission, the many roundtables, workshops and reference groups held by the Commissioners and Royal Commission staff, as well as the countless meetings with community members, stakeholder organisations, ex-service organisations, government entities and more. 3858612.png
Over the next few months, as the Commissioners and Royal Commission staff work on the final report, we will keep sharing insights from the Royal Commission.

In June, before the delivery of the final report, the Commissioners will deliver two reports to the Governor-General – one on a possible new entity to follow the Royal Commission and the other a special publication honouring all those with lived experience who’ve contributed to our important work. Ahead of the delivery of the final report, the Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners will also complete dozens of private sessions.
Anzac Day
On 25 April each year, we recognise and commemorate those who have served our nation in the Australian Defence Force. Anzac Day is a day to honour the important contributions of our sailors, soldiers and aviators in peacetime and war. To pay their respects, the Commissioners attended Anzac Day dawn services in Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane. Commissioner Kaldas at Burwood RSL.
Commissioner Kaldas at Burwood War Memorial Arch
Anzac Day is a proud day for many, a time to catch up with mates, to march, and to remember; however, we acknowledge that Anzac Day may also be difficult for some. If you are finding the time around Anzac Day challenging this year it may be helpful to reach out to a friend, family member or support person. For immediate help or if you are feeling in crisis, contact one of these services.

If you can, reach out and offer your support to serving members, veterans and their family members in your life. Supporting the Defence and veteran community is important to do every day, not just on Anzac Day, but some in the community need extra support at this time of year. Your support can help save lives and reduce the rate of suicide amongst serving and ex-serving members.
New research paper published
The Royal Commission’s inquiry is broad and encompasses many facets, including internal and external research. We have just published our final commissioned research paper, as part of our external research program. This research paper, Understanding and enhancing responses to suicide crises involving current serving and ex-serving members of the ADF: A data linkage study, is by the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research. This research paper was a large quantitative project, which looked at people who had a suicide related contact with emergency services over a three-year period in Queensland. The report provides information on Australian Defence Force members and veterans who were the subject of an emergency response. This includes demographic information and information on mental health, physical health, medication use, and health service usage patterns 12 months before and after a suicide related contact.

This data linkage study estimates that one serving or ex-serving Australian Defence Force member has suicide-related contact with emergency services every four hours across Australia. Significantly, this is a conservative estimate, as the figure does not include repeat suicide-related contact from the same individual. Commissioner Kaldas said this research is further evidence of the size and scale of the problem the inquiry continues to grapple with: “These figures once again highlight the national tragedy of suicide in the military and veteran community. Despite some 57 previous inquiries into these issues, the suicide rates have not decreased. We are determined to be the inquiry that brings about real change.” – Commissioner Nick Kaldas
Some other key findings of this latest research paper are: 1,625 serving and ex-serving members were identified as having a suicide related engagement with police or paramedics in Queensland over the three-year period examined. Serving and ex-serving members in Queensland had 24% higher odds of having a suicide-related contact with police or paramedics than a civilian adult. Those who had a suicide-related contact with emergency services were more likely to die prematurely, from any cause, than the general population of Queensland.
This is the final paper to be published as part of the Royal Commission’s external research program. Research has supported our understanding of Defence and veteran suicide and is being used in multiple ways to shape the final report. This research included literature reviews, evaluations of specialist transition programs and mental health intervention programs, research into risk and protective factors, research into health service usage and reviews of international research and best practice. The content of all research papers commissioned by the Royal Commission does not necessarily reflect the views of the Commissioners.
National Families Week

A child holding an adult's hand at a military parade.

National Families Week, 13 to 19 May, is an annual celebration of families and acknowledgement of families as a crucial support network. Defence families have been at the heart of this inquiry from the beginning, including the many family members who were instrumental in establishing this Royal Commission. We have heard from hundreds of family members and loved ones of serving members and veterans over the course of this inquiry – including through submissions, in private sessions and at hearings. The experiences of children, parents, partners and other family members who have been impacted by Defence and veteran suicide have been essential to our inquiry, and we thank you for sharing your family’s stories with us.
You can call us on 1800 329 095 or +61 2 5122 3105, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday to Friday AEST, excluding public holidays.

For a free-of-charge translator or interpreter phone the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450. Ask to be connected to 02 5122 3105.

Or you can email us at [email protected].    
Headshots of the three Commissioners - Dr Peggy Brown AO, Nick Kaldas, Chair and
The Hon. James Douglas QC
Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide logo
© Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide 

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