Royal Commission Defence & Veterans’ Suicide – Newsletter Edition 24 – 13 December 2024

14 Dec 2023

Commissioners discuss inquiry so far and the year ahead

The Commissioners have shared their thoughts and unique insights in a sit down conversation to mark the end of the year. Commissioners Kaldas, Douglas and Brown spoke about what they have learnt so far, how hearing from people first hand has impacted them, and how the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission will benefit the whole community.

The Commissioners’ request for an extension has been granted The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has been granted a short, three-month extension by the Federal Government to complete its inquiries.

Commissioners Nick Kaldas (Chair), Peggy Brown and James Douglas wrote to the Attorney-General in October to raise concerns the existing timeframe was continuing to impact the ability of the Royal Commission to deliver a final report and recommendations to bring about long-lasting improvements for the wellbeing of our Defence and veteran communities.

The Royal Commission has previously expressed frustration at the slow response from Commonwealth agencies to requests for information, as well as claims of confidentiality, parliamentary privilege and public interest immunity.

Commissioner Kaldas has welcomed the Government’s decision to grant the extension, which will allow the Royal Commission to test recommendations with key stakeholders to ensure they can be implemented without unintended consequences. Regrettably, the latest AIHW data released last month confirms there has been no improvement in the high rates of suicide in our Defence and veteran community. This Royal Commission must be a call to action. We, as a nation, can no longer allow the preventable deaths of our serving and ex-serving Defence personnel to continue. This short, three-month extension will help to ensure our final report is robust, evidence-based and fair to all parties, and contains recommendations that are realistic, fit-for-purpose and implementable – to ensure Government is well equipped to address what is a national crisis once and for all. The Royal Commission’s final report will now be due to the Governor-General by Monday 9 September 2024.

That revised timeline means the Royal Commission can further extend its final public hearing block. Hearing Block 12 will now commence in Sydney on Monday 4 March and run over four weeks. We expect to hear from senior Government and military leaders during this hearing, including in response to evidence the Royal Commission has gathered in the course of our inquiries. Daily hearing schedules and witness lists will be available closer to the event.

New AIHW data shows need for action

On 21 November, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released a report revealing there were at least 1,677 deaths by suicide between 1997 and 2021 among serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel. The report only records suicides for those who served after 1 January 1985.

Concerningly, the report shows ex-serving females are twice as likely to die by suicide compared to the general female Australian population, whether they served in the permanent forces or in the reserves.

Ex-serving males who were enlisted in the permanent forces are 42% more likely to die by suicide than the broader male Australian population; however, ex-serving males who served exclusively in the reserve forces are no more likely to die by suicide than the general Australian male population.

Of the 1,677 recorded suicide deaths included in the report, 1542 were men and 135 were women.

Chair of the Royal Commission, Nick Kaldas, said the report reinforced that military suicides are a contemporary problem and called for urgent action. “Tragically, that’s more than 20-times the number killed in active duty over roughly the same period,” Commissioner Kaldas said. “And the problem is likely much more serious than the figures portray because they do not include serving and ex-serving members whose deaths were not officially recorded as suicide, such as incidents where intent could not be determined – nor do they include those who served before 1985, including our Vietnam Veterans, who died by suicide.”

Who’s shared their stories with the Royal Commission?

This week, we’re sharing some interesting facts and figures on our social media channels from our preliminary analysis of the 5889 submissions we’ve received – including who we’ve heard from and what issues and themes we’ve identified. We know about 80% of all submissions came from serving and ex-serving ADF members, and their families. We have worked hard to make sure people from all parts of Australia felt safe to come forward and share their stories, with close to half of all submissions coming from people outside metropolitan areas. Check out our Facebook, LinkedIn or X accounts for more.

Data from submissions will be available on our website when the analysis is complete. The Royal Commission has also committed to publishing all submissions on our website before the end of the inquiry where we have consent to do so. Published submissions will continue to be available after the Royal Commission has ended.

New entity consultation – feedback closes 20 December A consultation process is now open seeking feedback on the proposed new entity to follow the Royal Commission. The new entity will monitor the implementation of our recommendations for meaningful and long-lasting cultural and systemic change, while also contributing to policies and programs that support Defence and veteran wellbeing.

Organisations that represent and support the Defence and veteran community, as well as members of the public, are invited to participate. The consultation paper and online feedback form are available on our website. Feedback closes at 5:00 pm AEDT, on Wednesday 20 December 2023. Organisations are encouraged to consult with members before responding. Feedback will inform a special report, to be released early next year, ahead of our final report due in September 2024.

Remembrance Day

On 11 November each year, we honour the service and sacrifice of Australians who have died in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations around the world. This past Remembrance Day, Commissioners Nick Kaldas and James Douglas attended commemorations in Sydney and Brisbane to pay their respects.

Commissioner Douglas paying his respects at a Remembrance Day event in Brisbane.

Commissioner Kaldas preparing to lay a wreath at a Remembrance Day event in Sydney.

At a commemoration event in Burwood, in Sydney’s inner-west, Commissioner Kaldas said while honouring those we serve is important on Remembrance Day, we all also have a responsibility to honour their service by ensuring our current and former Australian Defence Force personnel, and their families, receive the support they need and deserve. Through the important work of this Royal Commission we hope to honour their legacy now and into the future by affecting real, meaningful and long-lasting cultural and systemic change which improves the lives and livelihoods of serving and ex-serving members, and their families. – Commissioner Kaldas

Support over the holidays

The Royal Commission’s office will close for the year at 5:00 pm AEDT on 22 December 2023, and will reopen at 9:00 am AEDT on 2 January 2024. During that time our enquiries line will not be staffed and we will not be able to respond to any correspondence.

The Royal Commission recognises that the holidays can be a difficult time for many, and they may stir up strong memories and emotions. We encourage you to reach out to someone in your support network if you need assistance. Support services are listed on our website – including crisis support services that operate 24 hours a day, year-round.


You can call us on 1800 329 095 or +61 2 5122 3105, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday to Friday AEDT, 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