Veteran suicide: Call for grieving families to be heard
Grieving mothers have joined veterans and military lawyers in Canberra to air their concerns over the terms of reference for the Royal Commission into veteran suicides in a last bid to have their voices heard.
There is only one week left for the veteran community and families to submit their views on what the royal commissioner should consider, after the federal government announced last month it would look at both defence and veteran suicides.
The Terms of Reference Advisory Group, formed by Julie-Ann Finney, who lost her navy veteran son Dave, met with several ministers at Parliament House yesterday. They included Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester and Labor Veterans Affairs spokesman Shayne Neumann to provide their input and "avoid a narrow investigation".
Veterans Lawyer Greg Isolani, who represented the Bird family following the death of veteran Jesse Bird in 2017, said it was critical that both sides of government listened to a "range of voices" to ensure the Royal Commission was effective.
"You have to understand the past to inform future action to get systems right in order to save lives," he said.
"This includes the future National Commissioner, who cannot go forward until the royal commission can shape and inform what effective role they can play."
The themes announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison included the experience of defence personnel transitioning from active service, the availability and quality of health and support services.
Mr Morrison said the Royal Commission would also look at the pre-service and post-service issues for members and veterans, social and family contexts such as family breakdown, as well as housing and employment issues.
Once the consultation process has ended, the feedback would be given to the Attorney-General's Department, which would then draft the Terms of Reference.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton met privately with Ms Finney and Mr Isolani to hear their concerns.
"I really enjoyed the conversation with Julie-Ann and Greg," Mr Dutton said.
"I thanked Julie-Ann for her passion and support of many veterans and their families."
Ms Finney has been pushing for a Royal Commission for two years, backed by The Daily Telegraph's Save Our Heroes campaign.
"We want a full and robust terms of reference, but we can only do that by hearing the voices of veterans and all those who have worked and lived with veterans in the broken world for years," she said.
"Mr Dutton was really good at listening to me. He said what I've always been thinking, and that is, we must look at the service of the veterans rather than their personal lives."
Other politicians who attended the meeting across the day included Liberal MPs and veterans Phil Thompson and Gavin Pearce, as well as MP Barnaby Joyce and Labor's Tanya Plibersek.
"I have some concerns about the Royal Commission themes the Government has released for consultation as there seems to be a number of gaps in terms of its scope," Labor's veterans affairs spokesman Shayne Neumann said.
"It needs to be wide-ranging and cover things like the role of departments and ex-service organisations, transition issues like employment and homelessness, and abuse and discrimination in the ADF.
"The Royal Commission needs to have strong powers to make findings of civil or criminal wrongdoing, and be able to refer these to the appropriate authorities."
Originally published as Veteran suicide: Call for grieving families to be heard