There have been more than 1,200 deaths by suicide among current and former Australian Defense Force members since 2001. After conducting hundreds of interviews on the high rate of suicide by current and former Australian Defense Force members, came the publishing of a landmark report, which has described the suicide rate of Australia’s Defense Force as “a national tragedy.”
The study discovered that military members struggle with authority and a lack of support. The main issue out of the thirteen changes the reporting committee suggested being addressed was the issue of delayed claims processing times.
According to the study, the department should be given the resources it requires to handle the backlog of claims that are currently existing, which should be eliminated by 31 March 2024. For this module to work, the department must advise the government on its resourcing needs, and staffing caps need to be abolished. Another proposal is to simplify and harmonize veteran compensation and rehabilitation regulations.
The report also called for stronger protections for those communicating with the commission, arguing that the Criminal Code and the Royal Commission Act need to be changed to allow serving ADF members to disclose sensitive personal information to the commission without violating any secrecy laws.
Other suggestions address administrative issues inside the agency, such as enhancing veterans’ and their families access to information, altering trauma practices for people looking for DVA information, and providing education programs for families of veterans looking for information. The government is being asked to develop a bill for a new structure by the end of next year.
Senator Jacqui Lambie was one of many who testified to the investigation in private and open forums around the nation. “I found it difficult to be able to give a reason… to continue to live, even for the sake of my sons; I had no fight left in me.” Lambie spoke of how she had written her sons a suicide note, experienced suicidal thoughts after getting injured while serving in the army, and was locked in a compensation battle with the government.
Veterans Minister Matt Keogh publicly apologized for the failures of the Australian government, “It’s devastating that Australia has lost more serving and former serving personnel to suicide than it has lost through operations over the last 20 years in Afghanistan and Iraq,” and pledged to respond urgently to the report’s recommendations.
On Thursday, Keogh stated that the government was working to reduce the backlog and has committed an additional 500 employees to process claims “as soon as possible.” The leader added that the government could take action on the interim report’s recommendations as a “priority” without waiting for the full report due in June 2024.
The research emphasized the failure of more than 750 recommendations made in over 50 earlier studies into suicide among active-duty and retired members of the ADF.